Do eggs make you itch? Does soy make you sneeze? Are peanuts a serious scare for you? Well, you are not alone. Millions of people in the United States have food allergies. That means their bodies react to a food as though it’s something dangerous. Some common food allergies are to peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds and cashews), milk, seafood, wheat, soy, and eggs, but there are other types of food allergies, too.
You may have been born with a food allergy, or you may develop it over time. Either way, you can learn ways to lead a safe, healthy, and fun life with a food allergy. Here are some key points about food allergies.
- An allergic reaction can happen right away or a few hours after eating the food.
- A reaction doesn’t necessarily happen the first time you eat a food.
- You can have a mild reaction to a food, but then the next time you eat it, you might have a more dangerous reaction.
- Some people can become sick even from just touching or breathing in a certain food.
Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body’s immune system.
In adults, the foods that most often trigger allergic reactions include fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts, such as walnuts. Problem foods for children can include eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat.
The allergic reaction may be mild. In rare cases it can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis.
Signs of food allergies
Symptoms of food allergy include
- Itch or swell in your mouth
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps and pain
- Hives or eczema
- Tightening of the throat and trouble breathing
- Drop in blood pressure
- A rash
- A stuffy nose or sneezing
- Swelling of your face, lips, or tongue
- A hoarse voice
- Wheezing or a cough
Your health care provider may use a detailed history, elimination diet, and skin and blood tests to diagnose a food allergy.
When you have food allergies, you must be prepared to treat an accidental exposure. Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace, and carry an auto-injector device containing epinephrine (adrenaline).
You can only prevent the symptoms of food allergy by avoiding the food. After you and your health care provider have identified the foods to which you are sensitive, you must remove them from your diet.
Prevention of food allergies
Some types of food allergies may go away on their own, but there is no cure yet for food allergies. If you have a food allergy, you should not eat that food. Here are some suggestions to help keep you safe:
- Read food labels. Packages will have a special note, usually near the ingredients list. You can also check the ingredients list for anything you should avoid. Your doctor’s office or a food allergy organization can give you a list of ingredients to avoid. And don’t forget to check a product every time you buy it. Sometimes the food maker may change its ingredients.
- Find out if the factory matters. If you are very sensitive, you may need to avoid a food just because it is made in the same factory as your allergic food. Ask your doctor about that.
- Tell people who might need to know. Teachers, coaches, friends, and restaurant servers can help you stay safe if they know what foods you need to avoid.
- Be prepared. Learn what to do in case you have a reaction.Some people with a food allergy need to have medicine nearby all the time. You may need an EpiPen to protect you in case you have a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis (say: an-uh-fuh-LAK-suhss). You might also consider wearing a medical identification bracelet, so other people know how to help you in an emergency.
To summarize, a food allergy occurs when a person’s immune system reacts to allergens that are harmless to other people. Most food allergies are caused by peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish and shellfish, soy and wheat, and these must be declared on the food label however small the amount present in the food.