Watch for allergen-laced kisses on Valentine's Day, all year

Feb 13 2012 - 12:27am

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Dr. Douglas Jones
Dr. Douglas Jones

LAYTON -- Some kisses can leave you breathless ... but not always in a good way. Before you pucker up for that Valentine's Day kiss, you might want to proceed with caution, especially if you suffer from food allergies.

Some kisses can be downright dangerous, possibly landing you in the hospital, fighting for your life, said an allergist in Layton.

"If you have a food allergy and kiss someone who had eaten a food that you are allergic to, then you may be exposed," said Douglas Jones, a physician at Rocky Mountain Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

A person's saliva may excrete the allergen after the food has been absorbed into the body, even up to several hours after eating, he said.

Not only that, but a man can even pass it to his partner through his semen, he said.

"Love may be fickle, but food allergies aren't.

"The wrong food can leave your date or mate covered in hives, in gut-wrenching pain or, worse, fighting for life," Jones said.

"Many people don't realize that food allergy reactions are serious. Avoiding the food allergen is the only way to prevent symptoms."

Jones, who is also an Anaphylaxis Community Expert organizer with the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, said people can develop food allergies at any time in their life.

The most common food allergies are to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish and fish, he said.

Common symptoms of an allergic reaction to food include itchy mouth, throat swelling, hives, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and light-headedness.

A person having a reaction may exhibit one symptom, several or all of them, Jones said.

"A person needs to read food labels carefully to detect what ingredients it contains," he said.

"Valentine's Day candies, cupcakes and other traditional sweets may contain allergens, such as milk, egg, peanut and tree nuts, just to name a few.

"Foods to avoid are those where you are unsure of the ingredients -- but all it takes is a distracted moment for a food allergy accident to happen."

Anaphylaxis at its worst is a serious allergic reaction in which the airways swell and breathing is restricted, Jones said.

At its best, he said, it's a rash or hives.

Once symptoms begin, it's not possible to know how bad they will get or if the body will produce enough of its own epinephrine to control them. Some people need help in the form of an epinephrine autoinjector.

Jones, who networks with nearly 200 ACE teams nationwide, wants to improve community and patient awareness about food allergies and lifesaving treatments.

National food allergy guidelines define preparedness as always having immediate access to two autoinjector devices and knowing how and when to use them.

"Food allergy accidents will happen," said Nancy Sander, president and founder of Allergy and Asthma Networks, Mothers of Asthmatics.

"We want patients, families and the public to know how to identify and treat anaphylaxis."

Unlike oral antihistamines, epinephrine given through an autoinjector begins to work immediately, relieving all phases of the reaction, said Stanley Fineman, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

It is the only medication that can work fast enough to open swollen airways and protect the heart and brain.

"Most fatalities from food allergy come because epinephrine was not injected or it was injected too late. A person must act promptly and quickly," Jones said.

"Never take a food allergy for granted, and don't underestimate how it has the potential of a life-threatening reaction, even if it has not happened before."

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