Most people use caffeine to stimulate their physical and mental performance, but for some people it can cause severe adverse reactions. You may or may not have a caffeine allergy if you develop symptoms after ingesting the substance. In order for a reaction to be classified as an allergy, your body must produce certain chemicals initiated by your immune system. Some people are intolerant or have sensitivity to caffeine, which causes similar symptoms. Allergy testing can determine which condition is causing your symptoms.
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A genuine allergy must be caused by the production of immunoglobulin E antibodies, or IgE antibodies, created by the immune system. An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system mistakes caffeine as a harmful substance that could pose a threat to your body. In order to defend the body, IgE antibodies are released to attack the caffeine. This chemical action triggers the production of other chemicals that help defend the body. One of the most significant chemicals is histamine, which, when released in soft tissue, causes inflammation.
Caffeine can have negative effects that are unrelated to an allergic reaction. Ingesting too much caffeine can cause headaches, nausea and diarrhea in anyone, but these effects are unrelated to an allergic reaction. Caffeine intolerance or sensitivity is another condition that can cause symptoms that are similar to an allergy, but does not involve the immune system. Caffeine intolerance is condition that triggers an adverse reaction in the digestive system that can cause symptoms in the body. Caffeine intolerance does not cause the production of IgE antibodies and is therefore not an allergic reaction.
In order to diagnose your condition, an allergist will perform various tests to determine whether your body is creating IgE antibodies when caffeine is introduced into your body. The most common tests used to diagnose an allergy are a skin-prick test and a blood test. A tiny amount of caffeine is placed under your skin to see if it causes irritation or inflammation within 15 minutes. Blood tests require a sample of your blood to be sent to a lab where it is observed under a microscope when caffeine is introduced to it. If IgE antibodies form from the caffeine, you will be diagnosed with a caffeine allergy.
If you are allergic to caffeine, you are at risk of having an allergic reaction during allergy testing. You need to remain under a doctor’s supervision for an hour after the testing is completed. If you develop shortness of breath, facial swelling, dizziness or the feeling of a lump in your throat during the testing, inform your doctor immediately.