If you have a food allergy, your immune system overreacts to a particular protein found in that food. Symptoms most commonly occur after ingestion, even with just a tiny amount of the food. Many food allergies are first diagnosed in young children, though they may also appear in older children and adults.
Eight foods are responsible for the majority of allergic reactions:
Many people who think they are allergic to a food may actually be intolerant to it. Some of the symptoms of food intolerance and food allergy are similar, but the differences between the two are very important. If you are allergic to a food, this allergen triggers a response in the immune system. Food allergy reactions can be life-threatening, so people with this type of allergy must be very careful to avoid their food triggers. Food skin testing can help in differentiating a true allergy versus an intolerance.
Allergic reactions to food normally occur within minutes of eating the trigger food, though they can sometimes appear a few hours later. Symptoms of a food allergy include:
In some cases, food allergies can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Signs of this reaction include:
Proper diagnosis of food allergies is extremely important. Skin testing is most commonly used in diagnosing food allergies. A food challenge under the care of your allergist / immunologist may also be needed to confirm an allergy.