Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What are the symptoms of food allergy?
Symptoms include:

  • Skin - itchy rash or hives, swelling, and/or eczema
  • Gastrointestinal tract and/or swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth; itching or tightness in the throat; nausea; abdominal pain; Vomiting; and/or diarrhea
  • Respiratory tract watery, itchy eyes; runny, stuffy nose; dry, staccato cough; tightness in the chest or shortness of breath; and /or wheezing

What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis, a Greek word meaning without protection, is a severe allergic reaction that is potentially fatal. It is caused by food allergy, insect stings, medication, and in rare cases, latex. During anaphylaxis, a person may experience any combination of the symptoms related to food allergy. The symptoms will affect the entire body. The person may also experience a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, or death.

Can a reaction to food allergy be prevented?
Strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to avoid a reaction. Reading ingredient labels for all foods is the key to maintaining control over the allergy. If a product doesnt have a label, allergic individuals should not eat that food. If the label contains unfamiliar terms, shoppers must call the manufacturer and ask for a definition or avoid eating that food.

What is the best treatment for a severe reaction to food allergy?
Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is the medication of choice for controlling a severe reaction. It is available by prescription via EpiPenĀ®, an auto injector. Antihistamines are often used to control mild symptoms.

What type of testing is performed to determine food allergies?
The skin prick test is the preferred method of testing food allergies. A RAST blood test is sometimes used instead. A negative result virtually confirms that the patient is not allergic to that food. However, a positive result only indicates the possibility that the patient will have a reaction upon eating the food. A food challenge test is often needed to confirm positive results.

What does the rating system for these types of tests mean?
Different doctors and laboratories report test results in a variety of ways. Specific questions should be referred to the allergist who performed the test. 

At what age should I test my child for food allergies?
No age is too young if a child is exhibiting symptoms of allergy.

At what point do most children start to outgrow their food allergies?
This can vary among individuals. Most children outgrow allergies to milk, wheat, egg, and soy by the age of 5. The age is earlier in some children and later in others. Allergies to peanut and tree nut (i.e. walnuts, pecans) are considered to be lifelong.

Are oils safe?
Refined peanut and soybean oils are safe for allergic individuals because they do not contain protein, the component of a food that causes an allergic reaction. Unsafe examples of these oils are found primarily in items from health food stores or some gourmet foods. They would be listed on the label as cold pressed oil, expeller pressed oil, or extruded oil. These oils are very expensive, and are thus not used widely by food manufacturers. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated peanut and soybean oils are also safe they are refined oils to which hydrogen is added to form a semi-solid state.

What is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?
A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a certain food. The symptoms typically include hives, swelling of the throat or tongue, nausea, and loss of consciousness.

A food intolerance is caused by an enzyme deficiency; it does not involve the immune system. Lactose intolerance is an example. A person with lactose intolerance lacks an enzyme that is needed to digest milk sugar. When the person eats milk products, symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain may occur.