Food Allergy

A food allergy is an exaggerated immune system response triggered by a certain food. A severe food allergy can lead to anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that can be deadly.

Common Food Allergies

  • peanuts
  • soy
  • milk
  • fish/shellfish
  • eggs
  • tree nuts

Causes of a Food Allergy

When you have a food allergy, the immune system mistakes the food as harmful and triggers your body to produce antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) and IgE signals your body to produce histamine that causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction such as rashes, itchy eyes, nausea and anaphylactic shock.

Symptoms of a Food Allergy

Food allergies usually occur seconds after a food has been eaten. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • hives/rashes
  • nausea
  • swelling/angioedema
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction)

Prevention

Avoidance of the food that causes the allergic reaction is the best prevention. However, sometimes a food can not be avoided and for these times make sure you carry an EpiPen to protect yourself from anaphylaxis.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose a food allergy, allergists may consider challenge testing or allergy skin testing. These tests can determine which foods cause an allergic reaction to occur.

Treatment for food allergies depends on the type of reaction being experienced minor or severe.

For minor reactions, a doctor might prescribe antihistamines or over-the-counter medications.

For severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), seek immediate medical attention or administer an injection of epinephrine using an EpiPen or other epinephrine autoinjector.

For more information on food allergies or to schedule an appointment with an allergist, call 1-800-778-9923 or visit the Allergy & Asthma Center location near you.