How to Spot a Food Allergy

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food allergy symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that food allergies affect up to 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults. Food allergy symptoms vary, but can be life threatening for some people. There is no cure for food allergies. The only way to prevent a reaction is to strictly avoid the food.

Common Food Allergy Symptoms

Food allergies occur because the body’s immune system incorrectly identifies a food or a substance in it as dangerous and initiates a protective reaction to it. The most severe reaction is called anaphylaxis. It affects the entire body with physiological responses that can include impaired breathing, dropping blood pressure, nausea, vomiting and others.

It is important to note that the reaction to a food can vary from one occurrence to another. For example, a food that caused a mild reaction in one encounter can cause a serious reaction in another.

Most food allergy symptoms occur within two hours of eating the food, and in many cases symptoms occur within minutes. In very rare cases, the reaction may occur as much as four to six hours (or longer) after ingestion.

Common food allergy symptoms include:

  • Hives
  • Stomach cramps
  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swelling of the tongue and difficulty speaking or breathing
  • Pale or blue skin coloring
  • Anaphylaxis

While food allergies are most often detected in children, they can develop at any age.

Common Food Allergy Triggers

Any food can potentially be a trigger for food allergies. However, the most common triggers are:

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Milk
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Soy

If you suspect that you or your child has a food allergy, it is important to talk with your doctor. There are tests that can be performed to determine which, if any, foods are triggers.

Food Allergy Treatment

Food allergies are best managed through avoidance. In the case of accidental ingestion of a substance that causes anaphylaxis, epinephrine (adrenaline) injection can keep the body from going into shock. People with serious food allergies should have epinephrine auto-injectors with them at all times.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology recommends that people carry two doses of the medication, as severe reactions can recur in approximately 20 percent of those with a food allergy.

Ongoing Research to Find a Cure

While there is currently no way to cure food allergies, there is reason for optimism. Research continues and experts are hopeful that the key to correcting the body’s reaction to foods will be found. While people can outgrow certain food allergies, for the time being, strict avoidance and carrying epinephrine injectors is crucial.

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