A food allergy is an abnormal
response to a food by your immune system. Normally, the immune system protects
your health by defending the body against harmful bacteria and viruses. With a
food allergy, the immune system identifies certain foods as harmful and
triggers an allergic reaction when you eat them.
are more common in children than adults. Food allergies are most common in
people who have an inherited tendency to develop allergic conditions. These
people are more likely to have asthma and other allergies.
allergies may appear in a baby when you begin to add cereal to the baby's diet.
Children tend to outgrow many food allergies by age 3. The most common foods
involved are cow's milk, eggs, nuts, shellfish, soy products, and wheat. Most
people who have allergies to seafood, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts do not
Symptoms of food allergies can range from mild and
annoying to severe and life-threatening. Symptoms of food allergies can begin
right away or within a few hours and can include:
You may be able to prevent food allergies by changing
your diet and not eating the foods that you suspect are causing your symptoms.
Do not eat these foods for 2 weeks. Add the foods back to your diet, one item
at a time, to determine which food is causing problems. This can be done at
home unless severe allergic reactions have occurred in the past, such as
difficulty breathing or wheezing, facial swelling, itching of the lips or
mouth, or hives. If this is the case, eating foods that you think may cause a severe reaction should be done only
in a clinic or hospital setting under direct medical supervision.
Talk to your doctor or a dietitian before you remove a food
from your diet for more than 2 weeks. An unbalanced diet can be harmful. A
dietitian can help you change your diet to make sure you are getting proper
Some reactions to foods are not
caused by allergies. Common causes of food reactions include:
Talk to your doctor about a referral to an
allergy specialist if you have food allergies.
April 29, 2011
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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