Food reactions are frequent and fall into two categories: those brought on by allergies and those brought on by food sensitivities or other variables.
Food allergies occur when the body’s immune system reacts abnormally to one or more proteins in food. Allergic reactions can be severe or even fatal if left untreated.
Food sensitivities are not caused by the immune system, cause unpleasant symptoms, and are far more common than food allergies. Examples include lactose intolerance, heartburn (gastroesophageal reflux), bacterial food poisoning, and sensitivity to caffeine.
In the U.S., 6-8% of children and 3-4% of adults live with a food allergy, with cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish being the top allergen-causing foods. When a person has one of these food allergies, symptoms typically appear fast, usually anywhere between a few minutes and two hours after eating.
The most common food allergy symptoms include:
- Skin reactions – Itching, flushing, hives (urticaria), or swelling (angioedema)
- Eye reactions – Itching, tearing, redness, or swelling of the skin around the eyes
- Nose and mouth reactions – Sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, swelling of the tongue, or a metallic taste
- Lung and throat reactions – Difficulty getting air in or out, repeated coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, increased mucus production, throat swelling or itching, hoarseness, voice changes, or a choking sensation
- Heart and circulation reactions – Dizziness, weakness, fainting, low blood pressure, or a rapid, slow, or irregular heart rate
- Digestive system reactions – Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, or diarrhea
- Nervous system reactions – Anxiety, confusion, or a sense of impending doom
Some individuals suffer from “non- classic” food allergies. The symptoms of this type of food allergy are usually slower to develop and longer lasting than those of classic food allergies. Food protein-induced enterocolitis and proctitis/proctocolitis are common types of non-classic food allergy that are seen often in infancy.
The most common symptoms of non-classic food allergies include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
A thorough examination of the patient’s medical history and symptoms is the first step in making a food allergy diagnosis. To establish the likelihood of a food allergy, an allergist may also perform skin or blood testing.
The severity of the allergy is not correlated with the results of skin or blood tests; rather, these tests merely offer insight into the likelihood of an allergic response. An oral food challenge test, performed in a supervised environment to monitor reactions, is sometimes necessary to confirm the diagnosis of food allergy.
Four Steps to Relief
Planning Your First Visit
Schedule an appointment at your local office and fill out our pre-registration and medical history forms to help minimize any wait time when you arrive.
Your First Visit
Your initial visit will last between two and three hours and consist of an initial consultation, evaluation, and comprehensive exam. We’ll create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs.
Diagnostics and Testing
We may complete one or more tests to better understand the cause of your symptoms. Common tests include skin testing, pulmonary testing, and blood testing.
Following the evaluation and testing, we’ll provide a comprehensive diagnosis and implement a personalized treatment plan that will deliver relief.
The first and best course of action is to know and avoid your allergic triggers. All food product ingredient labels must be read carefully to ensure avoidance. It is also important for all patients with severe food allergies to always have access to self-injectable epinephrine, in the case of a life-threatening allergic response. Food oral immunotherapy (OIT) offers an alternative to strict avoidance. Food OIT can raise a person’s allergy threshold and reduce the risk of reactions in the event of accidental food ingestion.
The Allergy Partners Difference
If you think you may have a food allergy, your allergist at Allergy Partners can provide a precise diagnosis, and develop a customized treatment plan for managing your food allergies.
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