A food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs after eating a specific food. Even the slightest amount of the food can trigger symptoms, such as hives, nausea, and swelling of the lips, face, tongue or throat. Food allergy affects an estimated 26 million, or over 10 percent, of U.S. adults. While there is no cure for a food allergy, one can prevent an allergic reaction from occurring by avoiding the allergen that causes signs and symptoms.
The most common symptoms of a food allergy can include:
- Tingling or itching of the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or feeling faint
In some people, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a reaction that can impair breathing and send the body into shock. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Tightening of the airways
- Swollen throat
- Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
When the person comes into contact with a food allergen, it releases histamine, a natural chemical that defends the body from the allergen because it mistakenly identifies that specific food as something harmful. This chemical causes an allergic reaction. The most common food allergies are triggered by proteins in:
- Tree nuts, such as walnuts and pecans
- Shellfish, such as shrimp, lobster and crab
- Cow’s milk
The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to know and avoid foods, or the substance in certain foods that cause signs and symptoms. For minor allergic reactions, one can take over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamines to reduce symptoms. For a severe allergic reaction, the person may need an emergency injection of epinephrine. Many people with allergies carry an epinephrine autoinjector (Epi-Pen).
Many allergy related symptoms can be managed with over the counter medicines, prescription medications, and environmental avoidance strategies if the allergies are known. With allergy skin testing and/or blood testing, we can discover hidden triggers, confirm suspected triggers, and provide additional treatments, including immunotherapy if appropriate.
Contact Northeast Allergy, Asthma & Immunology today to schedule your appointment.