Many people suffer from food allergies, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. People with mild food allergy symptoms may be unaware that they have an allergy, while people who suffer from sever allergies need to take precautions to avoid triggering a reaction. Even people with mild allergies need to be aware of their condition because sensitivity can progress over time with exposure.
Not all foods cause allergic reactions in all people. Each individual is unique and each has specific symptoms to specific foods. Some allergic reactions are triggered by common food ingredients, making their avoidance particularly troublesome. Other reactions are caused by foods which people rarely eat. Before trying a new food, people are advised to sample a small amount and to stop if they start to experience the symptoms of a food allergy reaction.
Many food allergy symptoms occur fairly quickly after food is consumed. An allergy is the body’s response to a particular allergen, a substance to which the body is particularly sensitive. A common symptom is itching, either in the mouth or of the skin. When a food provokes tingling or itching in the oral cavity, it is a good sign that a potential allergic reaction has occurred.
Localized symptoms include reactions that occur with tissues that come into contact with the food allergen. This includes the mouth, the pharynx, the esophagus, and the rest of the digestive tract. Persons with food allergies can experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea. Rather than dismiss these symptoms as food poisoning, people should consult a medical professional if these symptoms consistently follow eating specific foods.
Urticaria is a systemic food allergy symptom that results in itching and hives on the skin. Hives are raised red welts that can occur anywhere on the body, but as a systemic reaction to a food allergy, hives often occur in multiple locations soon after ingesting the food in question. The hives and their associated itching usually occur a few minutes after eating, and the symptoms can last a few hours, or up to a few weeks. People with established food allergies are usually familiar with this symptom, and they know what foods trigger this reaction. Because food allergens are used in many food products, people are advised to read the labels of prepared foods carefully, and to inquire about a meal’s ingredients when dining out.
Respiratory reactions to food allergens are particularly troubling and can be life-threatening. As a systemic reaction, the face, tongue and airway can swell, causing wheezing and constriction of the airway. Nasal congestion is caused by acute reaction of the mucous membranes in the nasal sinuses, and this can add an additional complication to respiratory reactions. The localized swelling that allows air to enter the lungs can cause wheezing and difficulty breathing. Again, this can be temporary, lasting a few hours, or the reaction can last several days, causing discomfort and limiting activity.
Anaphylaxis is the most serious condition affecting people with food allergies. People with allergies so severe that they trigger an anaphylactic response must seek emergency medical treatment as soon as symptoms appear. The respiratory affects of anaphylactic shock are severe, cutting off the airway to block air from reaching the lungs. This prevents fresh oxygen from reaching the bloodstream, cutting off oxygen to the brain. In addition, people can suffer an abrupt and severe drop in their blood pressure accompanied by a rapid, ineffective pulse. The result can be lightheadedness, up to losing consciousness. In these severe reactions, immediate emergency treatment is necessary to prevent a person from entering a coma, or even dying as a result of their food allergy.