Food Allergies - Topic Overview
Anaphylaxis can be deadly. If you have (or see someone
having) any of these symptoms, call911right away.
What foods most often cause a food allergy?
foods cause most allergies. A food that causes an allergy is called a food
allergen. The protein in the food causes the problem.
- Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy cause
most problems in children.
- Milk, peanuts, tree nuts,
fish, and shellfish cause most problems in adults.
If you are allergic to one food, you may also be allergic
to other foods like it. So if you are allergic to shrimp, you may also be
allergic to lobster or crab.
How is a food allergy diagnosed?
Your doctor will
ask questions about your medical history and any family food allergies. And he
or she will do a physical exam. Your doctor will also ask what symptoms you
have. He or she may want you to write down everything you eat and any reactions
you have. Your doctor will consider other possibilities that could be confused with food allergies, such as a food intolerance.
Because food allergies can be confused with other problems, it is important for your doctor to do a test to confirm that you have a food allergy. Your doctor may first start out with either skin testing or a blood test to determine what you are allergic to, but an oral food challenge is the best way to diagnose a food allergy. In an oral food challenge, you will eat a variety of foods that may or may not cause an allergic reaction. Your doctor
watches to see if and when a reaction occurs.
A skin prick test can help to find out which foods will cause a reaction. The doctor will put a little bit of liquid
on your skin and then prick your skin. The liquid has some of the possible food
allergen in it. If your skin swells up like a mosquito bite, your doctor knows
that you are allergic to that food. Your doctor may also do blood tests to look for
the chemicals in your blood that cause an allergic reaction.
How is it treated?
The best treatment
is to never eat the foods you are allergic to. Learn to read food labels and
spot other names for problem foods. For example, milk may be listed as
"caseinate," wheat as "gluten," and peanuts as "hydrolyzed vegetable protein."
When you eat out or at other people?s houses, ask about the foods you are
If you have a history of severe food allergies, your
doctor will prescribe an allergy kit that contains
epinephrine (say "eh-puh-NEH-fren") and
antihistamines. An epinephrine shot can slow down or stop an allergic reaction.
Your doctor can teach you how to give yourself the shot.