Allergy (Food)

General Illness Information


Common Name:

ALLERGY (Food)

Medical Term: Applies according to allergy

Description: Food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to certain foods or substances that are otherwise harmless. These adverse reactions may be inborn or an acquired biochemical defect. Symptoms may occur within minutes or up to two hours after ingestion. In some instances, the symptoms may not appear until a day or two later.

Causes: Allergic reaction can be caused by ingestion of any food or swallowed substance.

Foods most commonly involved include cow’s milk, egg whites, wheat, soy beans, peanuts, fish, tree nuts (walnut and pecan), shellfish, melons, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chocolate.

Prevention: Identifying and avoiding responsible foods. Also, breast-fed infants who are started on solid food late tend to have fewer allergies.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Diarrhea (common);
  • Abdominal pain (common);
  • Flatulence and bloating (common);
  • Skin rash;
  • Hives;
  • Itching;
  • Swelling of face (especially lips), hands and feet;
  • Hay fever, asthma, cough;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Migraine headache;
  • Fainting or lightheadedness.

Risk Factors

Other allergy problems or a family history of food allergy.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • Eliminate suspected foods in your diet for two weeks (or until all symptoms disappear) and then take the foods again one by one to see if the symptoms return;
  • If you are diagnosed with a severe allergy to a food, you should be extra cautious in your avoidance of that food. Consider carrying a kit with an adrenaline-containing syringe in case of accidental ingestion of the offending food and ensuing allergic reaction. You should consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or neck pendant indicating the specific allergy problem;
  • Skin tests may help identfy the offending food, but they frequently give false positive results (i.e. you will test allergic to the food, though you may not actually be allergic to it).

Medications:

None available to treat a food allergy. However, medication may be prescribed to relieve some of the symptoms.

Activity:

No restrictions.

Diet:

Avoid offending food. Read food labels carefully.

Possible Complications:

  • Anaphylactic reaction (difficulty breathing, heart irregularities, drop in blood pressure and collapse);
  • Hives or eczema-like reaction;
  • Bronchial asthma;
  • Bowel inflammation (gastrointestinal symptoms).

Prognosis

Infants usually outgrow food hypersensitivity by age two to four years. Adults with food hypersensitivity (especially to milk, fish, shellfish and nuts), are less likely to outgrow the allergy.

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