We all have foods we don’t like, but for some, there are foods their bodies simply won’t tolerate. Food allergies are reactions that occur when the immune system overreacts to a substance. These allergies affect more than 50 million Americans and tend to run in families. However, predicting them is impossible.
Food allergy symptoms can range from severe reactions such as anaphylaxis (a life-threatening whole-body reaction that can impair breathing, cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure and affect heart rate) to milder reactions such as hives or shortness of breath. Other symptoms to look out for are vomiting, shock or circulatory collapse, trouble swallowing, swelling of the tongue, weak pulse and pale or blue coloring of skin.
Symptoms frequently occur within two hours of ingestion, although in some instances a reaction may not occur for four to six hours. If you think you have a food allergy, you should see a doctor. They can administer an allergy test to determine what triggers your reactions.
The best way to combat a food allergy is to avoid your trigger food. For some people, this is as simple — or hard — as avoiding peanuts. Some common situations to look out for:
Packaged goods. Examining food labels is an easy way to identify if your trigger food is an ingredient. Some products even note the possibility that the food could have come in contact with common allergens.
Eating out. Use caution when visiting restaurants. Always inform your waiter of any food allergy and be sure they let the kitchen know.
Children with allergies. Create a plan if your child has a food allergy. Often a reaction can occur while a child is at school, a sports activity or a field trip. When this happens, the child and the adults supervising should know what to do.
If you or your child has a food allergy, don’t worry – you and your doctor can create a plan to avoid triggers and be prepared in case of an emergency.