Food allergy symptoms are most common in babies and children, but they can appear at any age. You can even develop an allergy to foods you have eaten for years with no problems.
A food allergy reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a food or a substance in a food, identifying it as a danger and triggering a protective response.
While allergies tend to run in families, it is impossible to predict whether a child will inherit a parent’s food allergy or whether siblings will have a similar condition.
The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction that can impair your breathing, cause a dramatic drop in your blood pressure and affect your heart rate. Anaphylaxis can come on within minutes of exposure to the trigger food. It can be fatal and must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline).
Symptoms of food allergy.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction may involve the skin, the gastrointestinal tract, the cardiovascular system and the respiratory tract. They can surface in one or more of the following ways:
- Vomiting and/or stomach cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Shock or circulatory collapse
- Tight, hoarse throat; trouble swallowing
- Dizziness or feeling faint.
- Swelling of the tongue, affecting the ability to talk or breathe.
- Weak pulse.
- Pale or blue coloring of skin.
Once a food allergy is diagnosed, the most effective treatment is to avoid the food. The foods most associated with food allergy in children are:
Children may outgrow their allergic reactions to milk and to eggs. Peanut and tree nut allergies are likely to persist.
The most common food allergens in adults are:
Fruit and vegetable pollen (oral allergy syndrome)
Peanuts and tree nuts
Fish and shellfish
A food allergy will usually cause some sort of reaction every time the trigger food is eaten. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and you may not always experience the same symptoms during every reaction. Allergic reactions to food can affect the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system. It is impossible to predict how severe the next reaction might be, and all patients with food allergies should consult a doctor and be carefully counseled.
Currently, avoiding the food you are allergic to is the only way to protect against a reaction.