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Food allergy symptoms occur most often in babies and children but can appear at any age. 
An allergy occurs when something causes your body’s natural defenses to overreact. More than 50 million Americans have an allergy of some kind, but food allergies are rare. Less than 10 percent of adults have some type of a food allergy.
By using caution and carefully following an allergist’s advice, you can bring food allergy under control. Please contact your allergist with further questions and concerns about food allergy treatment.


The body’s natural defense network is called the immune system. It keeps you healthy by fighting off infections and other dangers to good health. Most people have no problem eating many kinds of foods. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system attacks a specific food or something in a food by mistake. This battle can cause:

  • Blood vessels to swell up,

  • Smooth muscles to contract, and

  • Skin areas to become red, itchy and swollen

Other types of ​food allergy reactions can cause trouble swallowing, diarrhea, and copious vomiting.


Almost any food can cause an allergic reaction. The most common foods causing reactions are peanuts, tree nuts, cow's milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish & shellfish.
Someone allergic to a particular food may also react to related foods. For example, a person allergic to walnuts may also react to pecans. Persons allergic to shrimp may also react to crab and lobster. A person allergic to peanuts may have problems with soy, peas or certain kinds of beans.
Some people might begin to have reactions to mammalian meat after having a tick bite.


Food reactions can be the result of the immune system producing an antibody, immunoglobulin E (IgE) to a certain food which can cause anaphylaxis. Or the result of a non-IgE mediated reaction, which is instead cell-mediated. Some examples of non-IgE mediated reactions include lactose intolerance, celiac disease, food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), and eosinophilic esophagitis.


Different type of food allergy reactions will have different treatments.

Symptoms of an anaphylactic food allergy typically occur within the first few minutes following ingestion of the food allergen, though in some cases, the reaction may be delayed by 4 to 6 hours. Patients who have anaphylaxis upon eating a food need to be treated with injectable epinephrine. This is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis. Other medications, such as antihistamine and corticosteroids, may be prescribed to treat symptoms of anaphylaxis, but it is important to note that there is no substitute for epinephrine – this is the only medication that can reverse the life-threatening symptoms of anaphylaxis. Usually in these cases, the culprit food is avoided and injectable epinephrine is carried by the patient, but new treatments such as oral immunotherapy can be an option in select patients.

Other symptoms such as itchy mouth and throat could signal Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), which occurs in individuals who have pollen or latex allergy and eat certain raw fruits, vegetables, or even peanuts/tree nut that cross-react with pollens and/or latex.

Copious vomiting occurring 2-8 hours after a food ingestion can be suggestive of a non-IgE mediated reaction such as FPIES. While the food is initially avoided, most pediatric patients will outgrow their FPIES reactions.

Food Allergies: FAQ
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