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What are food allergies?

A food allergy is a condition in which the body recognizes food as harmful. When the food protein is ingested or in some cases touched or inhaled, the body reacts with an immune response. This is called an IgE-mediated immune response. Symptoms such as redness, hives, itchiness, swelling, feeling short of breath, wheezing, dizziness, fainting, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, and anaphylaxis*, can occur after exposure to an allergen.

The most common allergens are cow's milk, soy, fish, shellfish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, and egg. However, there are many other types of food allergies on record. There isn't a cure for food allergies, but the primary treatment involves the complete avoidance of food allergens.

Food allergies are not the same as food intolerance. Food intolerance involves unpleasant symptoms, but the body does not mount an immune response and anaphylaxis is not a risk. The best example of this is the difference between cow's milk allergy and lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the body's inability to digest the sugar lactose. A cow's milk allergy involves the body's immune reaction to proteins in milk.

If you think you may have a food allergy, please schedule an appointment with a board-certified allergist.

*Anaphylaxis can be a life-threatening condition. If you or a loved one has a food allergy, please have an emergency plan in place. Filling out an emergency plan like the one from FARE can help save lives.


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