What is Food Allergy?
A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a protein in a certain food, causing the release of antibodies and histamine. The release of histamine causes symptoms. The most common foods to which people are allergic include egg, cow’s milk, peanuts, tree nuts (cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts), sesame seeds, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
Allergy symptoms can begin within minutes to 2 hours of eating the problem food. Symptoms can include eczema, hives, facial swelling, itching or swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth, vomiting, diarrhoea, itching or tightness in the throat, and difficulty in breathing.
Symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Even tiny amounts of a problem food can cause serious reactions in very sensitive people. Occasionally, a very severe, rapidly progressing and life-threatening allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can occur. This requires immediate first aid treatment, for example with an EpiPen adrenaline injection.
True food allergy is most common in children, but only affects about 1% of adults. Most children will grow out of food allergies by school age, although seafood and nut allergies tend to be life-long.