What are food allergies?

Food allergies occur from eating something that your body is sensitive to. Common symptoms are swelling around the mouth, an itchy red rash, hives and vomiting or diarrhea. Severe allergic reactions are LIFE-THREATENING. This reaction is called anaphylaxis, or allergic shock. It can cause the mouth and throat to swell and difficulty with breathing and swallowing.

Food allergies occur mostly in children, especially when the parents are allergic to certain foods. The most common causes are cow’s milk, seafood, eggs, nuts (such as peanuts), wheat and soybeans.

What should I do?

  1. If you are not sure what caused the reaction, keep a diary of the foods you have eaten and any symptoms that followed. Don’t eat any of the foods that cause reactions.
  2. Hives or rash:
    a. Your doctor prescribed medicine for your hives. Take exactly as directed.
    b. You may use an antihistamine that you can buy without a prescription. Take until the hives are completely gone for 24 hours.
    c. Apply cold compresses to the skin or take baths in cool water. Don’t take hot baths or showers because warmth will make the itching worse.
    d. Wear loose fitting clothes and avoid tight underwear.
  3. If you are severely allergic:
    a. Following a severe reaction and treatment, someone should stay with you for 24 hours in case the symptoms return.
    b. Wear a medic-alert bracelet or necklace stating the allergy.
    c. Your doctor will teach you and your family when and how to give adrenaline shots (anaphylaxis kit).
    d. If you have had a severe reaction before, always carry your anaphylaxis kit with you.

Call the doctor if:

  1. You suspect a food allergy. Symptoms occur within 30 minutes of eating a food.
  2. Your symptoms have not gone away within two weeks.
  3. You have new symptoms.
  4. You want to retest your child with a food you think causes an allergic reaction.

Return IMMEDIATELY if:

  1. You have difficulty breathing, wheezing, tight feeling in your chest or throat, or swollen mouth. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. Call 911 for medical help or have someone drive you to the nearest emergency room.
  2. You have hives, swelling, or itching ALL OVER your body.
Mission Health Care Network | 2525 de Sales Avenue | Chattanooga, TN 37404 | MissionHealth@memorial.org
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