When you have a food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or a substance in food as something harmful. Your immune system triggers cells to release antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the culprit food or food substance (the allergen).
The next time you eat even the smallest amount of that food, the IgE antibodies sense it and signal your immune system to release a chemical called histamine, as well as other chemicals, into your bloodstream.
These chemicals cause a range of allergy signs and symptoms. They are responsible for causing allergic responses that include dripping nose, itchy eyes, dry throat, rashes and hives, nausea, diarrhea, labored breathing, and even anaphylactic shock.
Food Allergy Triggers, Common and Uncommon:
Eggs are the second most common cause of food allergy in children, although they usually outgrow this allergy, as well. Read the labels carefully for noodles, mayonnaise, and baked goods. Eggs can also be found in some unlikely products: the foam topping in drinks or the egg wash on pretzels. Eggs are used to produce the influenza vaccine, so check with a doctor before getting the flu vaccine.
An allergy to shellfish most often develops in adulthood, and it is a lifelong allergy. Shrimp, crab, crawfish, and lobster — crustaceans — produce the most severe allergic reactions. Mollusks can trigger reactions, too: clams, mussels, scallops, escargot, octopuses, and squid. People allergic to shellfish should avoid steam tables or stovetops where shellfish is cooked because the vapors can trigger a reaction.
Walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, and pine nuts may all be off limits if you have a tree nut allergy. These must be clearly labeled in packaged foods, but nuts are more difficult to avoid in restaurants and bakeries. Nutmeg, water chestnuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame are not nuts and can be eaten safely. Be aware that tree nut oils, such as shea oil, may be used in skin lotions.
If you’re allergic to soy, you need to read the fine print very carefully on food labels. Soy protein is widely used in breads, cookies, canned soups, processed meats, and snack foods. Foods to avoid include edamame, (young green soybeans), tofu, soy milk, miso, and soy sauce. Most people with soy allergy can still eat soy oil and soy lecithin. Soy allergy is more common among babies and children.
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