An allergy to food is an abnormal response, triggered by the body's immune system. Symptoms can include itching in the mouth, vomiting, hives, and asthma. In some cases, the reaction can be so severe that it causes serious illness, or even death. Sometimes people suspect an allergy, when in fact they are experiencing another type of reaction called food intolerance. Treatment usually involves avoiding the food that triggers the allergic reaction.
Food allergy affects up to 6 to 8 percent of children under the age of three, and 2 percent of adults. Approximately 30,000 people require emergency room treatment and 150 Americans die each year because of allergic reactions to food.
If you have an unpleasant reaction to something you have eaten, you might wonder if you have a food allergy. One out of three people either believe they have a food allergy or modify their or their family's diet because of this belief. However, while an allergy is commonly suspected, healthcare providers diagnose a food allergy less frequently than most people believe.
A food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the body's immune system. These allergic reactions can cause serious illness and, in some cases, death. Therefore, if you have a food allergy, it is extremely important for you to work with your healthcare provider to find out what food(s) could be causing your allergic reaction.
If you go to your healthcare provider and say, "I think I have a food allergy," your healthcare provider has to consider other possibilities that may cause symptoms and could be confused with food allergy, such as food intolerance. To find out the difference between food allergy and food intolerance, your healthcare provider will go through a list of possible causes for your symptoms. This is called a differential diagnosis. This type of diagnosis helps confirm that you do indeed have a food allergy rather than an intolerance or other illness.
Food intolerance is more common than a food allergy. The immune system does not cause the symptoms of food intolerance, though these symptoms can look and feel like those of an allergy.