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    What to Do if You Suspect a Food Allergy

    Many people think they have food allergies. But according to experts, only 5% of children and 4% of teens and adults really have an allergic reaction to certain things they eat.

    If you think you have this problem, it’s important to find out. These allergies can be dangerous. Here are tips that can help you find out if you’re allergic.

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    See a Doctor

    It's better to see an allergist than to try to diagnose a food allergy yourself. Why?

    You’ll miss out. If you think you're allergic to a certain food, you’ll take it off the menu. But if you skip something you don’t have to -- like nuts -- you’ll deprive yourself of important nutrients.

    You could be wrong. The doctor can figure out if you have a food intolerance -- meaning you can’t digest certain things -- or if you’re really allergic. That difference is important. Intolerances can be uncomfortable and hard to live with. But allergies can be life-threatening. Your doctor can offer advice on how to feel better. It may take more than one test to get a diagnosis.

    You could have a worse reaction next time. Mild itching or tingling in your mouth could evolve into more serious problems. Your doctor can prescribe medications to treat symptoms. This may include an epinephrine injector, which can stop a life-threatening reaction. Always carry two shots with you if your doctor prescribes them. Don’t wait to use the device, even if your symptoms don’t seem to be allergy-related. Using it as a precaution won’t hurt you.

    Your doctor will ask you questions like:

    • What foods did you eat before you had symptoms?
    • What symptoms did you have?
    • How soon did they come on and in what order?
    • How long did they last?
    • Have you had a reaction like this before?
    • Does anyone in your family have allergies?

    The doctor may also do a skin test to see if your body reacts to a tiny amount of the suspected allergen or allergy trigger.

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