What is a food allergy?
An allergy Overview of Allergic Reactions The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system usually reacts to and attacks bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells. An allergy... read more is when your body's immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more reacts to something harmless, such as food, plants, or medicine. Food allergy is an allergic reaction caused by a certain food.
Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction
Symptoms of a food allergy include an itchy rash, runny nose, and sometimes wheezing
Rarely, a severe allergic reaction to food is life-threatening (such a reaction is called an anaphylactic reaction Anaphylactic Reactions Anaphylactic reactions (sometimes called “anaphylaxis”) are the most serious, sudden, and life-threatening allergic reactions. You develop severe symptoms such as an itchy rash over your entire... read more )
Children may outgrow food allergies
If adults develop a food allergy, it usually doesn't go away
Doctors may do skin and blood tests and try eliminating foods from your diet to find out which food is causing the allergy
What foods cause allergic reactions?
Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction. The most common causes depend on the person's age.
For infants and young children the most common triggers are:
In older children and adults the most common triggers are:
What are the symptoms of a food allergy?
In children, food allergy symptoms may change as the child ages.
Babies may show symptoms like:
Children 1 year old and older may have:
Wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
By about age 10, food allergies often go away (such as a milk allergy).
In adults and older children, food allergy symptoms may be more severe and can include:
Itching in the mouth
Hives (red, itchy, slightly raised patches on the skin)
Eczema (red, scaly, dry, patchy skin rash, usually where the arms and legs bend)
Feeling sick to one’s stomach
Cramping and diarrhea
If a food allergy is severe, it may cause an anaphylactic reaction Anaphylactic Reactions Anaphylactic reactions (sometimes called “anaphylaxis”) are the most serious, sudden, and life-threatening allergic reactions. You develop severe symptoms such as an itchy rash over your entire... read more , which can cause a rash over the entire body, throat swelling, and trouble breathing. If not treated, you could die.
How can doctors tell if I have a food allergy?
Your doctor may test for a food allergy in one or more of these ways:
Skin prick test, which involves putting a tiny amount of the food on your skin and then poking it with a needle to check for a reaction
A blood test
Elimination diet, which involves not eating the foods that might be causing the allergy, and then adding them back in one at a time to figure out which food is causing problems
How do doctors treat a food allergy?
The treatment is to avoid eating the food that causes your allergy symptoms. To help with your symptoms, your doctor may have you:
Take antihistamine pills for hives and swelling
Carry an epinephrine shot to use if you have severe symptoms and to prevent an anaphylactic reaction