A food allergy is a condition in which the immune system of the body reacts abnormally to certain foods. When a person consumes or comes into contact with even a small quantity of the allergy-causing food, their body mounts an immune response, resulting in symptoms such as stomach issues, hives, or swollen airways. Food allergy affects an estimated 8% of children under age 5 and up to 4% of adults. While there’s no cure, some children outgrow their food allergies as they get older.
A food allergy is easily confused with a much more frequent reaction known as food intolerance. Unlike allergies, food intolerances are never harmful. A larger amount of food is required to cause an intolerance, and the symptoms of a food intolerance usually appear several hours after eating the food.
Food allergies occur when the immune system, the body’s defense against infection, misidentifies proteins in food as a threat. Almost any food can trigger an allergic reaction, but certain foods, such as peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, and soy, are responsible for the majority of food allergies.
For some people, an allergic reaction to a particular food may be painful but not severe. For other people, an allergic food reaction can be frightening and even life-threatening. Food allergy symptoms normally appear within a few minutes to two hours of consuming the food. In rare cases, symptoms may be delayed for several hours.
The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:
- Rash or hives
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, or throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea
In some people, a food allergy can trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This can cause life-threatening signs and symptoms, including:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain or tightness
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
Anaphylaxis requires immediate treatment. Anaphylaxis, if left untreated, can result in a coma or even death.
The easiest way to avoid an allergic response is to identify and avoid the allergenic food.This may include carefully reading ingredient labels, keeping allergy medications on hand at all times, and informing restaurant staff of their allergies when dining out.
If you suspect you have a food allergy, you should consult a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment. They can help you figure out which foods are causing your symptoms and develop a plan to manage your allergy.
Food and Inhalation Allergy Panel is available at Crystal Diagnostic. Get tested today so that you can avoid them.