Food Allergy : What are the causes, Prevention And Treatment ?


After eating a certain meal, an immune system reaction known as a food allergy occurs immediately. A very small amount of the food that causes allergies might cause signs and symptoms including stomach issues, rashes, or enlarged airways. Some people may experience severe symptoms from a food allergy, including the potentially fatal anaphylactic response.

Food allergies are thought to affect up to 4% of adults and 8% of children under the age of five. Although there is no treatment, some children outgrow their food allergies as they age.

It is simple to mix up a food allergy with food intolerance, a far more typical reaction. Food intolerance is a less dangerous disorder that does not affect the immune system while being irritating.


When you have a food allergy, your immune system misinterprets a particular food or an ingredient in food as being dangerous. Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a reaction produced by your immune system, is released by cells to neutralise the allergen-causing food or food item (the allergen).

The following time you consume even a tiny quantity of that food, IgE antibodies detect it and alert your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your circulation. These substances produce allergy-related symptoms.

Most food allergies are brought on by specific proteins:

  • Crustacean shellfish like lobster, crab, and shrimp
  • Peanuts
  • Walnuts and pecans are examples of tree nuts.
  • Fish
  • Hen's eggs
  • Calf milk
  • Wheat

Food allergies caused by soy pollen

Many hay fever sufferers have pollen-food allergy syndrome, sometimes referred to as oral allergy syndrome. This disorder can induce an allergic reaction that causes the lips to tingle or itch, as well as some fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and spices. In extreme circumstances, the response might cause throat oedema or even anaphylaxis.

As the proteins in certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, and spices are identical to the proteins that cause allergies in some pollens, they trigger the reaction. This is an example of cross-reactivity.

Eating these meals when they are fresh and undercooked usually results in symptoms. However, symptoms could be less severe if these meals are prepared.

Food allergy brought on by exercise

Some people may experience itching and dizziness shortly after eating specific meals and beginning to exercise. Hives or anaphylaxis may even be present in severe situations. Avoiding particular meals and waiting a couple of hours after eating to exercise will help avoid this issue.

Intolerance of certain foods and other responses

A food intolerance or a response to another item you ate may induce the same signs and symptoms that a food allergy does — such as nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhoea.

You may be able to consume trace amounts of problematic foods without experiencing a reaction, depending on the type of food intolerance you have. In contrast, even a small amount of a meal might cause an allergic reaction if you have a real food allergy.

The fact that some persons are sensitive not to the meal itself but to a component or ingredient used in its preparation makes identifying food intolerance difficult.

Typical diseases that frequently result in symptoms similar to those of a food allergy include:

Absence of an enzyme required for complete meal digestion. It is possible that you lack specific digestive enzymes at sufficient levels. You are less able to digest lactose, the primary sugar in milk products, if you have insufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, for instance. Bloating, cramps, diarrhoea, and excessive gas might be symptoms of lactose intolerance.

Foodborne illness. Food poisoning occasionally resembles an allergic response. The bacteria that ruin tuna and other seafood can also produce a toxin that causes negative effects.

Sensitivity to additives in food. After consuming certain food additives, some people have digestive issues as well as other symptoms. Sulfites, which are used to preserve wine, canned products, and dried fruit, for instance, might cause asthma attacks in persons who are sensitive to food additives.

Histamine poisoning. In addition to having high quantities of germs, certain fish, including mackerel and tuna, that are improperly refrigerated may also have high levels of histamine, which can cause symptoms resembling food allergies. This is referred to as histamine toxicity or scombroid poisoning rather than an allergic response.

Celiac illness. Although it is commonly called a gluten allergy, celiac disease does not cause anaphylaxis. Although celiac disease triggers an immunological response similar to that of a food allergy; a special response that is more complicated than a straightforward food allergy.

Gluten, a protein included in many meals made from wheat, barley, or rye, including bread, pasta, cookies, and other baked goods, causes this persistent digestive ailment.

If you have celiac disease and consume gluten-containing foods, your immune system reacts and damages the surface of your small intestine, making it difficult for you to absorb certain nutrients.

How to check if you have a Food Allergy?

If you experience food allergy symptoms soon after eating, see your doctor or an allergist. Visit your doctor as soon as the allergic reaction manifests itself, if at all feasible. Your doctor's diagnosis will benefit from this.

If you have any anaphylactic signs or symptoms please access medical assistance:

  • Airway narrowing that makes breathing challenging
  • Shock and a significant drop in blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Unsteadiness or faintness


Different allergies. You may be more likely to develop an allergy to another food if you already have one. In a similar vein, your chance of developing a food allergy is higher if you suffer from other allergic responses, such as hay fever or eczema.

Age. Children, particularly babies and toddlers, are more likely to develop food allergies. As children get older, their digestive systems develop and their bodies are less likely to absorb food or dietary components that provoke allergies.

Fortunately, allergies to milk, soy, wheat, and eggs usually go away in children. Severe allergies, including nut allergies and shellfish, tend to last a lifetime.

Asthma. Food allergies and asthma are frequently present simultaneously. When they do, the likelihood of asthma and food allergy symptoms being severe increases.

You might be more susceptible to experiencing an anaphylactic response if you have any of the following:

  • Having asthmatic past
  • Being a young adult or teenager
  • Putting off using epinephrine to treat your symptoms of a food allergy
  • Not experiencing hives or any other skin symptoms


An allergic reaction to a specific meal may be unpleasant but not life-threatening for some people. An allergic food response can be distressing and even fatal for other individuals. Typically, food allergy symptoms appear between a few minutes and two hours after consuming the offending item. In rare cases, symptoms can not appear for many hours.

Among the most typical warning signs and symptoms of a food allergy are:

  • Tongue tingling or itchiness
  • Itching, hives, or eczema
  • Lips, cheeks, tongue, throat, and/or other body parts swelling
  • Nasal congestion, wheezing or breathing issues
  • Diarrhoea, vomiting, nausea, or stomach pain
  • Unsteadiness, fainting, or dizziness
  • Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can occur as a result of a food allergy in certain persons. Life-threatening symptoms and indications may result from this which include:

  • Tightness and constriction of the airways
  • Breathing is made challenging by a swollen throat or the sense of a lump in your throat.
  • Shock accompanied by a sharp drop in blood pressure
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Unsteadiness, faintness, or unconsciousness
  • Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention. Anaphylaxis can result in a coma or even death if left untreated.


Early knowledge

A decreased likelihood of peanut allergy has been linked to the early introduction of peanut products. In a recent study, high-risk babies who had atopic dermatitis, egg allergies, or both were chosen to consume or refrain from eating peanut goods from the time they were 4 to 6 months old until the time they became 5 years old.

According to research, high-risk children who received peanut protein on a daily basis—such as peanut butter or snacks with peanut flavour—were around 80% less likely to develop a peanut allergy.

Consult your child's doctor about the ideal time to give allergic foods before you do so.

Taking safety measures

Knowing and avoiding foods that trigger symptoms and reactions is the greatest strategy to prevent an allergic reaction after a food allergy has already formed.

symptoms. This is only a little nuisance for some people, but it causes more suffering for others. Additionally, some foods may be successfully concealed when used as components in particular meals. This is especially accurate at dining establishments and other public places.

If you are aware that you have a food allergy, take these actions:

Be aware of what you are consuming. Make sure you thoroughly read food labels.

Wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet if you have already experienced a severe response so that people are aware that you have a food allergy in case you experience one and are unable to speak.

Ask your doctor to write you a prescription for emergency epinephrine. If you are at risk of a severe allergic reaction, you might need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector (Adrenaclick, EpiPen).

Extreme allergic response

In restaurants, be cautious. You need to be quite confident that the dish you order does not contain the item to which you are allergic, so make sure your waitress or chef is aware of this. Additionally, check to make sure no food that you are sensitive to was prepared on surfaces or in pans that did.

Do not be afraid to express your needs. When they grasp your request correctly, restaurant service members are typically more than glad to assist.

Before leaving home, make plans for meals and snacks. Take a cooler filled with meals free of allergens when you travel or attend an event if required. Bring a permitted alternative to the cake or dessert if you or your child have extra treats to ensure that nobody feels excluded from the festivities.

To protect your child's safety if they have a food allergy, follow these steps:

Inform important individuals that your child has a food allergy. Speak with the adults who routinely engage with your children, such as daycare providers, teachers, the parents of your child's friends, and others. Stress that an allergic response may be life-threatening and that prompt treatment is necessary. Assure your child that if he or she experiences a food reaction, they should immediately seek assistance.

Describe the signs of food allergies. Teach the people how your child interacts with how to spot the symptoms of an allergic response.

Create a plan of action. How to care for should be outlined in your plan and when a response to food allergies occurs in your child. Give a copy of the plan to anybody who looks for and supervises your child, including the school nurse.

Make sure your youngster is wearing a medical alert necklace or bracelet. This notice describes how others may administer first aid in an emergency and identifies your child's allergy symptoms.


Avoiding foods that result in symptoms and indications of an allergic reaction is the only method to prevent one. You can still come into touch with a meal that triggers a response despite your best attempts.

Antihistamines, whether prescribed or over-the-counter, may help ease symptoms of a small allergic response. These medications can be given to aid with itchiness or hives following exposure to a food that causes an allergy. Antihistamines, however, cannot manage a severe allergic reaction.

You could require an epinephrine emergency injection and a trip to the emergency hospital for a severe allergic response. Many allergy sufferers carry an epinephrine auto-injector on their travels (Adrenaclick, EpiPen). When squeezed, this gadget, which combines a syringe with a hidden needle, administers a single dose of medicine.

If an epinephrine auto-injector has been recommended by your doctor:

  • Ensure that you are comfortable using the autoinjector. Also, make sure others closest to you are aware of how to use the medication; should an anaphylactic emergency arise, they may be the ones to save your life.
  • Keep it close to you at all times. It might be a good idea to keep an extra autoinjector in your car or at your desk at work.
  • Epinephrine should always be replaced before it expires to ensure optimal function.

Experimentation with cures

There is no established medication that may totally prevent or alleviate symptoms, despite continuous research to develop new ways to lessen food allergy symptoms and avoid allergy episodes.

One method being used right now is Oral immunotherapy. This is a food allergy treatment being researched. Small amounts of the food you are allergic to are to be ingested or put under your tongue during this therapy (sublingual). The amount of food that causes allergies is progressively raised.

Complications of Food Allergy

Food allergy complications may include:

Anaphylaxis. This allergic response is potentially fatal.

Dermatitis atopy (eczema). A skin response like eczema may result from a food allergy.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 15, 2023

Next review due: Mar 15, 2025

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