A food allergy occurs when the immune system responds to an allergen (an ingredient that is usually harmless) in food. This triggers an immune reaction, which can range from mild to severe.
The majority of food allergies in children are not severe and usually children will outgrow many allergies with time. Some allergies, particularly nut and seafood allergies, are less likely to decrease with age.
Symptoms of a mild allergy include:
- hives (red circular weals on the skin)
- swelling of the face or around the mouth
- abdominal discomfort or pain
Symptoms of severe allergy may include:
- trouble breathing
- difficulty talking more than a few words and/or a hoarse voice
- swelling or tightness of the throat
- light-headedness or dizziness
- swelling of the tongue
- going pale and floppy (in young children)
A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) is a medical emergency. Call triple zero (000) immediately. Lay the person down. If they have an adrenaline injector and you are able to administer it, do so.
Some foods are more likely to cause allergies than others. These include:
- dairy (including milk)
- tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts and pecans)
- grains that contain gluten (wheat, barley, rye and oats)
- fish and shellfish
The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommends that you should speak to your doctor or specialist about the benefits and safety of allergen immunotherapy before commencing any treatment for a food allergy. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
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Last reviewed: June 2018