1. Health
Send to a Friend via Email

Food Allergies

What You Need To Know If You've Been Diagnosed With Food Allergies

By

Updated January 19, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Updated January 19, 2010
Your doctor has just told you that you have food allergies. Now what? Unless you had a long discussion with him or her as to what this means, you're probably feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. You might be thinking, "What symptoms should I look for? How was this diagnosed? What are the treatments available? Will my food allergy ever go away?"

These questions, and others, are common when a person is first diagnosed with food allergies. Find out the answers to these questions and more.

Recognizing Symptoms of Food Allergies

Symptoms of true food allergies -- meaning that the body produces allergic antibodies against the food in question, causing an allergic reaction -- are very specific. The mere presence of a "cause and effect" relationship does not alone mean that a person has a food allergy. Certain symptoms related to eating certain foods may instead represent food intolerance, even with no allergic antibodies being present and the body releasing no allergic chemicals.

The classic food intolerance is lactose intolerance, which is not an allergy. Another example of a non-food allergy is celiac sprue, although this is an immunologic reaction to food.

Learn how to recognize symptoms of food allergies, and what it means when fresh fruits and vegetables make your mouth itch.

Diagnosing Food Allergies

When your doctor notes a history of reactions that are consistent with food allergy, testing for the presence of allergic antibodies against the particular food in question is needed to confirm your diagnosis. This is best performed with skin testing, although it may also be performed with the use of a blood test.

Skin testing is much better at making the initial diagnosis of a food allergy, although blood tests are getting better.

There are certain types of tests that should not be relied on to diagnose food allergy, so it's wise to know the facts before you spend your money.

Treatment of Food Allergies

The first step of treating food allergies is to avoid the specific food triggers. It is important to know how to avoid the particular food to which you are allergic.

It sounds simple enough, but accidental ingestions of highly allergenic foods are common. Therefore, if you have food allergies, you should know how to treat a serious allergic reaction from food. This includes how to correctly use injectable epinephrine (such as an Epi-Pen or Twin-Ject device).

Food Allergies at School

Food allergies have been becoming more common over the past few decades, and they are the most common cause of severe allergic reactions at school. In fact, 25% of children allergic to nuts experience allergic reactions at school even before a diagnosis of food allergy is made. Therefore, it is very important for schools to be prepared to treat allergic reactions in children caused by foods. Is your child's school prepared?

Outgrowing Food Allergies

Food allergies in children and adults aren't always a life-sentence for avoiding certain foods.

Many children outgrow their food allergies, depending on the type of food they are allergic to. Most children outgrow allergies to milk, egg, soy and wheat, typically by 5 years of age. However, only a small proportion of children outgrow allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

Some adults may outgrow their food allergies as well, although if the food allergy developed later on in life, it will likely be a life-long problem.

Food Allergies and Vaccines

Millions of routine childhood vaccinations are given every year in the United States; allergic reactions from these vaccines are extremely rare. However, some people with certain food allergies may be at higher risk for allergic reactions as a result of vaccines containing certain food proteins.

Many routine childhood immunizations contain traces of egg protein or other food ingredients. As a result, there is the possibility that a child with food allergies will experience anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) as a result of receiving a vaccination.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Allergies
  4. Food Allergies
  5. Food Allergies -- What You Need To Know If You Have Food Allergies

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.

We comply with the HONcode standard
for trustworthy health
information: verify here.