There are a lot of scary things in the world, like raising gas prices and the ingredients found in fast food — two very scary things that can give you two different types of headaches! However, in all seriousness, there are many people who suffer from serious life threatening conditions with varying levels of physical reactions. We are talking about the scary world of food allergies.
A food allergy is defined as an extreme immune response triggered by specific foods or edible substances, such as eggs, dairy, shellfish, peanuts, and spices. It is estimated that more than 15 million American children and adults have a food allergy that, when they come into contact with a certain food, causes them to react negatively with effects ranging from mild skin irritations to death.
According to the non-profit organization Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), there are eight foods that account for 90 percent of all allergic reactions to food. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. The following eight foods are commonly associated with food allergies: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. The other ten percent of food allergies, though not as common and may seem strange, is made up of food and food substances such as apples, melons, meat, marshmallows, and our focus in this article, black pepper.
Most individuals with a black pepper allergy react to it when it is in the form of cracked pepper corns and powdered pepper — the black pepper you find in tabletop pepper shakers. While sneezing due to sniffing in powdered black pepper is normal, uncomfortable itching in the mouth and on the skin and swelling is not. Something important to note is that if you are allergic to black pepper, then you will more than likely be allergic to white and green pepper corns in the same forms. This is because black, white, and green peppercorns comes from the same fruit (seed pod) in different stages of growth and processing.
Symptoms of a black pepper allergy occur upon exposure to different forms of the spice and can vary depending on how you come into contact with it. Ways you can become exposed to black pepper are by ingesting it, inhaling it, and by physical contact.
If you are allergic to black pepper and eat something with pepper in it, you’ll usually show signs of allergy symptoms pretty quickly. Everyone reacts differently, so it could happen immediately or take a few minutes to a couple hours for these symptoms to arise.
Symptoms You May Be Allergic to Black Pepper
- A mild to severe skin rash
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Tingling or itching in your mouth
- Swelling of face, tongue, or lips
- Uncontrollable coughing or wheezing
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Abdominal cramps
- Anaphylactic shock: In rare, but serious cases, a severe allergy to black pepper can lead to life threatening anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is a sudden and severe allergic reaction in which you experience a sharp drop in blood pressure and have breathing difficulties caused by exposure to a substance, such as latex or a food. You must seek emergency medical treatment immediately, even if you get an epinephrine injection (EpiPen), as the reaction can be fatal.
If you think you may be allergic to black pepper, seek medical advice from your doctor and get tested to see if you do have an allergy, and if you need to carry an EpiPen should you go into anaphylactic shock. Taking an antihistamine is the main treatment for a typical black pepper allergy, which helps to soothe any itching and sneezing related to having come in contact with the spice.
It can be difficult to avoid black pepper when you have this allergy. It’s found in many restaurant prepared foods and family and friends may not always remember to omit it from the foods they cook for you. But, you should do your best to avoid any form of contact with black, white, and green pepper, whether it is cooked into a food or added raw on salads and pasta dishes. You may sound like a broken record repeating your food allergy to family, or feel embarrassed bringing it up to your server, but it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your health and life.
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