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)

• Eggs

• Peanuts

• Tree nuts (i.e., walnuts, almonds, and pecans)

• Soy

• 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:

• Hives

• Dry, itchy rash

• Redness of the skin

• Nausea or vomiting

• Diarrhea

• Stomach pain

• Sneezing

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.


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