MadSci Network: Immunology

Re: How to prove if I am truly allergic to fish

Date: Thu Mar 23 19:44:10 2000
Posted By: Mark Sullivan, Medical Student
Area of science: Immunology
ID: 953320367.Im

Hi Vera,
     Well first things first.  Don't eat fish!  You said that you have a 
history of serious reactions to fish that you ate, so don't push your luck. 
Food allergies can be fatal even if you only ate a small bite.  The reason 
is that your immune system has made a type of antibody called IgE that 
attaches to the food proteins that you have eaten(fish in your case).  This 
type of antibody is often found attached to the surface of a cell called a 
mast cell.  What happens is that when this fish protein becomes attached to 
this IgE antibody, a reaction is triggered in the mast cell which causes it 
to release chemicals called histamines and leukotrienes, and these are the 
things that cause the allergic reaction.  You get flushed, your can't 
breath, your throat swells up, and if you don't get it under control 
quickly, you can die.  What you should know is that your immune system does 
increase in response with further exposure to the allergic causing 
substance.  Unfortunately there is no way to get rid of the IgE antibodies, 
and the only thing you can do to avoid another allergic response is not to 
eat fish.  Why do you have these antibodies?  Well all of our antibodies 
are preformed before we are ever exposed to anything.  Whenever we become 
infected by a virus, bacteria, or parasite our immune system tries to match 
up a preformed antibody with a piece of the invader like a lock and key.  
Some people make antibodies that just happen to fit with food proteins and 
that causes all the problems.  
     There are tests to determine if you are allergic to certain substances 
called the prick skin test, or a blood test called the 
RAST(radioallergosorbent test).  In the first test small amounts of 
allergins are injected into the skin of the forearm or back.  If the person 
is allergic to these substances a small circle of inflammation occurs 
called a wheal.  In the blood test, you blood tested for the presence of 
antibodies that react with allergins.  I would suggest having your 
doctor put you in touch with an allergy specialist if you are that 
concerned about it.  And I'll say it one last time, don't eat fish 
cause it isn't so tasty that it should cost your life.  Here are some web 
sites that may be helpful.  Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology 
Online, Allergist Finder

Mark Sullivan    

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