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    Common Food Allergy Triggers

    Food Allergy Symptoms continued...

    Sometimes symptoms affect your whole body and are so serious that they're life-threatening. This kind of reaction is called anaphylaxis, and it's a medical emergency. It usually happens a few minutes after you've eaten. If you have asthma as well as a food allergy, you're more likely to have anaphylaxis. When you have a severe food allergy, you should carry injectable epinephrine (adrenaline) in case you have a reaction. It can ease symptoms until you can get medical attention. Do not hesitate to use the epinephrine auto-injector ever if you are unsure your symptoms are caused by an allergy. The epinephrine will not hurt you and could save your life.

    For highly allergic people, even tiny amounts of a food (for example, 1/44,000 of a peanut kernel) can set off a reaction. Less sensitive people may be able to eat small amounts of their trigger food.

    Hidden Triggers

    The key to controlling a food allergy? Avoid the problem food. That isn't always easy, though. It may be hidden as an ingredient in something else.

    • Most baked goods, like cakes and cookies, are made with eggs and sometimes nuts.
    • Water-packed tuna may have added nonfat dry milk.
    • Salad dressing could be made with soybean oil.
    • A hot dog may contain milk protein.

    So, be sure to read food labels. That's a good place to start.

    Still, labels don't always tell the whole story. For example, pineapple, milk casein, or hydrolyzed soy protein may be used in microwave popcorn -- yet you won't see them on the ingredient list. You'll see the catch-all terms "flavoring" or "natural flavoring" instead. Words like "emulsifier" or "binder" can signal soy or egg in the product.

    When you have a food allergy, you need to get familiar with these general terms and what specific things they can include. If you have questions about any product, check with the manufacturer. The customer service department or the quality assurance officer should be able to help you figure out if the food is safe for you.

    You'll need to read menus at restaurants carefully, too. Ask about how food is prepared before you order if you have any concerns.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 19, 2015
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