Every 3 minutes, someone is sent to the emergency room because of a food allergy.

Learning how to recognize symptoms of a food allergy can help protect and even save a person’s life, especially during a severe reaction.

What is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy reaction happens when your immune system reacts to a food or a substance in a specific food as if it were a threat. Although people can be allergic to any kind of food, the most common foods that people are allergic to are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds or cashews), fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.

How Serious are Allergic Reactions to Food?

Allergic reactions to foods can range from mild to severe, or even life-threatening, making it hard to breathe or swallow. Symptoms can begin within 5 minutes to an hour after eating or touching a problem food that causes allergic reactions. Even a very small amount of a problem food can cause serious symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction to Food?

At any age, you can even develop an allergy to foods you’ve enjoyed for years with no problems. Symptoms of a food allergy can affect different areas of the body at the same time and can vary from person to person. If you come into contact with a food you are allergic to, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:


How do You Protect From Food Allergies?

While there’s no cure for food allergies, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. The best protection for a person with a food allergy is to avoid the foods that cause the symptoms. It’s also important to carefully read all food labels. Manufacturers are required to clearly identify, in or near the ingredient lists, whether an item contains any of the eight most common ingredients that trigger food allergies (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soy).

What are Food Allergy Treatment Options?

Medications can be used to treat both mild and severe food allergy symptoms. Your doctor can help you create a food allergy treatment plan so that you and others will know what to do in the event of any type of reaction. Always keep your plan in a place where others can find it and make sure you and those close to you understand what to do in case of an emergency.

By: Amy Magill, MA, RD, LDN



Clark S, Espinola J, Rudders SA, Banerji, A, Camargo CA. Frequency of US emergency department visits for food-related acute allergic reactions. J Allergy ClinImmunol. 2011; 127(3): 682-683.

Burks, MD, W. (2015, October 1). Patient information: Food allergy symptoms and diagnosis (Beyond the Basics). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.uptodate.com/contents/food-allergy-symptoms-and-diagnosis-beyond-the-basics?view=print

Symptoms – Food Allergy Research & Education. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.foodallergy.org/symptoms