Food Allergies

The occurence of food allergies have increased in the last few years, particularly in children. Severe allergies, or anaphylactic responses have also increased recently due to a range of factors. Our eating habits have changed considerably in the last thirty years, with new, exotic foods being introduced into our diets. New chemicals have been integrated into the food preparing process, including those used for flavoring and preserving food, which has changed the makeup of what we consume. Some scientists also suggest that weaning babies off of baby food too early may lead to an increased chance of the individual developing food allergies.

Food allergens can be found in some dishes without the consumers' knowledge. People allergic to a certain food item, especially those having had severe reactions, must read labels and precisely know the contents of dishes prepared by friends or restaurants.

Severe Food Allergy Symptoms

The symptoms caused by a food allergy are numerous and occur, in general, from a few seconds to a few hours after having eaten the concerned food. They can cause moderate symptoms and, in exceptional cases, anaphylactic shock.

Hives (urticaria) and swelling — localized around the mouth or generalized throughout the body — are one of the most frequent symptoms. Angioedema, and in exceptional cases, death can also occur.

In babies, food allergies can cause swelling of the lips, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, colic, and abdominal pain. These should be immediately followed by a visit with a medical professional.

Main Allergen Foods

More than 150 food products are listed today as potentially allergenic, and the list is growing. It includes eggs, cow's milk, peanut, shellfish, fish, corn, vegetables of the family of celery (i.e. fennel, parsley, cilantro), soy, nuts (i.e. almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios, macadamia nuts, and produces containing these fruits), mustard, and sesame. Allergies can also be caused by some additives, including dyes, preservatives, and flavors.

For children under 15 years old, five foods are responsible for 80% of allergic symptoms: eggs, peanut, cow's milk, fish, and mustard.

Factors Contributing to Severe Food Allergy Reactions

Having asthma can predispose you to having food allergies. Taking aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, beta-blockers, high blood pressure medication, or alcohol can all cause severe asthma attacks. Doing sports or exerting yourself after a meal or taking these drugs is also a risk factor.

Diagnosis of Food Allergies

Consulting an allergy specialist is essential to determining a food allergy. A questionnaire, keeping a food diary, having your skin pricked, and blood tests are enough, in most cases, to identify any food allergies.

It is sometimes necessary to take oral tests, under strict medical supervision. An allergic person will consume a food to which they are potentially allergic.

Periods of removal and reintroduction of a suspect food also makes it possible to confirm a diagnosis or to authorize the person to reintroduce certain types of food.

Treatment of Food Allergies

The best solution is obviously avoiding the food responsible for allergic reactions. This avoidance is relatively easy to implement when the product is easy to isolate and is used little in your daily diet. However difficulties arise when food is prepared by other means (e.g. in a factory).

An allergy specialist, after having confirmed his diagnosis, can advise you on food avoidance and how to ensure that you get a full, balanced diet. A dietician may also be helpful.

Food Labelling

An allergic person needs to know precisely all of the products that contain foods to which they are allergic. Many countries now require that food packing companies list on the package of food products if any of the main allergens are included, even in trace amounts.

Symptoms of Food Allergy

Allergy symptoms can vary greatly depending on the type of allergy at hand.

Cow's milk allergies manifest themselves with vomiting, chronic diarrhea, abdominal pains in older children, eczema or hives, asthma, angioedema, or anaphylactic shock.

Egg allergy symptoms include atopic dermatitis, hives, conjunctivitis, rhinitis, asthma, vomiting, and stomach pains. Anaphylactic shock can happen in very exceptional cases.

Nut allergies can be accompanied by rhinitis, hives (sudden onset urticaria), atopic eczema, asthma, vomiting, abdominal pains, or anaphylactic shock. Nut allergy sufferers must always carry a card specifying their nut allergy.

Pseudo (False) Allergies to Food

Many people think they suffer from an allergy to food, whereas they are merely victims of symptoms similar to those caused by allergies. These pseudo allergies, or false allergies, are not related to the production of specific antibodies and are, instead, caused by food histamine releasers. They are rich in histamine or tyramine, a component causing an inflammatory reaction, close to a typical allergic reaction.

The observed symptoms are hives, eczema or angio-oedema. Asthma and rhinitis are seldom noted. Severe reactions such as anaphylactic shock are never observed.

Image: © aoldman -
Ask a question
CCM is a leading international tech website. Our content is written in collaboration with IT experts, under the direction of Jeff Pillou, founder of CCM reaches more than 50 million unique visitors per month and is available in 11 languages.


This document, titled « Food Allergies », is available under the Creative Commons license. Any copy, reuse, or modification of the content should be sufficiently credited to CCM Health (