Asthma at Christmas:
Having a food allergy puts you at higher risk of an asthma attack. Always carry your rescue medicines with you, as well as your reliever inhaler and let people know where to find your reliver and rescue medicines in case you have an attack and can’t tell them. Flag up the foods you’re allergic to as well before you go visiting. You could even offer to bring your own contribution to the menu. Watch out for hidden ingredients in foods you’re not used to eating, for example in mince pies, Christmas cake and Stollen.
Most people with asthma do not have to follow a special diet. But, in some cases, certain foods, including cow's milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, yeast products, nuts, and some food colourings and preservatives, can make symptoms worse.
If you think you have a food allergy, contact your doctor or asthma nurse for further advice.
What is a food allergy?
An allergic reaction occurs when the body's immune system reacts abnormally to a harmless substance, such as food.
- Symptoms of food allergies can vary widely. You may get symptoms in your mouth (swelling or tingling), gut (vomiting, diarrhoea), skin (rash, swelling of face) or in your chest (wheezing, shortness of breath).
- Your asthma may flare up.
What foods can trigger allergic reactions?
- Foods that can trigger asthma by way of an allergic reaction include peanuts, nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, dairy products and eggs.
- Some people become wheezy when they eat food containing certain additives.
- The dye tartrazine (E102) is found in many foods and also in several medicines. People whose asthma is triggered by tartrazine may also react to aspirin.
- The preservative benzoic acid (E210) found in fruit products and soft drinks can also be a trigger.
- Some foods and wine contain histamine or similar chemicals called vasoactive amines that can trigger asthma.
Which foods can affect asthma?
- Sodium metabisulphite (E220-227) may also trigger asthma, but not via an allergic reaction. It can be found in wine, home-brewed beer, fizzy drinks, prepared meats and prepared salads.
How are food allergies diagnosed and treated?
- If you feel you or your child has a food allergy then you should contact your doctor. They may refer you to a specialist or an allergy clinic for testing.
- There is no reliable medicine for food allergies. The only treatment is avoiding the offending food.