Food allergies happen when your body reacts wrongly to certain foods. You might feel sick, get a rash, or have trouble breathing after eating something you’re allergic to. Common food allergies include reactions to nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and fish. Understanding how to spot symptoms and knowing what to do if you have an allergic reaction can keep you safe.
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What is a Food Allergy?
Simply put, a food allergy is when your body’s immune system sees a particular food as harmful and goes into action to fight it. It’s like a false alarm, as the food isn’t really dangerous, but your body treats it like an invader. This reaction can cause symptoms like itching, swelling, and even more severe problems like difficulty breathing.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, around 4% of adults and 6% of children have some type of food allergy. Some people grow out of them, while others deal with these allergies all their lives.
Typical Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a food allergy can vary greatly. Here’s what you might notice:
- Rash or Hives: Red, itchy bumps on the skin.
- Swelling: Parts of your body, especially your face, might puff up.
- Eczema: Dry, flaky skin that can itch a lot.
- Stomach Pain: You might feel cramps or discomfort in your stomach.
- Diarrhea or Vomiting: Your body might try to get rid of the food quickly.
- Nausea: Feeling like you might throw up.
- Coughing or Wheezing: Your chest might feel tight, and you could have trouble breathing.
- Runny or Stuffy Nose: Your nose might act like you have a cold.
- Anaphylaxis: This is a severe reaction that can cause you to stop breathing. It’s a medical emergency.
The Most Common Food Allergies
Often seen in children, an allergy to cow’s milk can cause stomach pain, hives, or vomiting. Some kids grow out of this allergy, while others don’t.
Another one mainly for kids, egg allergies can cause skin reactions, trouble breathing, or an upset stomach.
Peanut allergies can be severe. Eating peanuts or even being near them can cause a serious reaction in some people.
4. Tree Nuts
Almonds, walnuts, and other tree nuts can cause allergies too. These are often lifelong.
Soy is in lots of foods, so this allergy can be tricky to deal with. It usually causes a mild reaction.
Wheat allergies can cause a range of problems, from itching to difficulty breathing.
Fish allergies are often serious and can be lifelong.
Like fish, shellfish allergies are often lifelong and can be severe.
How to Stay Safe
Know What You’re Eating
Always read food labels and ask about ingredients if someone else prepares your food. It helps to know what you should avoid.
If you have a severe allergy, your doctor might give you a special medicine called an epinephrine injector. Carry it with you, and make sure you know how to use it.
Talk to Your Doctor
Your doctor can do tests to figure out what foods you’re allergic to. They can also teach you how to handle an allergic reaction.
Treatment and Management
There is no cure for food allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Treating food allergies is all about managing symptoms and avoiding what causes them. Your doctor might tell you to:
- Avoid Certain Foods: If you know what causes the problem, stay away from it.
- Take Medicine: Over-the-counter antihistamines can help with mild symptoms.
- Use an EpiPen: If you have a severe allergy, an EpiPen can be a lifesaver.
Food allergies might seem scary, but with the right knowledge and care, you can live a normal, healthy life. Keep an eye on what you eat, know the signs of an allergic reaction, and talk to your doctor about the best ways to stay safe.
Further Reading: Why Do We Get Allergies?