A food allergy is a reaction of the immune system that occurs right after eating a certain food. Any amount, even a small amount of the food allergen, can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. Also, in some people a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Food allergy affects an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under 3 years of age and 3 percent of adults. Although there is no cure, some children outgrow food allergies as they get older.
It’s easy to confuse a food allergy with the more common reaction known as food intolerance. Although food intolerance is annoying, it is a less serious condition and is not related to the immune system.
Allergic reactions to a particular type of food may not be severe, but may be distressing for some. For others, food-related allergic reactions can be a frightening and life-threatening experience. Food allergy symptoms usually develop within a few minutes or within two hours of eating the harmful food.
The most common symptoms and signs of a food allergy include:
Tingling or itching in the mouth
hives, itching or eczema
Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat, or other parts of the body
Wheezing, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing
Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
In some people, food allergies may cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This interaction may cause life-threatening signs and symptoms, including the following:
constriction and narrowing of the airways
A swollen throat or a feeling of a lump in the throat that makes it difficult to breathe
Shock with a sharp drop in blood pressure
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness
Emergency treatment is important in case of anaphylaxis. Untreated anaphylaxis may cause coma or even death.
When do you visit the doctor?
See a doctor or allergist if you experience symptoms of a food allergy soon after eating a food. See your doctor if possible when you have an allergic reaction. This will help your doctor make a diagnosis.
Seek emergency care if you develop any of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as:
constriction of the airways that causes difficulty breathing
Shock with a sharp drop in blood pressure
Dizziness or lightheadedness
When you have a food allergy, your immune system mistakenly recognizes a particular food or substance in the food as harmful. As a result, the immune system stimulates cells to release an antibody known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) to neutralize the food or allergens in it (the allergen).
The next time you eat the least amount of this food, IgE antibodies sense it and signal your immune system to release a chemical called histamine, as well as other chemicals, into your bloodstream. These chemicals cause allergy symptoms.
In adults, most food allergies are triggered by certain proteins found in:
crustacean fish; Like shrimp and crab
Walnut tree; Like walnuts and pecans
In children, proteins commonly trigger food allergies. These proteins are found in:
pollen allergy syndrome
Pollen allergy syndrome — also known as allergic mouth syndrome — affects many people with hay fever. In this case, certain fresh fruits and vegetables or nuts and spices can trigger an allergic reaction that causes tingling or itching in the mouth. In severe cases, the reaction results in a swollen throat or even anaphylaxis.
The proteins in some fruits, vegetables, nuts, and spices cause an allergic reaction. Because they are similar to the allergen proteins found in some pollens. This is an example of cross-reactivity.
When you cook foods that trigger pollen allergy syndrome, your symptoms may become less severe.
The following table shows the fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices that can cause pollen allergy syndrome in people who are allergic to different pollens.
Exercise food allergy
Eating certain foods may cause some people to feel itchy and dizzy soon after they start exercising. Serious cases may include urticaria or anaphylaxis. Not eating for several hours before you exercise and avoiding certain types of food may help prevent this problem.
Food intolerance and other interactions
A food intolerance or a reaction to another substance you’ve taken may cause the same signs and symptoms of a food allergy, such as nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhea.
Depending on the type of food intolerance you have, you may be able to eat small amounts of problem foods without a reaction. Conversely, if you have an actual food allergy, eating even tiny amounts of the food can trigger an allergic reaction.
One of the tricky aspects of diagnosing a food intolerance is that some people have an allergy not to the food itself but to a substance or ingredient used in preparing the food.
Common conditions that can cause symptoms that appear similar to a food allergy include:
Absence of the enzyme needed to fully digest food. Your body may not have sufficient amounts of certain enzymes needed to digest certain foods. For example, not having enough of the enzyme lactase reduces your ability to digest lactose, the main sugar in dairy products. Lactose intolerance can cause bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and excess gas.
food poisoning; Sometimes, the symptoms of food poisoning can be similar to those of an allergic reaction, and bacteria in tuna and other damaged fish may also be caused by cephalopods or a toxin that triggers an adverse reaction.
Allergy to food additives. Some people experience digestive reactions and other symptoms after eating certain food additives; For example, salts of sulfurous acid, used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods, and wine, can trigger asthma attacks in people with allergies.
Histamine toxicity. Certain fish, such as tuna and mackerel, that are not refrigerated properly and contain large amounts of bacteria, may also contain high levels of histamines that trigger symptoms similar to those of a food allergy. This is not classified as an allergic reaction, and is known as histamine toxicity or mackerel poisoning.
Abdominal disease. Although celiac disease is sometimes referred to as a gluten sensitivity, it does not lead to anaphylaxis. Like a food allergy, it involves a response from the immune system, but it is a unique reaction of the immune system that is more complex than a simple food allergy.
This chronic digestive condition is triggered by eating gluten, a type of protein found in bread, pasta, cake and many other foods containing wheat, barley or rye.
If you have celiac disease and eat foods containing gluten, then an immune reaction occurs that damages the surface part of the small intestine, resulting in an inability to absorb some nutrients.
Food allergy risk factors include:
family history Your risk of developing a food allergy increases if asthma, eczema, hives, or allergic conditions such as hay fever are common in your family.
Other types of allergies. If you already have an allergy to one type of food, you may increase your risk of developing an allergy to other types of food. Likewise, if you have other types of allergic reactions, such as hay fever or eczema, your risk of developing a food allergy increases.
Age. Food allergy is more common in children, especially toddlers and infants. With age, the digestive system matures, and food or food components that trigger allergies are less likely to be absorbed.
Fortunately, children usually outgrow their allergies to milk, soda, wheat, and eggs with age. Severe allergies and allergies to nuts and shellfish are likely to last a lifetime.
asthma. Asthma and food allergy usually occur together. When they occur together, food allergy and asthma symptoms are likely to be severe.
Factors that may increase your risk of developing an anaphylactic reaction include:
History of asthma
Being a teenager or younger
Delaying the use of epinephrine to treat food allergy symptoms
No hives or other skin symptoms
Complications of a food allergy can include:
Anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema). Food allergy can cause a skin reaction, such as eczema.
Introducing pistachio products early is associated with a lower risk of pistachio allergy. Before introducing allergens, talk to your child’s doctor about the best time to introduce them to your child.
However, once you’re already allergic to a food, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to learn or avoid the foods that are causing your signs and symptoms. For some people this is just an inconvenience, but for others they find it very difficult. In addition, some foods can be well hidden when used as ingredients in some dishes. It is already happening especially in restaurants and other social settings.
If you know you have a food allergy, follow these steps:
Pay attention to what you eat and drink. Make sure to read food labels carefully.
If you already have a severe allergy, wear a medicated alarm necklace or bracelet to let others know you have a food allergy, in case you have an allergy and are unable to communicate.
Talk to your doctor about prescribing epinephrine in an emergency situation. You may need to keep an epinephrine auto-injector (Adrena Click, Epi-Pen) in case you risk having a severe allergic reaction.
Be careful when eating in the restaurant. Make sure your server or chef knows that you absolutely can’t eat foods you’re allergic to, and you should make absolutely sure that your meal is free from them. Also, be sure not to prepare food on a countertop or in bowls that contain any foods you are allergic to.
Feel free to declare your needs. Restaurant staff are usually more than happy to help when they clearly understand your request.
Limit meals and snacks between meals before leaving the house. If necessary, bring a cooler filled with allergen-free food with you when you travel or go to an event. If you or your child can’t eat cake or candy at a party, bring some treats that you are allowed to eat so that no one feels left out of the party.
If your child has a food allergy, follow these precautions to ensure their safety:
Tell key people that your child has a food allergy. Talk with your child’s caregivers, school staff, parents of your child’s friends, and other adults who come into regular contact with your child. Emphasize that allergic reactions can be life-threatening and require immediate intervention. Make sure your child knows how to seek help immediately if he or she has an allergic reaction to a food.
Explain the symptoms of a food allergy. Tell adults who spend time with your child how to notice signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Make an action plan. Your plan should describe how to care for your child when he or she has a food reaction. Provide a copy of the plan to the caregiver at your child’s school and others who care for your child.
Does your child wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace? This alert lists your child’s allergy symptoms and explains how others can provide first aid in an emergency.