Food Allergies:

A food allergy is a dangerous immune response triggered by foods that cause an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. Very few people have a real food allergy, most have a food intolerance. A food intolerance affects the digestive system while a food allergy involves the immune system.

Common Food Allergies 

  • peanuts (groundnuts)
  • milk
  • eggs
  • tree nuts
  • fish
  • shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • wheat
  • soy

Causes

The cause of food allergies is linked to the body's immune system producing immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies and histamine in response to a particular food. 

Symptoms

Food allergy symptoms usually occur immediately after eating. If you develop the following symptoms after eating a specific food, you may have a food allergy.

  • hives
  • hoarse voice
  • wheezing
  • abdominal pain and stomach cramps
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fainting
  • diarrhea
  • nausea and vomiting
  • swelling (angioedema)
  • difficulty breathing

Diagnosis

There are many ways to diagnose a food allergy. Skin testing may be performed to confirm that you have a food allergy to a specific food. Also, elimination diets are another way to diagnose a food allergy because you avoid the food until symptoms go away and reintroduce the food to see if you get an allergic reaction. Challenge testing has you eat a small portion of the food allergen under medical supervision. This test can provoke anaphylaxis so never try this test at home.

Prevention and Treatment 

Avoidance of the food allergen is the only proven treatment for a food allergy. Neither allergy shots or medications have been proven safe or effective. However, people with severe food allergies need to be prepared to treat an anaphylactic reaction. People with severe food allergies should wear medical alert bracelets or necklaces and always carry epinephrine (EpiPen) and know how to self-administer it if a severe allergic reaction occurs. If you suspect you or your child has a food allergy, consult an allergy specialist.

For more information on food allergies or to schedule an appointment with an allergist at Alabama Allergy & Asthma Center, call 205-871-9661.