More Information on Food Allergies

Food Allergies and Cross-Reactivity

If you have a life-threatening reaction to a certain food, your healthcare provider will show you how to avoid similar foods that might trigger this reaction. For example, if you have a history of food allergy to shrimp, testing will usually show that you are also allergic to crab, lobster, and crayfish. This is called cross-reactivity.
 
Another interesting example of cross-reactivity occurs in people who are highly sensitive to ragweed. During ragweed pollen season, they sometimes find that when they try to eat melons, particularly cantaloupe, they experience itching in their mouths and simply cannot eat the melon. Similarly, people who have severe birch pollen allergy also may react to apple peels. This is called the oral allergy syndrome.
 

Common Causes of Food Allergy

Food allergy patterns in adults differ somewhat from those in children. The most common foods to cause allergies in adults are:
 
  • Shrimp, lobster, crab, and other shellfish
  • Peanuts (one of the chief foods responsible for severe anaphylaxis)
  • Walnuts and other tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Eggs.
     
In children, eggs, milk, peanuts, soy, and wheat are the main culprits.
 
Children typically outgrow their food allergy to milk, egg, soy, and wheat, while allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shrimp usually are not outgrown. Adults usually do not lose their food allergies.
 
(Click Common Food Allergies for more information.)
 

Diagnosing Food Allergy

After ruling out food intolerances and other health problems, your healthcare provider will take several steps to find out if you have an allergy to specific foods.
 
These steps may include a:
 
  • Detailed history
  • Diet diary
  • Elimination diet
  • Skin test
  • Blood test
  • Food challenge.
 
(Click Food Allergy Diagnosis for more information.)
 
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