What are Food Allergies?
According to the College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, more than 50 million Americans have an allergy of some kind. Food allergies are estimated to affect four to six percent of children and four percent of adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Food allergy symptoms are most common in babies and children, but they can appear at any age. You can even develop an allergy to foods you have eaten for years.
The body’s immune system keeps you healthy by fighting off infections and other dangers to good health. A food allergy reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a food or a substance in a food, identifying it as a danger and triggering a protective response. While allergies tend to run in families, it is impossible to predict whether a child will inherit a parent’s food allergy or whether siblings will have a similar condition.
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe. Just because an initial reaction causes few problems doesn’t mean all reactions will be similar; a food that triggered only mild symptoms on one occasion may cause more severe symptoms at another time. The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction that can impair your breathing, cause a dramatic drop in your blood pressure and affect your heart rate. Anaphylaxis can come on within minutes of exposure to the trigger food. It can be fatal and must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline).