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Food Allergies

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What are food allergies?

A food allergy is a specific adverse immune response that occurs following exposure to a specific food. The amount of food that can trigger symptoms can be very small. Food allergy reactions can be life-threatening if not recognized or treated properly.

Many food allergies are first diagnosed in young children, although they may also appear for the first time in older children and adults. The prevalence of food allergies is increasing world-wide. Food allergies are more common among patients with other allergic diseases such as eczema or asthma.

What are the symptoms of food allergies?

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Nausea
  • Severe indigestion, diarrhea, flatulence, and vomiting
  • Hives or rashes
  • Eczema
  • Baby colic or fussiness after eating
  • Flushed face
  • Itching or tingling lips
  • Anaphylaxis symptoms

What are the causes of food allergic reactions?

The most common causes of food allergic reactions include:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

Babies may experience sensitivity to their formula, presenting as rash, eczema, vomiting, or fussiness or crying after a feeding.

Being allergic to a food also may mean that you or your child may react to a similar protein found in something else due to ‘cross-reactivity.’ Your allergist can advise you of possible cross-reactivities pertinent to your particular condition.

What are treatments for food allergies?

Treatment involves avoidance of the allergen, along with an emergency plan in case of accidental exposure. The multidisciplinary team at Columbia's Pediatric Food Allergy Program offers wellness and support services to help families manage their children’s food allergies and deal with any nutritional deficiencies associated with eliminating certain foods. If a child proves allergic to lactose, for example, and has to avoid dairy products, our nutritional counselors will work with parents to ensure the child receives the necessary nutrients. Our team creates life strategies that help family members deal with newly diagnosed conditions, understand why certain foods trigger an allergic reaction, and what to do when this occurs.