A food allergy is when the body's immune system reacts to a harmless food as if it were toxic. In most cases, the allergic reaction may cause mild to moderate symptoms such as a rash or an upset tummy. In rare cases, it can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis.
Please note: Anaphylaxis must be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment and urgent medical attention – call 111.
Who is affected by food allergy?
Food allergy can develop at any age, but is most common in young children aged less than 5 years. Even young babies can develop symptoms of food allergy.
Common allergy-causing foods
The following nine foods are responsible for a high proportion of allergic reactions to food:
- tree nuts such as almonds or cashews
- sesame seeds
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to food normally develop immediately after, or within hours of, eating.
Mild to moderate symptoms include:
- itching and hives
- swelling around the lips, face and eyes
- tummy pain, diarrhoea (runny poos)
- nausea, vomiting.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) include:
- swelling of tongue
- tightness in throat
- difficulty breathing, wheeze
- difficulty talking or hoarse voice
- dizziness and/or collapse
- pale and floppy (in young children).
Managing living with a food allergy
As there is currently no cure for food allergy, strict avoidance of the food/s you’re allergic to, is essential. If you have a food allergy:
- carry your adrenaline auto-injector (if prescribed) and ASCIA Action Plan with you at all times
- know the signs and symptoms of mild to moderate and severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) and what to do when a reaction occurs
- read and understand food labels for food allergy (see below)
- tell restaurant staff that you have a food allergy when eating out
- be aware of cross contamination of food allergens when preparing food.