Causes and Effects
"Any food can potentially cause adverse reactions in your body," says Dr. James Pollowitz an allergist in Scarsdale, New York, and the president of that state's section of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Yet in order to be a "food allergy" according to most physicians' definition, the reaction must involve the immune system. Food allergy sufferers can tolerate different "doses" of the food. Broadhead can tolerate a little milk in certain foods, while some sufferers experience symptoms with the slightest contact; for instance if one person touches the food culprit and then touches the food allergy sufferer. (The most common food allergens include milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanut, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.)
Many women worry that their food allergies may hurt their unborn children, but in most cases, there is nothing to be concerned about. "Normally, an unborn baby will not be affected by food allergies unless the woman has a severe reaction," says Dr. Dan Atkins, Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at National Jewish Medical and Research Center. For instance, if a woman experiences a reaction to food and goes into anaphylactic shock or has a complete body shutdown, blood flow will be decreased to the baby. If the reaction isn't stopped, both the woman and her unborn baby will die.
"I advise all my patients to carry their Epi-Pen in case of a problem, and yet I'm surprised how many don't," reports Dr. Atkins. Epi-Pen, or an injector for Epinephrine is a common medication used to control a severe allergic reaction. Broadhead admits she doesn't like to carry hers. For milder symptoms, antihistamines such as Benadryl may be appropriate. But Dr. Atkins cautions that women consult with their obstetrician or midwife before taking any medication—especially over-the-counter ones that may cause other problems such as extreme drowsiness or dizziness.
Make sure to discuss any food allergy with your obstetrician or midwife. If there are certain foods that you're avoiding, you may need additional vitamin supplements to provide adequate nutrition for you and your growing baby. On the advice of her doctor, Broadhead took calcium supplements along with her prenatal vitamins.