Food Allergy Overview

Estimated to affect 1 in every 13 children under the age of 18.

  • Food allergy increased 50% among children age 0 – 17 years from 1997 through 2011
  • 30% of children with food allergies also have asthma which increases risk of anaphylaxis

THERE IS NO CURE! Strict avoidance is key.

Food Allergy

  • Immune system response
  • Antibodies are created to certain food(s)
  • Symptoms severe and life-threatening
  • Symptoms: see potential signs & symptoms table

Food Intolerance

  • No immune system response
  • Lack certain digestive enzyme (ie. lactose intolerance)
  • Symptoms normally non life-threatening
  • Potential symptoms: gas, bloating, abdominal pain, headaches

8 foods account for 90% of all reactions (note: any food can cause an allergic reaction):

  • Milk
  • Soy
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Tree Nuts
  • Shellfish

What is anaphylaxis (pronounced ana-fil-axis)?

This is an allergic EMERGENCY. It is a rapid, severe allergic reaction that occurs when a person is exposed to an allergen (an allergy-causing substance). When the allergen enters the blood stream, the body releases chemicals to ”protect“ itself from the allergen. This is an adverse immunologic response to food protein. These chemicals can cause dangerous symptoms including breathing difficulty, swelling, dizziness, low blood pressure, shock, and even death.

Potential signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction

Mouth: Itchy, swelling of tongue and/or lips

Throat: Itchy, tightness/closure, hoarseness, trouble breathing/swallowing

Skin: Itchy, hives, redness, swelling, red watery eyes

Gut: Nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea

Lung: Short of breath, wheeze, repetitive cough

Heart: Pale or blue skin color, dizzy/faint, weak pulse

Neurological: Sense of “impending doom,” irritability, change in alertness, mood

change, confusion

Other: Itchy, red, watery eyes

Be aware there are other allergens such as insect venom, medication, and latex that can cause anaphylactic reactions. Please see the FAME manual for additional details.