Food allergy is becoming increasingly common, affecting anywhere from 6 to 12% of children and 3 to 4% of adults. Food allergy occurs when an individual makes antibodies against specific food proteins. When the allergenic food is ingested, the antibodies “attack” the food proteins, resulting in symptoms such as hives, swelling, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, trouble breathing, and/or fainting. The most common food allergens include cow’s milk, soy, egg, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, finned fish, and shellfish. Many children do outgrow their food allergies, however some food allergies can be lifelong. Diagnosis involves a detailed history of the reaction, skin testing, and blood testing. Management involves avoidance of the problematic food and emergency treatment of accidental ingestion.
Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that involves both inflammation and narrowing. The exact cause is unknown, but likely involves a genetic predisposition as well as environmental factors. Symptoms of asthma include cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing. Common asthma triggers include respiratory illnesses, exercise, strong displays of emotion, cold air, irritants like cigarette smoke or perfume, and allergens like pollen, dust, or animal dander. There is no cure for asthma, but symptoms can be managed with daily controller medications (such as inhaled corticosteroids or leukotriene blockers) and rescue medications (such as albuterol or levalbuterol).