A food allergy occurs when a person's immune system reacts to a particular food. While a food allergy can occur in response to any food, the most common foods are eggs, soy, milk, wheat, nuts, fish and shellfish. A food allergy is more common in children than adults and most children will outgrow a food allergy, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.
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An allergy to bell pepper occurs when a person's immune system mistakenly identifies the bell pepper as a potentially harmful substance. Antibodies called immunoglobulin E, or IgE, form specifically to the bell pepper. When the food is ingested in the future, the IgE recognizes it and releases chemicals that result in the symptoms of an allergic reaction).
Symptoms of a bell pepper allergy typically present minutes to an hour after ingestion of a bell pepper or of a food containing bell pepper. These symptoms typically involve the skin, gastrointestinal tract or respiratory tract. Skin manifestation can include an itchy rash or hives, which are red, itchy wheals. Gastrointestinal symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, and respiratory symptoms may consist of shortness of breath, cough or changes in voice character. A severe allergic reaction with symptoms of difficulty breathing and dizziness is called anaphylaxis and can be life threatening.
Oral Allergy Syndrome
Some people have symptoms of itching and tingling of the mouth without any other symptoms when eating bell pepper. These people may have oral allergy syndrome. Oral allergy syndrome affects people who have allergic rhinitis, or a runny nose and itchy eyes in response to certain allergens. If a person is allergic to mugwort, the similarity between mugwort and bell pepper pollens may cause this localized reaction when bell pepper is ingested, according to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
The diagnosis of bell pepper allergy can often be made by a physician after a detailed discussion of the events that led up to the allergic reaction. This diagnosis may be confirmed by a procedure called prick-to-prick testing. In this testing, the surface of the skin is scratched with a small amount of fresh bell pepper and any reaction is then measured. These procedure is typically performed in an allergist's office.
The best treatment for bell pepper allergy is complete avoidance of bell peppers or any foods containing bell peppers. Caution is particularly important when eating out as peppers could be used in sauces or mixed in with other vegetables. In the event of an accidental exposure, an antihistamine such as benadryl can be used for a minor reaction. In the event of a severe reaction that involves widespread hives, dizziness, vomiting or shortness of breath, injectable epinephrine should be used to reverse the reaction. These medications are prescribed by a physician and a plan for when to use each one is typically given. If injectable epinephrine is used, the person should go to the emergency department immediately for evaluation and further treatment.