Allergy to food
A food allergy is an exaggerated immune response triggered by eggs, peanuts, milk, or some other specific food.
Normally, your body's immune system defends against potentially harmful substances, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. In some people, an immune response is triggered by a substance that is generally harmless, such as a specific food.
The cause of food allergies is related to your body making a type of allergy-producing substance called immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to a particular food.
Although many people have a food intolerance, food allergies are less common. In a true food allergy, the immune system produces antibodies and histamine in response to the specific food.
Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but a few foods are the main culprits. In children, the most common food allergies are to:
A food allergy frequently starts in childhood, but it can begin at any age. Fortunately, many children will outgrow their allergy to milk, egg, wheat, and soy by the time they are 5 years old if they avoid the offending foods when they are young. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish tend to be lifelong.
In older children and adults, the most common food allergies are:
Food additives -- such as dyes, thickeners, and preservatives – may rarely cause an allergic or intolerance reaction.
An allergy syndrome that affects the mouth and tongue may occur after eating certain fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods contain substances similar to certain pollens. For example, melon contains substances similar to ragweed pollen, and apples have allergens similar to tree pollen.
Many Americans believe they have food allergies, while in reality fewer than 1% have true allergies. Most symptoms are caused by intolerances to foods such as:
Lack G. Clinical practice. Food allergy. N Engl J Med. 2008;359:1252-1260.
Chafen JJ, Newberry SJ, Riedl MA, et al. Diagnosing and managing common food allergies: a systematic review. JAMA. 2010 May 12;303(18):1848-56.
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