How to Know If You Have Food Allergies

Health Minute

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If you think you might have a food allergy, it’s very important to be evaluated and diagnosed by, for example, a board-certified allergist, according to Food Allergy Research and EducationOff Site Icon (FARE). Some reactions to food that seem like they could be food allergies could really be caused by other food disorders, so it’s important to be tested to find out if it is an actual food allergy before restricting foods that might not need to be restricted.

To determine if your reaction is from a food allergy, your allergist will likely recommend allergy testing. The testing could include skin testing or a blood test, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (ACAAI).

In skin testing, a small drop of liquid food extract – one for each food is placed on the skin and lightly pricked, according to the ACAAI. In about 15 to 20 minutes your body will react to any of the foods you are allergic to with a small red bump, like a mosquito bite. The test is often done on your back or forearm.

A blood test is another option, but usually is more expensive and the results take longer – up to two weeks, according to the ACAAI.

Eight foods have been identified as the leading allergens that are responsible for about 90 percent of all allergic reactions, according to the ACAAI. Those foods – which, if included in the product, are listed on the nutrition label just under the ingredient list of food you buy at a grocery store – are eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat.

If you are having an allergic reaction, there could be a variety of different symptoms depending on the food and the person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). Some mild symptoms include an itchy mouth, isolated hives and mild nausea.

More severe symptoms food allergies can cause, according to the ACAAI, include:

  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness 
  • Hives all over the body
  • Indigestion 
  • Ongoing cough
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach cramps
  • Tight/hoarse throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Weak pulse
  • Wheezing

Even if you have had a food allergy test, some foods you test “allergic” to might be things you can eat without any symptoms, according to the ACAAI. Your physician might want you to do a challenge test with those foods, which means you eat or drink a very small portion to see if you have a reaction.

For more information about how to know if you have a food allergy and when to get tested, talk with your doctor, find a physician at Premier Physician Network.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.