A food allergy reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a food or a substance in a food, identifying it as a danger and triggering a protective response. While we may think of them as something you’re born with, food allergies can develop at any age.
People react to foods in different ways. Some people can have a true allergy, and develop symptoms 30 minutes to a few hours after eating a food, or patients can also experience intolerances where it’s not a true allergy, but a particular food doesn’t make them feel good.
Reactions can be mild to severe (even life-threatening), and because your body may not react that same every time, most healthcare providers counsel patients to avoid those triggering foods in case they have a much worse reaction to something they’d previously had a milder response to. Allergy symptoms can impact the skin or even the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, so take them seriously and call your doctor if you suspect you have an allergy. These are some signs you should pay attention to.
- Tingling or itching: If you start experiencing tingling or itching in the mouth or throat after eating a certain food, it could be a sign that you’ve got an allergy. Pay attention to whether it is a particular food or whether there is any difference in your reaction to cooked and raw versions of a food. Tingling or itching of your lips and tongues are more subtle and should be watched for progression, but if you experience tingling or itching of your throat, that’s a sign that a more serious reaction may be developing. Any symptoms of your throat are things you should take seriously.
- Trouble breathing, wheezing: Whether it sets in immediately or within a few minutes or hours, breathing difficulty is a serious sign of an allergic reaction. Feeling like your throat is tight and like it’s hard to draw a deep breath are also key indicators. Some people may notice they develop a cough or wheeze. With wheezing, you might hear a high-pitched sound when you breathe or feel tightness in your chest. Seek help ASAP. See an allergist to screen for potential allergens. If allergy testing does not confirm a food allergy, then keep a food journal to identify the cause of their allergy symptoms. Food journals can be helpful because it is hard to remember everything that we eat each day. But just writing down what you eat each day is only the beginning. It is important to include in food journals what you ate, the time you ate it, and any symptoms experienced. By keeping food journals, it makes it easier to see patterns and repeat offenders of certain foods. A registered dietitian who’s knowledgeable in food allergies and elimination diets can help to review your food diary and guide you on next steps.