Allergic reactions to food may be an inconvenience or mild annoyance or could be severe and life threatening. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a small number of foods are responsible for the majority of allergic reactions to foods. Although most allergic reactions to foods develop during childhood, new allergies to food may develop in adulthood as well.
Allergic reactions to food result from an excessive response by the immune system to a protein in food. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 8 percent of children and 1 to 2 percent of adults in the United States have some type of food allergy. Allergic reactions to food can be mild and short-lived or could be severe—even fatal—if not urgently treated.
According to the Mayo Clinic, allergic reactions to food may be moderate allergies or severe anaphylaxis. Some allergic reactions may be induced by exercising shortly after eating. Other types of allergic reactions may result from cross-reactivity of proteins in vegetables and fruits to pollen in the air.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the six foods that most frequently cause allergic reactions in children are cow’s milk, wheat, soy, tree nuts, eggs and peanuts. In adults, the most common allergic reactions to foods are from peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish. According to the Mayo Clinic, cooked fruits and vegetables will not cause allergic reactions.
Food allergies may be diagnosed by a doctor after exposure to a food that caused an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to food may also be identified by tests done in a doctor’s office. Either a skin scratch test using common allergens or an antibody blood test may be done to diagnose allergies to specific foods.
Food labels may use many different names for certain ingredients. Milk may also be identified as casein, whey, whey protein, sodium caseinate, or lactoglobulin.
Food allergies are more common during childhood and may be outgrown. Children who are breast-fed are less likely to develop allergies than those who are fed formula.
The best way to prevent allergic reactions to food is to avoid known allergens and get tested after an allergy is suspected. Waiting until after six months of age to feed an infant solid foods may prevent allergies from occurring. Reading food labels and avoiding unlabeled foods may prevent allergic reactions. People who are prone to severe allergic reactions to foods should carry their medicine and an allergy card that identifies the allergies.
Cross-contamination of foods prepared in restaurants may result in exposure to an offending food. A person who has dizziness, difficulty breathing, or fainting after eating a food should call emergency medical services. Severe allergic reactions to food require immediate medical treatment due to the risk of shock or death.