Food allergy

Medical Specialties: Allergy/immunology, Emergency medicine, Family practice


Clinical Definition

Food allergy is caused by an abnormal immune response to food. Two main categories of food allergy are IgE-mediated and non IgE-mediated, and some allergic disorders have characteristics of both. Reactions involving the skin gastrointestinal, respiratory, or cardiovascular systems may develop. In severe food allergies, anaphylaxis is possible.


In Our Own Words

Food allergies seem to be on the rise and common ones include peanuts, strawberries and shellfish. Normally the body’s immune system kicks in when it views a substance as harmful. An immune response occurs to fight the invader. When food allergies develop, the immune system views a particular food as harmful and reacts. The reaction can be measured, or more severe. Eating the food item triggers release of chemical signals such as histamine that lead to symptoms. In some cases, symptoms can be life threatening.

Relevant Conditions
  • Adverse food reaction
  • Urticaria and angioedema
  • Pollen-food allergy syndrome
  • Celiac disease
Common Types
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish
Side Effects
  • Nausea, cramping and vomiting
  • Diarrhea +/- (infants) passage of blood-tinged stools and mucus
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the throat
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