Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Food allergies

2-minute read

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
  • vomiting
  • abdominal discomfort or pain

Symptoms of severe allergy may include:

  • trouble breathing
  • difficulty talking more than a few words and/or a hoarse voice
  • wheeze
  • cough
  • swelling or tightness of the throat
  • collapse
  • light-headedness or dizziness
  • diarrhoea
  • 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:

Allergen testing

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.

Follow the links below to find trusted information about food allergies.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Food allergy - myDr.com.au

A food allergy is an immune response triggered by eating specific foods that cause certain well known symptoms to develop.

Read more on myDr website

Food Allergy - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Food allergy explained: what it is and how to manage

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Future Food Allergy Treatments - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Future Food Allergy Treatments

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Starting school with food allergies - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Starting school with food allergies

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Food Allergy - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Food allergy occurs in around 1 in 10 infants* and in about 1 in 100 adults.The majority of food allergies in children are not severe, and will disappear with time.The most common triggers are hen's egg, cow's milk, peanuts and tree nuts.Less common triggers include seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat.Peanuts, tree nuts, seeds and seafood are the major triggers for life long allergies.Some food allergies can be severe, causing life threatening reactions known as anaphylaxi

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Allergy - Food Allergies and Eczema | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Is food allergy the cause of eczema? No

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Food Allergy Treatments - Where are we at? - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Food Allergy Treatments - Where are we at?

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

The festive season - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Managing food allergies in the festive season

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Understand Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

short film for kids about understand food allergies and anaphylaxis

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Children, food allergy management and the risk of anaphylaxis - Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia

Children, food allergy management and the risk of anaphylaxis

Read more on Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo