Four to six percent of children and four percent of adults have a food allergy, meaning they have an adverse reaction to eating a specific food (Source: CDC). While food allergies do tend to run in families, it is impossible to predict if a child will inherit a parent’s food allergy.
These eight types of food account for about 90 percent of allergic reactions:
- Tree nuts
Food allergy symptoms can be mild or severe – even in the same person. A food that triggers a mild response at one time, for example, can cause severe symptoms later. Symptoms of food allergies include:
- Vomiting or stomach cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent cough
- Trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the tongue
- Weak pulse
- Anaphylaxis* (life-threatening condition that impairs breathing and sends body into shock)
*You should call 911 immediately or go to the nearest hospital emergency room if you experience this serious symptom.
You should avoid all foods that contain the item to which you are allergic. You should make a habit of carefully checking food and ingredient labels since some products contain a food that you wouldn’t suspect or can have a cross-contamination.
In case you do come into contact with the allergen and begin experiencing symptoms, you may need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector (“Epi pen”) to help reduce the likelihood of anaphylaxis. This treatment is usually used in more severe cases of food allergies.
Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam – including a health history – to help diagnose your food allergy.
Skin-prick Allergy Test
During this test, your doctor will insert a liquid with a tiny amount of the suspected allergen under the skin, typically on your arm or back. When you are allergic to that food, a small welt will develop within 20 minutes.
This test measures the amount of IgE antibody to the specific food(s) for which your doctor is testing an allergy . Results from a blood test can take a week to come back and are less precise than a skin-prick test.
In a closely controlled environment, you will eat tiny amounts of the food to test your allergic responses. The doctor will monitor the results and quickly address any adverse reactions that occur. This is considered the most accurate way to diagnose a food allergy.
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