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Food allergy education, advocacy, and support

Food Allergy Causes and Symptoms

What foods can cause allergic reactions?

Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but 90% of all food allergies are caused by the following

  • cow’s milk
  • egg
  • peanut
  • tree nuts (i.e. pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, Brazil Nuts)
  • fish
  • shellfish (i.e. shrimp, lobster, crab)
  • wheat
  • soy

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

Symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening (anaphylaxis). A reaction to a food can cause a
variety of symptoms. Each time a person experiences a reaction, the symptoms can vary. Symptoms
typically appear within minutes to two hours after a person has eaten a food to which she or he is
allergic. Symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • hives, rashes
  • itching, swelling of skin
  • eczema
  • nausea, vomiting
  • abdominal cramps, diarrhea
  • excessive, severe runny nose and sneezing
  • difficulty breathing, wheezing
  • low blood pressure, loss of consciousness

How a child might describe a reaction…

The following are examples of the words a child might use to describe a reaction:

  • “This food’s too spicy.”
  • “My tongue is hot [or burning].”
  • “It feels like something’s poking my tongue.”
  • “My tongue [or mouth] is tingling [or burning].”
  • “My tongue [or mouth] itches.”
  • “It [my tongue] feels like there is hair on it.”
  • “My mouth feels funny.”
  • “There’s a frog in my throat.”
  • “There’s something stuck in my throat.”
  • “My tongue feels full [or heavy].”
  • “My lips feel tight.”
  • “It feels like there are bugs in there.” (to describe itchy ears)
  • “It [my throat] feels thick.”
  • “It feels like a bump is on the back of my tongue (throat).”

If you suspect that your child is having an allergic reaction, seek medical help immediately. Follow your doctor’s instructions!

What is anaphylaxis?

The definition of “anaphylaxis” is very broad to allow for a range of symptom types and severities.
Based on the Second Symposium on the Definition and Management of Anaphylaxis summary report,

“Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death.”


What is Food Allergy?   Food Allergy Treatment