Food allergies can range from a mere irritation to life-threatening reaction. Approximately 30,000 Americans go to the emergency room each year to get treated for severe food allergies, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). It is estimated that 150 to 200 Americans die each year because of allergic reactions to food.
Food allergies affect about 2% of adults and 4-8% of children in the United States, and the number of young people with food allergies has increased over the last decade, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children with food allergies are more likely to have asthma, eczema, and other types of allergies.
FDA Video – Food Allergies: Reducing the Risk
Some food allergies can be outgrown. Studies have shown that the severity of food allergies can change throughout a person’s life.
“There is no cure for food allergies,” says Stefano Luccioli, M.D., senior medical advisor in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Office of Food Additive Safety (OFAS). “The best way for consumers to protect themselves is by avoiding food items that will cause a reaction.” OFAS is part of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).
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Signs and Symptoms of a Food Allergy
Symptoms of a food allergy usually develop within about an hour after eating the offending food. The most common signs and symptoms of a food allergy include:
- Hives, itching, or skin rash
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
- Wheezing, nasal congestion, or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
In a severe allergic reaction to food—called anaphylaxis—you may have more extreme versions of the above reactions. Or you may experience life-threatening signs and symptoms such as:
- Swelling of the throat and air passages that makes it difficult to breathe
- Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid, irregular pulse
- Loss of consciousness