What is a food allergy?
food allergy is when your immune system has a bad reaction to a certain food. This is
different from a food intolerance, which does not affect the immune system. This is true
even though some of the same signs may be present.
What causes a food
body’s immune system fights off infections and other dangers to keep you healthy. When
your immune system senses that a food or something in a food is a danger to your health,
you may have a food allergy reaction. Your immune system sends out IgE (immunoglobulin
E) antibodies. These react to the food or substance in the food. Your body releases
histamine and other substances. This can cause hives, asthma, itching in the mouth,
trouble breathing, stomach pains, vomiting, or diarrhea. It does not take much of the
food to cause a severe reaction in highly allergic people.
food allergies are caused by these foods:
Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES) is also called the
delayed food allergy. FPIES often occurs in young babies. It causes vomiting and severe
fluid loss (dehydration). The most common cause of FPIES is having milk, soy, or
What are the symptoms of a food
Allergic symptoms may begin within minutes to an hour after eating the food. Symptoms
may be a bit different for each person. Symptoms may include:
nausea or vomiting
cramps or stomach pain
itchy rash (hives)
or swelling of the lips, tongue, or mouth
itching or tightness
dizzy with a lowered blood pressure
symptoms such as coughing, runny or stuffy nose, wheezing, or trouble breathing
symptoms of a food allergy may look like other health problems. Always see your
healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Severe symptoms of a food
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. It is life-threatening. Symptoms can
Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, or wheezing
Feeling as if the throat is closing
Hoarseness or trouble talking
Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat
moist, or pale blue skin
Feeling faint, dizzy, lightheaded, or confused (this could be from a drop in
Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
and weak heartbeat
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Call 911 to get help right away. Severe
allergic reactions are treated with epinephrine. You should carry an emergency kit
with self-injecting epinephrine. If you have emergency injectable epinephrine, use it
before you call 911.
How is a food allergy
you think you have a food allergy, see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis. He or
she will take your health history and do a physical exam. The healthcare provider will
do skin or blood tests or both to find out the exact diagnosis. These tests may
How is a food allergy
this time, no medicine is available to prevent food allergy. The goal of treatment is to
stay away from the food that causes the symptoms. This includes speaking up when you are
at a restaurant or at friends' homes. Let them know that you have a food allergy. Don't
be shy. And be clear that you could have a severe reaction if you eat a food you are
allergic to, even in small amounts.
you have a food allergy, carry an epinephrine shot to treat emergency reactions. Know
how to give yourself this shot. You must be ready to treat any allergic reaction caused
by eating a food by mistake that you are sensitive to. You need an emergency kit to stop
severe reactions. Talk with your healthcare provider about what to do with the kit.
Medicines are available to treat some symptoms of food allergy after the food has been
eaten. These medicines may ease nose and sinus symptoms, digestive symptoms, or asthma
now, no allergy shot treatment is approved to treat food allergies. But research is
ongoing. Strictly staying away from the allergy-causing food is the only way to prevent
Living with a food allergy
you have one or more food allergies, eating out can be a challenge. But it is possible
to have a healthy and satisfying meal when dining out. It just means that you may have
to plan ahead when you eat out.
Here are some tips for dealing with
food allergies when you are eating away from home:
what ingredients are in the foods at the restaurant where you plan to eat. When
possible, get a menu from the restaurant ahead of time and look over the menu
your server know from the start about your food allergy. Before you order, ask how
the dish is made and what is in it. If your server does not know this information or
seems unsure, ask to speak to the manager or the chef.
go to buffet-style or family-style restaurants. There may be cross-contamination of
foods from using the same utensils for different dishes.
eat fried foods. The same oil may be used to fry several different foods.
Carry your emergency injectable epinephrine whenever you go out
to eat. Bring it to restaurants and to other people's homes.
Another tip for dining out is to carry a food allergy card. You can give it your server
or the manager before you order food. A food allergy card contains information about the
specific items you are allergic to. It also has more information. This includes a
reminder to make sure all utensils and equipment used to make your meal are thoroughly
cleaned before use. You can easily print these cards yourself using a computer and
Clearer food labels with FALCPA
The Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) was
passed into law in 2004. It helps ensure clearer labeling of food by manufacturers.
Here is more information about FALCPA:
Key points about a food
allergy is when your immune system has a bad reaction to a certain food. Before
having a food allergy reaction, a sensitive person must be exposed to the food at
least once before.
allergies are caused by milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and
symptoms may begin within minutes to an hour after eating the food. If you think you
have a food allergy, see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
an epinephrine shot to treat emergency reactions. Know how to give yourself this
of treatment is to stay away from the food that causes the symptoms.
to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
your visit, write down questions you want answered.
someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells
visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or
tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what
the side effects are.
your condition can be treated in other ways.
why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that
how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer:
Frederic Little MD
Date Last Reviewed:
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.