A food allergy is an abnormal response to a food by your immune system. Normally, the immune system protects your health by defending the body against harmful bacteria and viruses. With a food allergy, the immune system identifies certain foods as harmful and triggers an allergic reaction when you eat them.
Food allergies are more common in children than adults. Food allergies are most common in people who have an inherited tendency to develop allergic conditions. These people are more likely to have asthma and other allergies.
Cereal allergies may appear in a baby when you begin to add cereal to the baby's diet. Children tend to outgrow many food allergies by age 3. The most common foods involved are cow's milk, eggs, nuts, shellfish, soy products, and wheat. Most people who have allergies to seafood, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts do not outgrow them.
Symptoms of food allergies can range from mild and annoying to severe and life-threatening. Symptoms of food allergies can begin right away or within a few hours and can include:
You may be able to prevent food allergies by changing your diet and not eating the foods that you suspect are causing your symptoms. Do not eat these foods for 2 weeks. Add the foods back to your diet, one item at a time, to determine which food is causing problems. This can be done at home unless severe allergic reactions have occurred in the past, such as difficulty breathing or wheezing, facial swelling, itching of the lips or mouth, or hives. If this is the case, eating foods that you think may cause a severe reaction should be done only in a clinic or hospital setting under direct medical supervision.
Talk to your doctor or a dietitian before you remove a food from your diet for more than 2 weeks. An unbalanced diet can be harmful. A dietitian can help you change your diet to make sure you are getting proper nutrition.
Some reactions to foods are not caused by allergies. Common causes of food reactions include:
Talk to your doctor about a referral to an allergy specialist if you have food allergies.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||April 29, 2011|