Unlike seasonal allergies, which come and go, food allergies are always there. Food allergies are common among both children and adults with about 15 million Americans having one or more.
Food intolerances are often confused with food allergies. In some cases, the symptoms are similar, but an allergy can have far more serious health effects. Symptoms of food intolerances such as lactose or gluten intolerances usually result in gastrointestinal discomfort because your body is sensitive to a substance or has trouble digesting it.
A food allergy is a medical condition whereby your body’s immune system goes on the attack because it considers that food, or food protein, dangerous to your system. Symptoms can range from mild gastrointestinal pain or hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis shock.
Common food allergies
Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but some foods are more commonly associated with allergies than others. The following eight types of food cause 90% of all food allergies:
- Tree nuts
For adults, the most common foods that cause issues are fish, shellfish, tree nuts, and peanuts; for children, it’s eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat. Usually, people are allergic to more than one food. The good news is that children often outgrow many of their food allergies.
Food allergy symptoms
Food allergy symptoms can be mild to severe, and not each episode is the same. They usually come on within minutes of your eating an allergic food, although some symptoms don’t manifest for a couple of hours after the culprit food is consumed. Common symptoms include:
- Red, itchy skin
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy, teary eyes
- Stomach cramps
- Tingling in the mouth
The most severe symptom, or reaction, of a food allergy, is anaphylaxis. This life-threatening condition can make your throat swell and make breathing difficult. It can weaken your pulse and make your blood pressure drop. Sometimes people feel dizzy and faint. If anaphylaxis is not treated with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) to stop the attack, the episode can be deadly.
Because every food allergy attack can be different and you don’t know if or when you’ll experience anaphylaxis, always be sure to carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of emergencies and follow up with medical care.
How to handle food allergies
Your first step in handling your food allergies is to determine which foods trigger an attack. If you are experiencing food allergy symptoms, AIR Care’s Dr. Richard Herrscher can help you identify your allergy triggers. He discusses your family and medical history, goes over your symptoms, and conducts allergy tests.
There is no cure for food allergies, but if you take the following precautions, you can minimize your risk for an allergy attack:
- Avoid allergic foods
- Read all food labels and ingredient lists when shopping
- Ask questions about what’s in prepared meals at a restaurant
- Always carry, and know how to use, an epinephrine auto-injector
Other ways to manage your allergies include oral medications and immunotherapy for more long-term relief.
For more information on food allergies and how we can diagnose and treat them, call AIR Care or make an appointment online. We have offices in Dallas and Plano, Texas.