Do peanuts or shellfish cause you to become ill? A plate of scrambled eggs causes your skin to itch? If so, you are not alone; millions of people suffer from an allergy to a food. In fact, food allergies affect around 5% of adults and 8% of children and these percentages are rising A food allergy occurs when the immune system attacks a food protein that it mistakes as a threat to the body.
It is possible for any food to cause an allergy, but just eight foods cause most:
• Cow’s milk (most commonly found in children)
• Tree nuts (i.e., walnuts, almonds, and pecans)
• Wheat and other grains with gluten
• Fish (mostly in adults)
• Shellfish (mostly in adults)
Symptoms can present themselves within minutes of digesting the food or a few hours later. Some of the mild to moderate ones may include:
• Dry, itchy rash
• Redness of the skin
• Nausea or vomiting
• Stomach pain
Severe symptoms may include:
• Trouble swallowing
• Shortness of breath
• Drop in blood pressure
• Chest pain
• Turning blue
Severe symptoms, alone or combined with milder symptoms, may be signs of life-threatening anaphylaxis (an acute allergic reaction). Immediate treatment is required. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis. You should work with your primary care provider to determine the best treatment plan for your specific allergy.
The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid the food completely. Make sure to read food labels to ensure the food you are allergic to isn’t in the ingredients. Avoid cross-contact of foods. You should clean your cooking utensils and cook all allergy-safe foods first. Recognize your symptoms. You know your body – spotting your signs early could save your life. If you have an epinephrine injector, always know where it is and how to use it.
Your primary care provider should make a food allergy diagnosis. You should not diagnose yourself with a food allergy. If you have concerns, visit with your provider.