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Cofactors That Contribute to Severe Allergic Reactions to Food 

Cofactors That Contribute to Severe Allergic Reactions to Food 

Is there anything that can amplify severe allergic reactions to food? The answer, which is not to freak you out, is that some co-factors can contribute to severe symptoms, including anaphylaxis. Knowing this and knowing that NO, the next reaction may not be more severe, can help you better understand and manage your food allergies.

This post is part of our Knowledge is Power Program in collaboration with Allergy Insider. You will find a free downloadable patient information sheet on cofactors that contribute to severe allergic reactions to food. Use this as a tool and share with your Healthcare Provider (HCP) to help guide your discussions in the shared decision-making process.

Can anything amplify a severe allergic reaction to food? 

Cofactors of allergies could explain why you may have experienced different symptom levels and how to better plan for the future. There are two interesting terms that you need to know: symptom threshold and co-factors. 

I had eaten pink peppercorns in the past from a pepper mill, so only a tiny bit. However, after a hard workout, a glass of wine and pollen season, the peppercorns garnishing my meal sent me to the hospital. It was a true perfect storm, and only after talking to the doctor and going through my allergic history were we able to figure out what I had reacted to. This is how I learned that other factors can contribute to a more severe allergic reaction to food.

-Kortney, Zestfull Co-Founder

Symptom Threshold 

The amount of a specific allergen to which a person can be exposed to before they start to experience serious allergy symptoms is known as symptom threshold. This allergy threshold can vary from person to person. The amount of exposure to an allergen does impact the severity of a reaction. 

Our friends at Allergy Insider have a great explanation about the symptom threshold. 

Cofactors that contribute to a more severe allergic reaction to food

Cofactors are substances or conditions that can worsen a reaction to an allergen. The things that can contribute to a more severe allergic reaction are.

Imagine your body is already inflamed and fighting a high pollen count, smog, and cigarette smoke. Now, add a food allergen; this would already cause a reaction. Your body is already compromised and the starting point is heightened, which may cause your allergic reaction to food to worsen. 

PRO TIP: Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? Identify your triggers by getting allergy tested and work to limit your exposure to them or have a plan for their presence. Learn more about allergic triggers and how to reduce allergen exposure.

People who manage asthma or eczema, may be more susceptible to serious food allergy reactions. The body starts with an already reactive immune system, which can increase the speed and severity of the allergic reaction.  

PRO TIP: Make controlling your asthma a priority! Uncontrolled asthma is like tinder; now imagine an allergen like a match. If you do anything after reading this, it is to start your journey to better asthma management. 

If you are sick, your body’s immune system is weakened, making it more vulnerable.

“When my kids are sick, their eczema flares up. At first, we didn’t make the connection, but after talking to their allergist, he confirmed that sickness could be a trigger. Knowledge is power because at least now we understand that this may be the cause, and we make sure to treat it right away.”

-Shahla, Zestfull Co-Founder

A condition that occurs in some people with food allergies. This means they can experience anaphylaxis if they exercise around the time of eating wheat or their food allergen.

About 30% to 50% of EIA is food dependent, only occurring with the combination of a specific food and exercise. In these patients exercise or food on their own do not cause anaphylaxis; only in combination do they trigger the reaction. 1

Bryanne Minty
See Also

Beta-blockers (medicines that lower blood pressure) and ACE inhibitors can increase the risk of a more serious allergic reaction.

Alcohol can lower the threshold for allergic reactions. In fact, consuming alcohol can make it easier for a person to react even if they only eat a small amount of the food they are allergic to2 As is the case with alpha-Gal syndrome as mammal products and mammalian byproducts sometimes can be found in alcohol. 

PRO TIP: When Kortney dines out at a new restaurant with food allergies, and depending on how she feels they have handled her allergies, she may decide to hold off on a glass of wine. 

Stress has been highly linked to lowering the allergen threshold which can increase your risk of a severe allergic reaction.

What can make an allergic reaction worse?

Do you see a trend here? Looks like if the body is weakened or the immune system is already working hard, you may experience a more severe allergic reaction. This should not be something to alarm you and has been noted here to make you more aware. That’s why we’ve created this downloadable information sheet for you to feel empowered and take to your next appointment.


This article is part of the #KnowledgeisPower program, sponsored by Allergy Insider. Our downloadable patient information sheets are not intended as direct medical advice but as a starting point for discussion with your doctor. 

The tips and stories in this program are personal experiences from patients shared with their permission. Gary Falcetano, PA-C, AE-C Scientific Affairs Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, has medically reviewed and approved all resources.

The Zestfull Corp. is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

© 2021 Zestfull. All rights reserved.

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