Chicken is one of the most well-loved, versatile, and easy nonvegetarian foods on the planet. It’s low in fat, high in protein, and tastes delicious in a huge variety of dishes and cuisines. Lately, though, there has been a lot of negativity about chicken and its production, making people increasingly wary of consuming it. Still, chicken is regarded to be a healthy addition to any diet if it’s free from additives, preservative, steroid, or hormone injections. However, even with organic, free-range chicken, the problem of chicken allergies remains a very real one.
Studies have shown that chicken allergies may be evident by birth or develop later on in life. They can also be outgrown. Then again, people could have an allergic reaction to raw chicken but have no problems handling and eating chicken in its cooked form.
An allergy to chicken is not that common, although it is an issue with several people. This research estimates this allergy may plague 0.6-5 percent of the world’s population. These are counted as those people that have the relevant symptoms within two hours after eating chicken.
Allergies are usually caused by certain elements being mistaken for germs by our immune system. This causes inflammation to occur, leading to throat swelling, eczema, and even asthma attacks. This is why a severe allergic reaction could even have a fatal result.
The other reaction to an allergen is the high and speedy production of antibodies. These are also known as immunoglobulin E. When they’re at war with the foreign elements; one can expect several cold-like symptoms such as sneezing, itching, rashes, etc. Again, these could be mild and hence not much trouble, or they could lead to months of sickness.
There are certain specific symptoms that could indicate a chicken allergy. One should be aware of them to identify whether their experience was that of an allergy or caused by something else. These symptoms may include:
- A runny nose
- Itchy body parts
- Scratchy throat
- Watering eyes that may also be itchy or swollen
- Uncontrollable sneezing
- Asthmatic attacks or general issues with breathing
- Rashes similar to eczema
- Red, irritated skin that may also itch
- An upset stomach due to a compromised digestive system
- Cramps in the abdomen
- Nausea, with possible vomiting
- Hives on the face, neck, or any other body part
- Anaphylaxis, which is the most dangerous of reactions
If you find these symptoms coming on whenever you’re in contact with chicken, you may have to take a test to ascertain your chicken allergy. These occurrences may have varying degrees of severity, but one should be careful no matter how mild they are. With more exposure, the symptoms could become aggravated or your body may develop a tolerance to the trigger. In any case, one should stop experiencing the symptoms when they’re not in contact with the offensive chicken.
The problem with a chicken allergy is that people may not realize it right away. With chicken being such an everyday food, some may simply think the allergy is a cold since the symptoms are very similar to one. With diarrhea, the body might be trying to get rid of the chicken ingested. However, a person may keep on eating chicken and making things worse.
The most serious consequences of an allergy, as mentioned above, are anaphylaxis. If this occurs, immediate hospitalization and medical attention become necessary. It affects the whole body, and so may not be so difficult to spot. Some of the signs of anaphylaxis are:
- Blood pressure suddenly dropping swiftly and quickly
- Heart beating very fast
- Problems in breathing, resulting in wheezing and coughing
- Throat and tongue swelling, making it more difficult to breathe
- Speech slurring due to swollen lips
- Bluish coloring around lips, tips of fingers, toes, etc.
This anaphylactic reaction would mean that one would have to get an EpiPen, which is a self-injection of epinephrine. This is a form of adrenaline and could even be the means of saving your life. However, if such an attack occurs again, an EpiPen should not be a substitute for medical checkups.
Prevention & Treatment
Preventing this allergy may not be possible, but preventing it from coming on certainly is. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to a chicken allergy, be sure to get a test done by a certified doctor as soon as possible. In the meantime, avoid chicken in any form along with its related products. You should be even more on the alert for chicken allergies if you already have asthma, eczema, or are allergic to other foods such as turkey, shrimp, fish, duck, goose, etc.
If someone is allergic to chicken, they may or may not also be intolerant of eggs. The same goes for chicken feathers, droppings, feather dust. This includes any component of other kinds of poultry as well. In short, be wary of farms and petting zoos! One should also be sure to make their allergy known to the doctor before they take a vaccine for any diseases. The yellow fever vaccine has chicken protein and could be very dangerous for someone with chicken allergies.
The treatment is similar to simply taking precautions. One can take an antihistamine to deal with the symptoms. Similarly, they would have to stay away from soup and noodles made with chicken broth, chicken in burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, etc.
Substitutes for chicken may be a bit difficult to find, but they’re possible. You can go for any fish if you want white meat. The following foods are also excellent substitutes for chicken in various dishes:
- Tofu—for stir-fries, curries, etc
- Vegetable broth—for soups
- Soy or veal protein products—for stews and other dishes where chicken cutlets are used
- Beans—to make up protein needs.