Five Facts About Food Allergies

What is a Food Allergy?

When we eat a particular food that contains a substance our body is allergic to, our body recognizes that substance as foreign and it reacts by trying to fight it. From that point on, you can develop allergies, which can be mild to severe and even life-threatening.

Most Common Food Allergies

The most common food allergies are eggs, milk, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish, which includes lobster, shrimp and scallops.

Possible Symptoms of Food Allergies

If someone eats strawberries and they get itchy afterwards, the itching could be a rash or hives, which is one symptom of a food allergy. Hives look like welts. People also experience breathing problems or respiratory symptoms like wheezing and coughing.

The most severe type of allergy symptom is called interval axis. In this situation, a person will notice their tongue may feel thick within a matter of minutes. Their mouth swells and they experience difficulty breathing. This is a life threatening emergency situation and needs to be treated immediately with an injection of epinephrine.

How to Determine Food Allergies

It’s not uncommon to find you are allergic to one food, then learn you are also allergic to similar types of foods. For example, if you are allergic to peanuts, which grow on the ground, you may also be allergic to tree nuts, such as almonds or pecans. Or, if you are allergic to wheat, you may also find you are allergic to other grains, such as barley.

Patients may suspect they have a food allergy when what they really have is a food sensitivity. They may be able to connect their symptoms with what they ate at a certain time. Their primary care provider may either order allergy testing or may refer them to an allergist. The allergist may do skin testing or a comprehensive panel of blood tests to determine the allergy. By doing that, the allergist can also look at environmental allergies along with food allergies.

Best Way to Treat Food Allergies

The best way to treat food allergies is to avoid the specific foods you think you are allergic to. If you know one specific food gives you problems, avoid eating it as much as possible.

Avoidance becomes more difficult when you buy a prepared product at the grocery store or when eating at a restaurant. People with severe allergies need to be careful to know what they are eating and how it was prepared.

Read labels carefully and know the product you are allergic to may be listed by a different name, so try to identify all the different names the substance may be called.

People can develop food allergies at any time. Often food allergies begin in childhood and children may outgrow them. But, adults can also develop food allergies. About 5 percent of adults and 8 percent of children have food allergies.

If you have any questions about food allergies, please email me at npcerickson@westfieldpremier.com or call Westfield Premier Physicans.

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