A food allergy happens when the body responds to a food protein as if it were a threat to overall wellness. The body will quickly try to defend itself from what is thought to be an invader, and this can cause a range of symptoms, including rashes, hives, breathing problems, vomiting, itching and swelling.
It is not unusual to confuse food allergies with food intolerance, but the two conditions are actually quite different. A food allergy is a very serious attack, and it can potentially be life threatening. In contrast, a food intolerance happens when the body simply isn’t able to digest a food as well as it should. Food intolerance, for example, lactose intolerance, can cause symptoms such as upset stomach or stomach ache, but it is not a life-threatening situation.
There are many different foods that can cause allergic reactions in some people, but a small group of foods account for most of the food allergy reactions in patients today. Those foods include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish and fish.
Food allergy symptoms can vary widely from one person to another. Many food allergies begin with hives or a rash, but this is not always the case. Some people experience swelling in the mouth area, as well as itchiness in the inner mouth and on the lips. In more serious food allergies, people can have a major drop in blood pressure and may struggle to breathe. If food allergies are not dealt with promptly, they can become life threatening. As a result, allergists typically recommend that patients with severe food allergies always have epinephrine injectors with them in case of emergency.