Food Allergies

What Are The Symptoms Of Food Allergy?

In an allergy attack, the symptoms experienced depend on where in the body histamine is released. Allergic reactions to foods most often involve the skin, the stomach and intestines (digestive tract), and the mouth and airways (respiratory system). A life-threatening reaction may involve all parts of the body including the cardiovascular system so that the individual goes into shock (the blood pressure falls dangerously low). A severe reaction could start very suddenly and involve only a fall in blood pressure (shock). It is important to know that a life-threatening reaction may occur with no skin symptoms.

Symptoms may appear within minutes or as long as several hours after eating the allergy-provoking food.

Skin symptoms

Digestive symptoms

Respiratory symptoms

Life-threatening reactions (anaphylaxis)

Skin Symptoms

An allergic reaction may cause:

  • Hives (urticaria)
  • Itchy, scaly rash called eczema (or atopic dermatitis)
  • Redness or flushing (erythema)
  • Swelling (edema)

Digestive Symptoms

An allergy affecting the digestive system may cause:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Respiratory Symptoms

Common respiratory symptoms from an allergic reaction include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Closing of the throat and breathing difficulties, as part of a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis
  • Itchy, watery eyes are often included with respiratory symptoms.

Life-Threatening Reactions (Anaphylaxis)

The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, a severe reaction that involves most of the body. Anaphylaxis can affect several parts of the body at the same time, including the skin and the digestive and respiratory systems or it might just involve respiratory or cardiovascular symptoms.

In addition to producing the symptoms of food allergy, it may also lead to difficulty in breathing, falling blood pressure and unconsciousness.

Although very rare, anaphylaxis can be fatal. Each year, about 150 people in the United States die of food-related anaphylaxis.

Need To Know:

People who have had a severe allergic reaction need to take special precautions in avoiding the allergy-causing food. In addition, they should always carry injectable epinephrine, a drug that can stop an anaphylactic reaction. This is available at pharmacies with a doctor’s prescription.


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