What Is A Food Allergy Exactly?

When the body detects something it thinks is harmful the immune system produces antibodies to fight the intruder.  An allergic reaction occurs when a food is eaten which the immune system mistakes for something harmful.

Most allergic reactions to food are mild.  The allergic reaction can occur within seconds of ingesting the trigger food or it may take several hours before a reaction happens.  (Usually the reaction happens quickly.)  A person who is allergic to a particular food can have a reaction by inhaling or coming in contact with even a small quantity of the trigger food, it does not necessarily need to be eaten.

When the immune system has an allergic reaction to a food the symptoms can affect the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, the respiratory system and/or the cardiovascular system.  You may experience shortness of breath, dizziness, wheezing, itchy skin, rash, hives, chest pain, headache, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain and/or nausea.

If you have a severe allergic reaction to a food you may experience a life threatening reaction.  This severe reaction is known as anaphylaxis and is the cause of a number of deaths each year.  When you experience a severe allergic reaction the lips, tongue and throat can swell so much that you are unable to breath.  Medical help is needed immediately.

Allergies to food have become more common over the past 10 years.  Allergies to food seem to be more likely in people who have an inherited tendency to develop allergic conditions.  These people may have other allergies or asthma in addition to their food allergy.

Usually when someone is allergic to food he is only allergic to one or two specific foods.

If you suspect you or your child is allergic to a particular food discuss it with your health care professional.  He will be able to test to see if you do have a reaction to the suspect food.

It is possible to run a series of tests for food allergies.  However, these tests are so sensitive they may indicate you have an allergy to a particular food and you really can still eat that particular food.  It may be better to test for reactions with food you suspect are trigger foods for you.

Many times children will have allergies to foods and later outgrow the allergy as they grow older.  The foods most common to cause an allergic reaction in children include peanuts, cow’s milk, eggs, soybeans and wheat.  Adults are likely to have allergic reactions to tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, soy and wheat.

If you know you have an allergy to a particular food the best idea is to avoid the offending food entirely.  This means you may have to check when you are dining out to be sure the food you order does not contain any of the food to which you are allergic.

Be sure to read the labels when grocery shopping.  Learn to recognize alternate names for the foods you cannot handle such as whey for milk.  Make sure you do not contaminate food by using a utensil previously used to prepare a trigger food.