Food allergies affect around 15 million Americans, and this number is set to rise over the next decade. It is important to educate yourself about food allergies so that you can get the necessary treatment should a food allergy occur. To help you better understand food allergies, here are five common questions about food allergies answered by the experts at Arkansas Allergy and Asthma.
1. What Is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy occurs when your immune system reacts abnormally to a particular food and releases chemicals that cause allergy symptoms. While any food can cause an allergic reaction, eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat.
2. What Are the Symptoms of a Food Allergy?
Food allergies can cause symptoms that range from mild to severe. Most symptoms occur within minutes to two hours after exposure to the allergy-causing food. Mild to moderate symptoms to watch out for include:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Dry cough
- Stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
If you notice any of these symptoms, follow your treatment plan, which may include taking medications like antihistamines. If you don’t have a treatment plan, the professionals at the Arkansas Allergy and Asthma Clinic are here to help you create one.
3. What Is Anaphylaxis?
Some food allergies can cause a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms of anaphylaxis usually occur suddenly and can include:
- Swelling of the lips, tongue and/or throat
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weak, rapid pulse
- Confusion, dizziness or loss of consciousness
4. What Is the Difference Between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?
A food intolerance occurs when your digestive system reacts abnormally to a particular food. This results in digestive problems, such as bloating, stomach pain, and diarrhea several hours after eating. Unlike a food allergy, a food intolerance does not involve the immune system and cannot cause life-threatening allergy symptoms.
If you have had an abnormal reaction to a particular food, consult an allergist. He or she can perform a food allergy test to determine whether your symptoms are due to a food allergy or intolerance.
5. Can Children Outgrow Food Allergies?
Children typically outgrow allergies to eggs, milk, soy, and wheat. However, allergies to fish, peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts are usually lifelong. If you suspect your child may have outgrown a food allergy, ask an allergist at our Little Rock allergy clinic to confirm it.
If you have any further questions about food allergies, contact Arkansas Allergy & Asthma Clinic today at (501) 227-5210 to schedule an appointment with an allergist in Little Rock or for more information about food allergy tests in Little Rock.