Living With Food Allergies

Learn about food allergies and how they impact millions of children and adults in the United States.

Food allergy is a serious and potentially life-threatening medical condition affecting both children and adults in the United States.1,2 Food allergies occur when the body's immune system reacts to certain proteins in food.3 Food allergy reactions may be caused by any food and some people are allergic to more than one food.2

Food Allergy Differences

The distribution of food allergy burdens, such as economic, quality of life and risk for comorbid conditions vary across different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the U.S.5

A recent study found that Asian, Black and Hispanic individuals were more likely to report having food allergies compared to White individuals.5

Types of Food Allergy

Food allergies can be grouped into two categories:
Immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated and Non-IgE-mediated.6,7

Most food allergies are IgE-mediated. IgE-triggered symptoms usually occur immediately but can sometimes be delayed for up to several hours after exposure to an allergen.6,7 Depending on how the individual’s immune or digestive system reacts, it can also be both.

IgE-mediated symptoms typically include hives, itching, swelling in the face, throat or other parts of the body.6

Non-IgE-mediated allergies, also known as food intolerance, usually have delayed reactions. Gastrointestinal symptoms are common and may include vomiting, diarrhea, bloody stools, abdominal pain, or poor weight gain.8

Most Common Food Allergies

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,
the nine most common food allergens are:9

Each year in the U.S. thousands of people require medical care for allergic reactions to food.10 Reactions to food allergies can be unpredictable and vary from mild to severe.

Signs and Symptoms

Most often, food allergy symptoms begin to appear within minutes or hours after exposure to the food. These symptoms can range from mild but tolerable to severe and life-threatening.7

The most common signs and symptoms include:12

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives, itching or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting

In some people, food allergies can trigger a severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis,* which can cause life-threatening signs and symptoms, including:12

  • Constriction and tightening of the airways
  • A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in the throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
  • *Emergency treatment should be sought out if experiencing anaphylaxis

Identifying Food Allergies

It’s important to talk to an allergist about any symptoms to get an accurate diagnosis. The allergist will use one of or a combination of the following procedures to identify allergy triggers:13,14,15

  • Skin prick tests
  • Blood tests
  • Food challenges

Managing Food Allergies

The most common approach for managing food allergy is avoidance.4 Learning how to read food labels and asking about ingredients when eating at restaurants are important ways to avoid eating foods to which one is allergic.16,17

Despite taking these steps, accidental exposures can still occur.12 An emergency medication, Epinephrine, may be prescribed by a doctor to treat a severe reaction or anaphylaxis.18 If you are impacted by food allergies, talk to your doctor to learn about a potential treatment option.

For more information please visit