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What is a food allergy?

Either food allergy or food intolerance affects nearly everyone at some point. When people have an unpleasant reaction to something they ate, they often think that they have an allergy to the food. Actually, however, research shows that only about 3% of adults and 6%-8% of children have clinically proven true allergic reactions to food.

This difference between the prevalence of clinically proven food allergy and the public's perception of the problem is due primarily to misinterpreting food intolerance or other adverse reactions to food as food allergy. A true food allergy is an abnormal response to food that is triggered by a specific reaction in the immune system and expressed by certain, often characteristic, symptoms. Other kinds of reactions to foods that are not food allergies include food intolerances (such as lactose or milk intolerance), food poisoning, and toxic reactions. Food intolerance also is an abnormal response to food, and its symptoms can resemble those of food allergy. Food intolerance, however, is far more prevalent, occurs in a variety of diseases, and is triggered by several different mechanisms that are distinct from the immunological reaction responsible for food allergy.

People who have food allergies must identify and prevent them because, although usually mild and not severe, these reactions can cause devastating illness and, in rare instances, can be fatal.

Return to Food Allergy

See what others are saying

Comment from: KimberleyTin, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: January 12

I have lactose allergy or intolerance. I didn't have any idea before I went for an allergy test through teddy can. Whenever I took even a single drop of milk, my stomach got upset and bloated. It was really annoying and painful. After being diagnosed for being intolerant to lactose, I have stopped taking milk though I take curd and I have no problem with that.

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Comment from: vinegar, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: July 28

Today I went to a favorite restaurant known for their fried fish and chicken. I ate it for lunch and then some for dinner. After about an hour, I started itching all over my body, face included. I took a hot shower and felt much better and then ate another wing and the itching started again. This has never happened to me before and I am wondering if it was the type of grease they use to cook their food. I have eaten from their restaurant for years and never had this reaction. This is so weird. I don't keep cooking grease in my house but I know I have also eaten foods from all kinds of cooking grease. I know allergies can just pop up on you one day and I am wondering if this is one of them. I took Benadryl and I am still itching a little but it has calmed down some. I used Braggs apple cider vinegar in a spray mist bottle mixed with water and spritzed my body with it also.

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Comment from: Sweetlady, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: July 12

Certain foods I eat cause migraines or headaches. I saw a doctor who did testing on me and said I have food allergies and I would like to get a second opinion.

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