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Food Allergy, What you need to know

Food allergies affect around 26 million adults in the US and around 5 million children in the US according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Food allergies can be difficult to diagnose. What are the signs and symptoms?

Food allergies cause the body's immune system response, triggering many organs to respond in the body. People may get itching on their skin, and in severe cases, have difficulty breathing, swelling in the throat, or anaphylactic shock that may require an injection of epinephrine.

This is different from food intolerance, which is mainly digestive problems (eg bloating, stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation) after eating. This can be caused by enzymes that break down food, intestinal diseases that are irritable, celiac disease, stress or even food additives.

Useful tips for distinguishing between food allergies versus food intolerance: Make a food journal to track what foods trigger and related symptoms.

The most common food allergies

  • Nuts
  • Peanuts (walnuts, almonds, candlenuts, cashew nuts, pistachios, and Brazil nuts)
  • milk
  • Egg
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp)
  • Finfish (tuna, halibut or salmon)

Learn to read food labels

  • The Food and Drug Administration regulates certain types of foods that may have one of the main allergens in them. But people must read labels carefully. For example, someone who is very allergic to milk should read the label to make sure there is no lactose, ghee, butter or whey in their diet. Sometimes these additives for food products that are produced can cause severe reactions in people who have food allergies. Maybe not too, but if you have food allergies or have children with food allergies, it's very important to be extra careful.

Tips for food allergy sufferers

Beware of the environment around you

Read labels carefully

If you eat out, ask lots of questions

Bring an epinephrine pen at any time

Teach others about signs of food allergies if you get allergens and can't tell them

Learn CPR and first aid

Follow the 9NEWS Medical Expert Dr. Comilla Sasson di Facebook and Twitter. Have medical questions or health topic ideas? Email Dr. Comilla on

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