A food allergy is when the body mistakes a food as being harmful. This makes the immune system release chemicals into the blood that cause symptoms to happen.
The most common triggers of a food reaction are:
- Cow's milk
- Tree nuts such as walnuts and pecans
- Sesame seeds
You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
The allergy can be confirmed with a:
- Skin prick test to look for a skin reaction when exposed to a food
- Blood test to look for an antibody that is present when you are exposed to a food
- An oral food challenge to watch for a reaction to a food that you eat with a healthcare provider present
You may need to see a doctor who treats allergies.
Some people may need medical care right away.
A food allergy can be managed. Options are:
Avoid the Food
The best way to manage this allergy is to avoid the allergen, foods that contain it, and foods that may have been around it. Always read food labels. Do this even if you do not think a food has the allergen in it. Most labels will state whether the factory where a food was made also works with the allergen. Always ask for the items in homemade foods to check for the allergen. Ask if the item was made with utensils that have come in contact with the allergen.
People with a mild reaction may be able to take medicine to ease symptoms. The medicine should only be used if a person is exposed to an allergen by accident. Medicines may be:
- Antihistamines to decrease swelling and itching
- Corticosteroids to treat severe swelling and itching
People with severe reactions may need epinephrine. It is injected into the thigh. It needs to be carried at all times.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology http://www.aaaai.org
Food Allergy Research & Education https://www.foodallergy.org
Allergy Asthma Information Association http://aaia.ca
Calgary Allergy Network http://www.calgaryallergy.ca
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