Food Allergies

Food allergies are most common in infants and children, but they can appear at any age. It is even possible to develop an allergy to foods that had previously been eaten regularly with no symptoms. Individuals who believe they may have an allergy, have a history of allergies, or require treatment for their allergies are advised to see a board-certified allergist at Skin and Laser Dermatology Center. Additionally, it is easy to confuse food allergies with a much more common reaction, food intolerance, which an allergist can clarify.

Why do food allergies happen?

A food allergy can occur when the immune system overreacts to a food or substance in a food. The immune system identifies the otherwise normal food particle as a danger and triggers a protective response. Often histamine is released, as well as other chemicals, into the bloodstream. This protective response can cause symptoms ranging from mild to severe, the most severe of which is a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Do food allergies run in families?

While allergies have a tendency to be genetically inherited, it is very difficult to predict whether a child will inherit a parent’s food allergy or whether siblings will have a similar condition.

What are the most common foods that cause allergic reactions?

While any food can cause an adverse reaction, nine types of food account for most reactions:

  • Eggs
  • Milk and dairy
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Sesame

What are symptoms of food allergies?

Symptoms of food allergies can manifest in many different ways that may involve the skin, gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, and/or the respiratory tract. Some symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Hives or itching
  • Vomiting and/or stomach cramps
  • Repetitive coughs
  • Trough swallowing
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, or other parts of the body

How quickly does an allergic reaction to food occur?

Most food-related symptoms occur within two hours of injection and often start within minutes. In some rare cases, the reaction can take several hours or even longer to manifest.

Do children outgrow their allergies?

Children often outgrow their allergic reactions to milk and eggs. Peanut and tree nut allergies are more likely to persist, however.

When should I see a board-certified allergist?

Individuals with suspected allergies should see an allergist to test what may actually be causing the reactions. Additionally, individuals allergic to a specific food may also have a reaction to related food. Having an allergist check for this cross-reactivity can prevent worrisome allergic reactions in the future. The allergist may prescribe medications to treat symptoms of allergies or in case of a future allergic reaction.

What is anaphylaxis in regards to food allergies?

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction which can cause life-threatening symptoms. Emergency treatment is critical for anaphylaxis and without treatment, coma or death can occur. Individuals encountering a severe allergic reaction should immediately call for medical help.

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