What Are Food Allergies and How Are the Treated?

Food allergies are increasingly common. Here’s what you need to know about food allergies, including diagnosis and emergency treatment from Allergist, Kanao Otsu, MD.


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A food allergy is a type of adverse reaction to foods, and it triggers a cascade of reactions that involve a flare for your immune system.

About 8% of children have true food allergies, whereas in the adult population it's about 2.5%.

The most common childhood allergies are eggs and milk, and those are typically outgrown by late teenage years.

There are certain foods, such as peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, those are rarely outgrown.

Allergic reactions to foods typically is immediate.

These reactions can cause hives, swelling, nasal congestion, runny nose, feeling that your throat might be closing in.

It can also potentially be life threatening.

Testing for food allergies can be done either via skin testing or blood testing.

Both look for the specific IgE to that particular food.

The gold standard is what we call an oral food challenge.

An oral food challenge is when we take a particular food, like peanuts, and we give you increasing doses of the egg to document whether you can tolerate the food or not.

To treat an allergic reaction, it depends on what type of allergic reaction you're experiencing.

If it's just hives scattered on the face or your body, without it developing into anything more, you can take an oral antihistamine.

If you are having more than one body system, so hives plus difficulty breathing or difficulty breathing plus nausea and vomiting, you're going to want to use an epinephrine auto injector immediately and go to the emergency department.

Anybody who has a known food allergy should carry an epinephrine auto injector on themselves at all times.

You never know when you're going to be accidentally exposed.

Being able to use the epinephrine auto injector can be life- saving.

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