According to the results of a recent study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, almost half of people with food allergies develop them as adults. After analyzing more than 10 years of data, the study authors estimated that about four percent of people deal with food allergies.
Allergic reactions are immune system responses that happen when your body mistakenly thinks a food is an invader and tries to destroy. More than 160 foods can cause these flare ups.
For adults, the most common food allergies are shellfish, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and peanuts. Men are more likely to have a reaction to peanut than women.
Food allergies are unpredictable. A reaction can affect your skin, your respiratory system, digestive tract, and even your heart, depending on where your body releases the cocktail of allergy fighting antibodies and histamines. To further complicate things, the way you react to a food one time might not be the way you react to it the next.
If you develop specific symptoms associated with allergic attacks within minutes to several hours after eating a particular food, you may have a food allergy. Here are some signs to look out for.
You Develop A Skin Problem
You may begin to feel itchy, experience breaking out in hives, or even an eczema flare up, which causes red, swollen patches of skin to pop up, usually on your hands, feet, and joints. If you notice any red, swollen, or itchy spots on your skin after eating, or if the area around your mouth looks red, it might be a reaction to something you are eating.
Your Pulse Gets Weak
In some cases, a food allergy may cause changes in your blood pressure—like a sudden drop or a weak pulse. Unless you’re blood pressure medications at every meal, you shouldn’t experience anything like it. However, if you’re feeling faint or have a weak pulse, that can be a sign.
Like any allergic reaction, this symptom can go from slightly concerning to serious very quickly, so if you’re feeling woozy, don’t just brush it aside.
Itchy Mouth Or Dry Cough
An allergy can also cause you to have an itchy mouth or “slight, dry cough. This usually happens with fruits or vegetables, which have proteins similar to pollens. The itching is usually limited to your mouth and goes away a few minutes after you’ve swallowed the offending food.
A Tight Feeling In Your Chest
If you’re having difficulty swallowing a meal or have a tight feeling in your chest, you could be experiencing eosinophilic esophagitis.
In lay man’s terms, this is when food allergens trigger an immune response that sends massive numbers of white blood cells (called eosinophilis) to your esophagus, which causes it to get inflamed, making your throat feel tight or like food is getting stuck in your windpipe.
You Have Problems Pooping
If your meal makes you nauseous, gives you a stomach ache, or sends you running to the bathroom, don’t immediately call food poisoning or blame it on lactose intolerance. If you experience it frequently when you eat a certain food, it could be an allergy.
It is however important to note that food intolerance is different from food allergies because the former is typically linked to food-triggered digestive issues and isn’t an immune response.
What To Do If You Have A Food Allergy
If you consistently notice one or more of these symptoms after you eat, you may have to see a doctor to help diagnose you.
Be ready to report your symptoms and the suspected foods. If it turns out you are allergic to a specific food, you should be prescribed epinephrine (an Epi Pen) to carry with you at all times, he adds. You never know when a case of hives could turn into a life-threatening reaction.
Even if you’ve only had mild symptoms, you should work with your doctor to have a written emergency treatment plan so that you and your loved ones or close friends know what to do in the event of a serious reaction when you may be incapacitated.