Food allergy is a serious condition that affects nearly 15 million people in the US, and it’s on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), food allergies rose 18 percent among children under 18 years old between 1997 and 2007. In fact, it’s estimated that food allergies send one person to the ER every three minutes. Additionally, children with food allergies are two to four times more likely to have asthma and other allergies.
Astonishingly, 90 percent of food allergy reactions are caused by only eight foods: milk (most common), eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. While allergies to cow’s milk, eggs, and soy are often outgrown after childhood, peanut, tree nut, shellfish, and fish allergies are typically lifelong conditions. But rather than avoiding these foods at all costs, it’s better to know the symptoms to look for, as even a small, undetectable amount of the allergen can cause a reaction. Here are the 6 common signs of food allergy:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
Food allergy symptoms can occur immediately after eating a certain food, or even two hours afterward. While the symptoms above can vary in severity and may not always require emergency medical care, anaphylaxis – the most serious food allergy reaction – requires immediate medical intervention. Anaphylaxis is the body’s response to the introduction of an allergen in which the airways constrict and tighten, making breathing difficult or impossible. It may also be accompanied by symptoms like:
- A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
- Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
Because of the danger posed by anaphylaxis, food allergy sufferers are encouraged to carry a needle that dispenses a medication called epinephrine at all times. Immediately at the onset of anaphylaxis, epinephrine should be administered and emergency care should be sought for further observation in a hospital.
For help in managing your allergies, find an allergist near you.
Have you or your child ever suffered a food allergy reaction? Tell us about your experience.
Sources: mayoclinic.com, foodallergy.org, cdc.gov, and nih.gov