Researchers estimate that approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies and it is believed that they are on the rise although there is no clear cause why. Allergic reactions to food can range from a mild itchy mouth to a severe, life-threatening reaction. Food allergy symptoms usually develop within a few minutes to two hours after eating the offending food.
The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth
- Hives, itching, or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
However, in some people, a food allergy can trigger a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This can cause life-threatening signs and symptoms, including:
- Constriction and tightening of airways
- A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
- Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or loss of consciousness
Emergency treatment is critical for anaphylaxis. Untreated, anaphylaxis can be fatal, and it has been shown that early and appropriate measures, such as the use of prescription injectable epinephrine (i.e. EpiPen® or AUVI-Q®). Suspected food allergies should always be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated by a qualified medical professional, such as a board-certified allergist. Do not diagnose a food allergy on your own. Self-diagnosis can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and inadequate nutrition, especially in children. Additionally, some people think they are allergic to a food when they actually have another type of food disorder, such as food intolerance, and treatment may differ.