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- Food allergy facts
- What is a food allergy?
- What causes allergic reactions to food?
- What are food allergy symptoms and signs?
- What are food allergy risk factors?
- Do infants and children have problems with food allergy?
- What are the most common food allergies?
- What is cross-reactivity?
- What is oral allergy syndrome?
- What is exercise-induced food allergy?
- What conditions have mistakenly been attributed to food allergy?
- What conditions mimic food allergy?
- How is food allergy diagnosed? What tests are used to diagnose food allergies?
- What is the treatment for a food allergy?
- Are allergy shots effective in preventing or decreasing food allergy?
- What is the prognosis (outlook) for food allergy?
Quick GuideAllergy Pictures Slideshow: Common Food Allergy Triggers & Where They Hide
What are food allergy symptoms and signs?
The complex process of digestion affects the timing, location, and particular symptoms of an allergic reaction to food. All of the symptoms of food allergy occur within a few minutes to an hour of eating. A food allergy can initially be experienced as an itching in the mouth and difficulty swallowing and breathing. Then, during digestion of the food in the stomach and intestines, symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain can start. Incidentally, the gastrointestinal symptoms of food allergy are those that are most often confused with the symptoms of different types of food intolerance.
As mentioned previously, the allergens are absorbed and enter the bloodstream. When they reach the skin, allergens can induce hives or eczema, and when they reach the airways, they can cause asthma. As the allergens travel through the blood vessels, they can cause lightheadedness, weakness, and anaphylaxis, which is a sudden drop in blood pressure. Anaphylactic reactions are severe even when they start off with mild symptoms, such as a tingling in the mouth and throat or discomfort in the abdomen. They can be fatal if not treated quickly.
What are food allergy risk factors?
Both adults and children may develop food allergies. Factors that increase one's risk of having a food allergy include the following:
- Young age: Food allergies are most common in infants and toddlers.
- Having a past food allergy as a child or an allergy to another food: Those who are allergic to one type of food are more likely to develop other food allergies. Adults who have outgrown food allergies they had as children are more likely to develop subsequent food allergies than people who have never had them.
- Family or personal history of allergy, eczema, asthma, or hay fever increases the chances for developing a food allergy.