Food Allergy Symptoms
Difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue and throat, and a drop in blood pressure are possible symptoms of a food allergy. Typically, symptoms appear within minutes or up to two hours after a person has eaten the food to which he or she is allergic. The greatest danger in food allergies comes from anaphylaxis, a violent allergic reaction that can result in life-threatening symptoms.
Food allergy symptoms typically appear within minutes to two hours after a person has eaten the food to which he or she is allergic.
Symptoms can be as simple as skin problems (itchiness, rashes, or hives) or intestinal troubles (abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting), or as dangerous as a swelling of the respiratory passages, shortness of breath, fainting, or anaphylactic shock.
Common symptoms of a food allergy include:
- Tingling sensation in the mouth
- Swelling of the tongue and throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal cramps
- Drop in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
The difference between an allergy and an intolerance is how the body handles the offending food. In a true food allergy, the body's immune system recognizes a reaction-provoking substance, or allergen, in the food -- usually a protein -- as foreign, and produces antibodies to halt the "invasion."
As the battle rages, symptoms appear throughout the body. The most common sites for symptoms of a food allergy include:
- The mouth (swelling of the lips)
- Digestive tract (stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea)
- Skin (hives, rashes, or eczema)
- The airways (wheezing or breathing problems).
People with allergies must avoid the offending foods altogether.
Food intolerance is a much more common problem than food allergy. Here, the problem is not with the body's immune system, but, rather, with its metabolism. The body cannot adequately digest a portion of the offending food, usually because of some chemical deficiency. For example, people who have difficulty digesting milk (lactose intolerance) are, in many cases, deficient in the intestinal enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest milk sugar (lactose). The deficiency can cause cramps and diarrhea if milk is consumed.
Estimates are that about 80 percent of African Americans have lactose intolerance, as do many people of Mediterranean or Hispanic origin. It is quite different from the true allergic reaction some have to the proteins in milk. Unlike allergies, intolerances generally intensify with age.