Food allergy is a reaction by the immune system that occurs after an individual eats certain food he or she is allergic to. A small quantity of the food is enough to trigger a severe reaction which is called an anaphylactic shock. Food allergy affects up to 10% of children under age 5 and up to 3% of the adult population. Some children lose their allergy to food as they grow.
In some cases, food allergy can cause mild symptoms while in others, it can be life-threatening. The symptoms usually develop within minutes to two hours after eating the food a person is allergic to.
The most common symptoms of food allergy include:
- Itching sensation in the mouth
- Rashes and itching throughout the body
- Swelling face, tongue and throat
- Nasal congestion and restricted airway that makes it hard to breath
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lightheadedness or fainting
Food allergy risk factors include:
Inherited traits: There is a strong link between food allergy and family history. The risk increases if there are family members with the same condition.
A past food allergy: Children who lose their food allergy as they grow are at a risk of it later in their lives.
Age: Food allergies are commonly seen in children. Later in life, the digestive system develops and it is less likely to absorb the food that triggers allergies. As they grow, children usually lose their allergies to foods like milk, wheat and eggs. Some allergies including allergies to nuts and shellfish are usually lifelong.
Asthma: Having asthma increases the risk of food allergy.
Other allergies: People who are allergic to certain food are at an increased risk of becoming allergic to other food. Likewise, having other types of conditions such as hay fever increases the risk of food allergy.
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