A food allergy is an immune system response to a food protein that the body mistakenly believes is harmful.
When a person eats food containing that protein, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, triggering symptoms that can affect a person’s breathing, gastrointestinal tract, skin and/or heart.
Food allergy now affects one in 10 infants and about two in 100 adults in Australia. Some children may outgrow their allergy, while some adults develop their food allergy later in life after eating the food without a problem for many years.
What are the signs and symptoms of food allergy?
They can be mild, moderate or severe. An allergic reaction can include:
- Swelling of the lips, face and eyes
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
- Breathing difficulty
- Persistent dizziness and/collapse.
The severity of an allergic reaction can be unpredictable. However, someone who has previously had a severe reaction to a particular food is more likely to have another severe reaction to that food.
If left untreated, signs and symptoms related to breathing and heart/blood pressure can be fatal.
What foods can trigger allergic reaction?
There are more than 170 foods known to have triggered severe allergic reactions.
The most common triggers, causing 90% of allergic reactions in Australians are egg, cow’s milk, peanut, tree nuts (such as cashew and almond), sesame, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
Children often outgrow certain food allergies during childhood.
What is anaphylaxis?
Food allergies can be severe, causing potentially life-threatening reactions known as anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis must be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment and urgent medical attention. (Remember to call 000 in case of an emergency.)
An allergic reaction usually occurs within 20 minutes to two hours of eating even a small amount of the food, and can rapidly become life threatening.
Food Allergy Week
Food Allergy Week is an important annual initiative of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia. It aims to raise awareness about food allergy in Australia, to help reduce the risk of a reaction for those living with food allergy and to help manage potentially life-threatening emergencies when they happen.
Food Allergy Week runs from 26 May to 1 June and calls on all Australians to ‘Be aware and show you care’ by getting involved with various activities.
Is there a cure for food allergy? How do you get help?
Currently, there is no cure for food allergy. Avoidance of the food is the only way to prevent a reaction.
Our in-house dietitian, Jessica Fuller, can assist with food allergies and even help you understand food labels. You don’t need a referral to see our dietitian.
Our friendly GPs in Pascoe Vale are also here to help with any health concerns you have, including those relating to food allergies.
Source: Food Allergy Week
Note: This information is of a general nature only and should not be substituted for medical advice. It does not replace consultations with qualified healthcare professionals to meet your individual medical needs.