Food allergy symptoms typically appear a few minutes to two hours after consuming the allergen. Rarely, they manifest four to six hours (or more) later. They range from mild discomfort to life-threatening.
Food allergies can affect several of the body’s systems. The most prevalent symptoms include:
- Hives (urticaria)
- Mouth tingling
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- Stomach cramps, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Weak pulse
- Trouble swallowing
- Tongue or lip swelling
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that requires immediate emergency medical attention. Symptoms can come on suddenly and rapidly progress. Initial symptoms may seem mild at first but ramp up in the blink of an eye. Some symptoms of anaphylaxis are:
- Shock with a dramatic drop in blood pressure
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trouble breathing
- Stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Cardiac arrest
Even if a person recognizes symptoms of anaphylaxis and successfully administers an epinephrine injection, immediate medical help should still be sought due to the potential for a second reaction.
Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but the vast majority of reactions occur due to the top eight food allergens:
- Tree nuts (among them, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, and walnuts)
- Soy (mostly kids)
- Wheat and other grains
- Fish (mostly adults)
- Shellfish (mostly adults)
- Cow’s milk (mostly kids)
Diagnosis & Treatment Options
No test exists that can immediately and definitively diagnose or rule out a food allergy, but Dr. Schulte of Southern California Allergy has extensive experience working a process to diagnose food allergies.
We will discuss your detailed symptom history, as well as any family history of allergies. Skin prick tests and blood tests may provide valuable information about what food substance(s) could cause an allergic reaction. Dr. Schulte might recommend an elimination diet. This entails removing potential allergens from your diet and then adding them back in to see if symptoms reappear (this is not advised for those with severe symptoms). A physician-supervised oral food challenge, in which you ingest increasing amounts of a potential allergen in the hopes of ruling out a reaction, can give great insight into what foods you can add back into your diet.
Avoiding the food that causes symptoms is the best way to prevent an allergic reaction, but this is not foolproof. Every food allergy patient receives a written plan that outlines what to do in case of emergency.
Do not let food allergies bring you down. We are here to help. Book an appointment today!
Food Allergy Facts
People can suddenly develop an allergy to foods they have eaten for years with no problem.
Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under age 18. That’s 1 in 13 children, or roughly two in every classroom.
Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room.
Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of peanut or tree nut allergy appears to have more than tripled in US children.