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Food allergies

A food allergy is when the body's immune system reacts to a harmless food as if it were toxic. In most cases, the allergic reaction may cause mild to moderate symptoms such as a rash or an upset tummy. In rare cases, it can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis.

Please note: Anaphylaxis must be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment and urgent medical attention – call 111.

Who is affected by food allergy?

Food allergy can develop at any age, but is most common in young children aged less than 5 years. Even young babies can develop symptoms of food allergy.

Common allergy-causing foods

The following nine foods are responsible for a high proportion of allergic reactions to food:

  • peanuts
  • tree nuts such as almonds or cashews
  • milk
  • eggs
  • sesame seeds
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • soy
  • wheat.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to food normally develop immediately after, or within hours of, eating.

Mild to moderate symptoms include:
  • itching and hives
  • swelling around the lips, face and eyes
  • tummy pain, diarrhoea (runny poos)
  • nausea, vomiting.
Signs of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) include:
  • swelling of tongue
  • tightness in throat
  • difficulty breathing, wheeze
  • difficulty talking or hoarse voice
  • dizziness and/or collapse
  • pale and floppy (in young children).

Managing living with a food allergy

As there is currently no cure for food allergy, strict avoidance of the food/s you’re allergic to, is essential.
 If you have a food allergy:

  • carry your adrenaline auto-injector (if prescribed) and ASCIA Action Plan with you at all times
  • know the signs and symptoms of mild to moderate and severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) and what to do when a reaction occurs
  • read and understand food labels for food allergy (see below)
  • tell restaurant staff that you have a food allergy when eating out
  • be aware of cross contamination of food allergens when preparing food.

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