What are food allergies?
Food allergies are a disorder resulting in an immune system reaction after eating a certain food, producing symptoms such as skin rashes or digestive problems. Symptoms of food allergies are caused by the release of the body’s antibodies to protect itself from the food (allergen), which it mistakenly perceives as a danger or threat. In some cases, this response can be a severe or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Allergy/Immune Problems Spotlight
Food allergies affect approximately 2% of adults and 6% of children in the United States. Ninety percent of all food allergies are caused by eight foods: eggs, fish, wheat, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, and tree nuts (Source: FamilyDoctor.org).
Food allergies typically cause mild symptoms during the first exposure to the food because the body uses this exposure to prepare the immune system reaction for a second exposure. If the subsequent response is severe, anaphylaxis, a severe life-threatening immune reaction, may ensue, requiring immediate medical attention. Food allergies can occur even if only a minute amount of the food is consumed.
The signs and symptoms of food allergies can appear within a few minutes to several hours after eating the offending food. The disease course varies among individuals. Some people with food allergies have mild symptoms, such as a skin rash, while others may have severe diarrhea, swelling of the throat, or tightening in the lungs, causing difficulty breathing which may be life threatening.
In some people, food allergies can trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these life-threatening symptoms, including severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with rapid heart rate (tachycardia); confusion or loss of consciousness even for a brief moment; or sudden swelling of the lips, face or throat.
What are the symptoms of food allergies?
Food allergies are caused when your body’s immune system produces an inflammatory reaction to the ingestion of food. This reaction commonly occurs after the second exposure to the food. Symptoms of food allergies occur between several minutes to a few hours after ingestion of the food. The nature of the symptoms and their intensity vary among individuals.... Read more about food allergies symptoms
What causes food allergies?
Food allergies are caused by the immune system activating cells to release antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. Your body releases histamine and other chemicals, resulting in allergic symptoms that accompany inflammation. If the inflammation is on your skin, the most common reactions are a rash or hives. Inflammation in the airways can cause tightening of the throat and lungs, and can lead to severe breathing difficulties that require immediate medical care.... Read more about food allergies causes
How are food allergies treated?
There is no effective treatment that can prevent a food allergy except avoiding the offending food, if it is known. Fortunately, following commonsense avoidance practices can decrease the incidence of symptoms of food allergies. Ask what ingredients are in foods before you eat them, and carry appropriate medication in case you inadvertently consume an allergy-causing food. If you have a history of severe food allergies, or anaphylaxis, you should carry an epinephrine kit at all times, and administer epinephrine immediately as needed before seeking emergency care.... Read more about food allergies treatments