Food Allergies

Food allergies occur with the body has an abnormal immune response from exposure to a food. The most common food allergies are to eggs, milk, wheat, peanut, soy, tree nuts and seafood. Food allergies are often misdiagnosed, so your provider will obtain a detailed history and perform selected allergy tests to ensure appropriate diagnosis.  

SYMPTOMS

Most food allergies will cause symptoms within minutes to no more than 2 hours after eating the food. Symptoms of IgE-mediated food allergy include:

  • Chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat  
  • Redness, itching, hives 
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain 
  • Dizziness 
  • Anaphylaxis 

COMMON TRIGGERS INCLUDE: 

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Peanut
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Sesame
  • Fruits and vegetables 

TESTING

Your provider will ask very detailed questions regarding prior reactions after eating certain foods. Allergy tests can then be performed to help determine if you are allergic. In some cases, a food challenge is also performed to determine if you are allergic or if have become tolerant to a food.  

SKIN TESTING:

  • This is the most common way to perform allergy testing because it is quick, easy and cost-effective.  You will also get results while you are still in the office. With skin testing, a small amount of each allergen is pricked on the skin. Then, in 15-20 minutes, your provider looks for a small area of redness or swelling at the test site. After the test is completed, everything is washed off the skin and any itching typically resolves very quickly.

BLOOD ALLERGY TESTING:

  • There may be instances when skin testing is unable to be performed or you would benefit from blood allergy testing. Your provider may then order a blood allergy test that measures allergic antibody level for a specific allergen in your blood. 

FOOD CHALLENGE: 

  • When the history and allergy testing does not clearly confirm or exclude an allergy, a food challenge may be performed. In a food challenge, increasing doses of the food in question are eaten in the clinic under very close medical observation. This helps determine if you are allergic or tolerant to that food.

TREATMENT

The board certified allergist's goal is to help patients accurately diagnose and manage food allergies. If food allergies are identified, your allergist will provide an individualized treatment plan. For patients with a confirmed IgE-mediated food allergy, it is important to have an epinephrine autoinjector immediately available at all times in case of accidental ingestion.

OTHER TYPES OF FOOD REACTIONS:

There are several other types of adverse food reactions besides food allergy. One is called food intolerance. Food intolerances do not involve an immune reaction and often cause digestive symptoms only. In addition, some patients develop eosinophilic inflammation of the digestive tract which is also different than an IgE-mediated food allergy. Your allergist will provide additional information and recommendations if you are experience other types of adverse food.