Is this topic for you?
This topic has general
information about food allergies. If you would like more specific information
about peanut allergy, see the topic
What is a food allergy?
When you have a food
allergy, your body thinks certain foods are trying to harm you. Your body
fights back by setting off an
allergic reaction. In most cases, the symptoms are
mild-a rash, a stuffy nose, or an upset stomach. A mild reaction is no fun, but
it isn't dangerous. A serious reaction can be deadly. But quick treatment can
stop a dangerous reaction.
Allergies tend to run in families. You
are more likely to have a food allergy if other people in your family have
allergies like hay fever, asthma, or eczema (atopic dermatitis).
Food allergies are more common in children
than adults. Children sometimes outgrow their food
allergies, especially allergies to milk, eggs, or soy. But if you develop a food allergy as an adult, you will most likely
have it for life.
Food allergy versus food intolerance
Food intolerances are much more common than food allergies. True food allergies are a reaction to food or food additives by your body's immune system.
Many people think they have a food allergy, but in fact they have a food intolerance. Food intolerance is much more common.
It can cause some of the same symptoms as a mild food allergy, like an upset stomach. But a food intolerance does
not cause an allergic reaction. A food intolerance can make you feel bad, but it is not dangerous. A serious food
allergy can be dangerous.
What are the symptoms?
Food allergies can cause
many different symptoms. They can range from mild to serious. If you eat a food
you are allergic to:
- Your mouth may tingle, and your lips may
swell as you start to eat the food.
- You may have a stuffy nose,
wheeze, or be short of breath when the allergens reach your mouth and lungs.
- You may have cramps, an upset stomach, or
diarrhea as the food is digested.
- You may feel dizzy or lightheaded if your blood pressure drops as the allergens circulate through your bloodstream.
- You may have itchy skin with red, raised bumps called
hives as the allergens reach your skin.
Kids usually have the same symptoms as adults. But
sometimes a small child just cries a lot, vomits, has diarrhea, or does not
grow as expected. If your child has these symptoms, see your doctor.
Some people have symptoms after eating even a tiny bit of a problem food.
As a rule, the sooner the reaction begins, the worse it will be.
The most severe reaction is called
anaphylaxis (say "ANN-uh-fuh-LAK-suss"). It affects
your whole body. Anaphylaxis can start within a few minutes to a few hours after you eat the
food. And the symptoms can go away and come back hours later. If you have
- Your throat and tongue may swell quickly.
- You may suddenly start wheezing or have trouble
- You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
- You may feel faint or pass out.