What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is an adverse immune system response to a particular food protein, which causes various symptoms ranging from mild, to uncomfortable, to life-threatening. Allergies are different to food intolerance.
What causes food allergies?
In an allergic person, the body fails properly to digest a particular food protein, and then mistakenly identifies it as harmful, producing white blood cells to ward it off.
Allergies can be caused by a range of different foods, including milk, eggs, fruits and vegetables, peanuts and other nuts, fish, and shellfish.
The most common type of allergic reaction is caused by the antibody Immunoglobulin-E (IgE).
Symptoms of food allergies
Symptoms usually develop quickly, within seconds, minutes, or up to an hour of eating or touching the allergen. These include:
• hives (urticaria), which are raised red patches of itchy skin
• itching sensation on face, lips, tongue, or eyelids
• swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or eyelids
• difficulty swallowing
• shortness of breath
More serious allergies cause anaphylaxis, a full-body reaction which can be life-threatening and which requires immediate, emergency medical intervention.
Food allergies cannot be cured. The most effective treatment is to avoid contact with the allergen. Some medications can lessen the effects of the reaction. Children are more likely to have allergies than adults, but they also frequently outgrow their allergies