Hives on the back are a common allergy symptom.
|Classification and external resources|
A food allergy is an abnormal immune response to food. The signs and symptoms may range from mild to severe. They may include itchiness, swelling of the tongue, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, trouble breathing, or low blood pressure. This typically occurs within minutes to several hours of exposure. When the symptoms are severe, it is known as anaphylaxis. Food intolerance and food poisoning are separate conditions.
Common foods involved include cow's milk, peanuts, eggs, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, rice, and fruit. The common allergies in a region vary depending on the country. Risk factors include a family history of allergies, vitamin D deficiency, obesity, and high levels of cleanliness. Allergies occur when immunoglobulin E (IgE), part of the body's immune system, binds to food molecules. A protein in the food is usually the problem. This triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine. Diagnosis is usually based on a medical history, elimination diet, skin prick test, blood tests for food-specific IgE antibodies, or oral food challenge.
Early exposure to potential allergens may be protective. Management primarily involves avoiding the food in question and having a plan if exposure occurs. This plan may include giving adrenaline (epinephrine) and wearing medical alert jewelry. The benefits of allergen immunotherapy for food allergies is unclear, thus is not recommended as of 2015. Some types of food allergies among children resolve with age, including that to milk, eggs, and soy; while others such as to nuts and shellfish typically do not.
In the developed world, about 4% to 8% of people have at least one food allergy. They are more common in children than adults and appear to be increasing in frequency. Male children appear to be more commonly affected than females. Some allergies more commonly develop early in life, while others typically develop in later life. In developed countries, a large proportion of people believe they have food allergies when they actually do not have them.