The Implications of Food Allergies

Food allergies are becoming increasingly more common with everything from eggs to nuts being on the danger list. Here, Dr. Sandra Hong, M.D., an allergist at Cleveland Clinic explains the implications of food allergies.

What are food allergies?

A food allergy is a reaction by the body to a food item, most commonly milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts, and fish. Symptoms of a food allergy include a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and throat, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, a drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.

A food allergy is caused when the body’s immune system mistakes an ingredient in food—usually a protein—as harmful and creates a defense system (special compounds called antibodies) to fight it. An allergic reaction occurs when the antibodies are battling an “invading” food protein. Although a person could have an allergy to almost any food, the following eight foods account for almost 90 percent of all food-related allergic reactions:

Milk
Eggs
Peanuts
Tree nuts (such as cashews and walnuts)
Fish
Shellfish
Soy
Wheat

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Symptoms of a food allergy can appear almost immediately or up to two hours after the food has been eaten. Symptoms include a tingling sensation of the mouth, swelling of the tongue and throat, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, a drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness. Severe allergy reactions called anaphylaxis can result in death.