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Food Allergy

Food allergies occur when the body's immune system mistakenly treats a food as something harmful and produces an allergic reaction to it. The allergic reaction can affect your skin, or your stomach and intestines, or your breathing. The type of allergic reaction you get may depend on how you came into contact with that food (eating it or even touching it) and how much of it you were exposed to. For example, you might get hives, abdominal pain, nausea, wheezing, and shortness of breath or some combination of these. Food allergies can range from mild responses to severe, even deadly, reactions.

Allergy vs. Intolerance

Many people confuse food intolerance with food allergy. For example, some people lack the enzyme that allows the body to properly digest the sugars in milk. A person who lacks these enzymes is lactose intolerant, their body cannot tolerate milk but they are not allergic to it.

Food Allergy Diagnosis

If you think that you have a good allergy, head to your doctor's office. It is helpful to keep track of the foods that you think you have an allergic reaction to and present this list to your doctor.

Once you have established with your doctor the possible food's that cause your reactions, the doctor will perform a test. There are a few different tests to determine the food or food group causing the problems:

  • One test is a skin test to see if your skin reacts in an adverse way to the food or food group.
  • Another test that could be used is a blood test and lastly a food challenge.

Your doctor may suggest that you eliminate the foods that you think are causing your problems in order to avoid an unpleasant allergic reaction.

Dealing with a Food Allergy

The best way to deal with a food allergy is to identify the problem foods or food groups and stay away! For sever allergies, a doctor may prescribe medications to help control reactions. Be sure to get periodic testing to be sure that the allergy still exists or to check for new allergies.

Common Food Allergies


Contact Information

Allergy and Inflammation - Research
Department of Medicine
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Center for Life Science, 9th floor
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-723-4110
617-735-4115