Food allergies can appear throughout your lifetime. They affect one in 13 children, yet symptoms first appeared in adulthood for 45% of adults with food allergies. Laura Ispas, MD, at Allergy Asthma & Immunology Institute, has more than a decade of experience creating individualized treatment plans that help to better the lives of her patients with food allergies. If you have questions or would like to schedule an appointment, call the office in Leesburg, VA and serving the greater Lansdowne, VA and Ashburn, VA areas, or use online booking.
What causes food allergies?
You develop a food allergy when your immune system identifies a food protein as a threat to your body. As a result, the immune system triggers an allergic reaction every time that protein enters your body.
Although any protein-containing food may cause an allergic reaction, eight food categories account for 90% of all allergies:
- Tree nuts
You’re at a higher risk of developing a food allergy if you have asthma or a family history of eczema or seasonal allergies.
What symptoms will I develop due to a food allergy?
Food allergy symptoms typically appear within a few minutes to a few hours after you eat the troublesome food. Symptoms caused by food allergies tend to vary; one time your reaction may be mild, and the next time you could have a serious reaction.
The symptoms you’ll experience include:
- Hives, itching, eczema
- Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Itching or tingling mouth
- Swelling of your lips, face, tongue
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Coughing or wheezing
- Dizziness, lightheadedness
Food allergies can also cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
What is an anaphylactic reaction?
Food allergies are known for their ability to cause anaphylaxis. This reaction is a medical emergency — use your epinephrine pen if you have one and call 9-1-1 immediately.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of lips, tongue, and/or throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Turning blue
- Feeling faint or weak
- Loss of consciousness
Anaphylactic reactions usually occur within a few minutes after eating the food that triggers your allergy. Additionally, up to 20% of patients experience another round of symptoms hours or days after the initial reaction is over.
What is a food intolerance?
A food intolerance also causes a physical reaction to particular foods, but it’s different from a food allergy. Allergies are caused by an immune system reaction. Food intolerances arise from your digestive tract, where they’re often caused by:
- Lack of an enzyme needed to digest a food
- Sensitivity to food additives
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) and non-celiac gluten sensitivity
The primary symptoms of a food intolerance include gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.
How are food allergies diagnosed and treated?
Dr. Ispas conducts a skin prick test to determine which foods trigger your allergic reactions. During a skin prick test, Dr. Ispas places a small amount of specific food allergens on your skin and gently pricks the spot.
You’ll wait in the office to see whether you have a reaction to any of the allergens. Once the doctor knows which foods cause your allergies, she works with you to create and implement a plan to avoid the food and respond to food allergy emergencies.
If you develop nausea, diarrhea, hives, or any other symptom suggesting you have a food allergy, call Allergy Asthma & Immunology Institute or book an appointment online. The practice offers urgent same day appointments and makes every effort to see you right away.