What are food allergies?

What are food allergies?

Allergies happen when the body has an abnormal reaction of its immune system to what is normally a harmless substance. There are about one in four of all Americans that suffer from some type of allergy. Food allergies make up only a small part of that number. (About 2% of adults and 8% of children.)

Allergies actually develop in stages. When a person first encounters the substance that it is allergic to there is most often not a reaction. The body wards to fight this off. When the body is exposed again, symptoms will be produced. The more the body is exposed to the allergen, the more likely a reaction will occur. These can be a simple as sneezing, watery eyes, and runny nose. Some can be a serious as sudden death.

The most common symptoms of food allergies are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, rashes, shortness of breath, and sometimes swelling. The good thing is that a food allergy generally produces the same symptoms each time. The exception to this would be a peanut allergy, which can become more severe each time the person is exposed.

It is possible that some people can handle small amounts of the foods, which they are allergic to without much difficulty. While others are so sensitive that they react to even the smallest traces.

Most reactions are fast, usually within a few minutes of the food entering the body and can occur up to two hours later. In some cases the reaction does not occur for up to forty-eight hours later. These are the ones that are difficult to identify.

Some allergens are easy to identify because the reaction is immediate. In other cases you may be asked to keep a diary of what you ate and the times. After a while a pattern will begin to show what the problem foods are. In some cases allergy testing may need to be done.

The most common is the skin test where food allergens are placed on the skin and swelling or itching will occur if you have a reaction. In other cases, the doctor may order a (RAST) radioallergosorbent blood study. This test allows for a few drops of a person’s blood to be mixed with the allergens and then analyzed for signs of a reaction.

Still another test that may be used is the supervised elimination diet. The patient is taken of all foods except those know not to cause reaction. After seven to ten days the person should be symptom free. The doctor then gives small amounts of food or food extracts to see if there is any allergic response.

Once the allergens have been identified and eliminated from the diet the problem should be solved. This can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. Some of the more common food allergens are hard to avoid.
This leads to much label reading and less time in the fast-food lines.

What are some of the more common allergens?

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Corn

These are all very common food additives and are hidden in most processed foods.


Milk and milk products: Constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting are the most common. In rare instances, hives can occur.

Egg: Rashes, hives, and swelling is the most common. Asthma attacks and eczema in people who are prone to those.

Fish: Rashes, hives, and red itchy eyes. Can trigger asthma attach or runny nose.

Wheat: Diarrhea and stomach upset. Migraine.

Peanuts: Stomach upset and breathing problems. Possible anaphylaxis.

Fruits: Facial rash or hives, itching, or a tingling sensation in the mouth.

Chocolate: Rashes or hives.

If you have or if your doctor thinks you have a possibility of a severe reaction to foods–such as asthma attaches severe hives or anaphylactic reactions—you should always wear a medical alert band.

Leave a Comment