What You Need To Know About Allergies

What Are Allergies?

Allergies affect the lives of millions of people around the world. There are many different kinds of allergies. Some may be allergic to certain foods and some may experience allergic symptoms when taking certain kinds of drugs. At AFA, we are focusing on food allergies.

Food allergies are adverse immune responses that are mediated by antibodies that bind to the triggering food protein(s). Some food allergies can give rise acute and dramatic reactions (anaphylaxis), yet some allergic symptoms take hours or days to show up as chronic symptoms like skin rashes or eczema.

Classic food allergies – Major Food Allergens

While more than 160 foods can cause allergic reactions in people with food allergies, the law in the U.S.A. has identified the eight most common allergenic foods. These foods account for 90 percent of food allergic reactions, and are the food sources from which many other ingredients are derived. The eight foods are often called the ‘Big-8’:

  1. Cow’s milk
  2. Chicken’s egg
  3. Fish
  4. Crustacean shellfish
  5. Tree nuts
  6. Peanuts
  7. Wheat
  8. Soybeans

Food Allergies & Intolerances

Medical terms like food allergies, food intolerances or delayed food allergies are always used interchangeably and could be confusing to many people.

Classic food allergies always refer to the acute and deadly type of allergies; delayed food allergies are the adverse immune response caused by food that takes longer time to show up as chronic symptoms.

Some may describe delayed food allergies as food intolerances, but in fact, intolerance refers to reactions that do not involve immune system like lactose intolerance. It is worthy remarking that both food allergies and delayed food allergies can be categorized as food sensitivities.

Delayed food allergies – in Hong Kong and China

A British charity, Allergy UK, has revealed that 45% people are affected by delayed food allergy. According to HK BioTek, the leading testing service provider in Hong Kong, the top 3 most common delayed food allergens in Hong Kong are eggs, dairy products and wheat. Thus, the top 3 delayed food allergens are, in fact, what people eat in food every day.

A meta-analysis of the studies done by medical schools in China shows eggs, milk and wheat present in the top five delayed food allergens. Obviously, similarity, in terms of delayed food allergens, is seen in both regions.

The common symptoms of delayed food allergies are mainly localized on the skin, respiratory and digestive system.

Living with Allergies in Asia

The allergen management system in America and Europe is more well-established, so consumers could tell if pre-packaged food contain common food allergens.

In Hong Kong, it is required by the law to list out the common allergens on the food label of all pre-packaged food. However, countries like China and others in South East Asia do not have an allergen management system and this could be a challenge for people with food allergy concerns. That is exactly the reason why we need to work more to create an allergy-friendly culture in Asian societies.