Food Allergy

A food allergy is an adverse or abnormal immune reaction to a food or a food additive.

  • Causes

    A few specific foods seem to cause a majority of the food reactions. The most common triggers of a food reaction include:

    • Cow's milk
    • Eggs
    • Peanuts
    • Wheat
    • Soy
    • Fish
    • Shellfish
    • Tree nuts (eg, walnuts, pecans)
    • Sesame seed

  • Definition

    A food allergy is an adverse or abnormal immune reaction to a food or a food additive.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Food allergies are often diagnosed based on your own observations. It is a good idea to keep a diary of your symptoms. Note when the symptoms occur and what you have eaten.

    Tests may include:

  • Prevention

    To reduce your chance of having a food allergy reaction:

    • Avoid eating or drinking substances to which you know you are allergic.
    • Read the ingredient label on every food product that you eat.
    • If you go to a restaurant, discuss your allergy with the food server. Ask about all ingredients.
    • Learn the other names for all your allergens. This will help you recognize them on an ingredients list.
    • If you have a severe, anaphylactic-type food allergy, ask your doctor if you should carry a dose of epinephrine with you.
    • Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet to inform others of your allergy.
    • Be aware the food may become contaminated by shared utensils, containers, and during preparation.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of food allergies include:

    • Age: young children

    • History of
      eczema

    • History of other types of allergies, including
      hay fever

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:


    • Skin rash, especially
      hives
    • Swelling in lips, mouth, tongue, throat
    • Stomach cramps, pain
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Skin itching
    • Cough
    • Wheezing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Nasal congestion
    • Severe drop in blood pressure
    • Gurgling stomach
    Hives
    Splotchy body rash -adult
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  • Treatment

    Avoid foods and food ingredients that cause you to have an allergic reaction. If you think you've eaten something to which you are allergic, and you have difficulty breathing, call for emergency medical help.

    Treatments include:

    • Epinephrine
      —injected immediately in the event of a severe, life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis)
    • Antihistamine medicine—to decrease swelling and itching
    • Corticosteroid medicine—for more severe swelling and itching


    If you are diagnosed with a food allergy, follow your doctor's
    instructions
    .
    Consider seeing an allergist (a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating allergies).