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Is It a Food Allergy? 5 Ways to Tell

Food allergies are more common than you think. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology states that more than 50 million Americans have some kind of food allergy. While most of those Americans with food allergies are babies or children, they can affect people of all ages.

Some of the most common food allergies, which make up approximately 90% of all reactions, are from:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy

So, how can you tell if it’s a food allergy or something else?

Here are a few signs:


You can tell it’s a food allergy depending on when the reaction occurs. Reactions usually occur within two hours of ingestion. Many times, however, the reaction starts within minutes. Delayed reactions (more than four hours) may occur in children and result in symptoms like eczema.

Mild symptoms

Reactions like hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin), itchy mouth or ear canal, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, sneezing, dry cough, nasal congestion or uterine contractions. If you exhibit these symptoms within two hours of eating a certain type of food, it may be a food allergy.

Severe symptoms

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), more life-threatening symptoms of a food allergy include swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, difficulty swallowing, trouble breathing, wheezing, turning blue, dramatic drop in blood pressure (resulting in feeling faint, confused or weak), loss of consciousness, chest pain or a sense of “impending doom.” Severe symptoms generally indicate immediate treatment is required.  If you have these go directly to an Emergency Department or call 911.

Strange behavior

Children may show signs of an allergic reaction to food through their body language. For instance, they may put their hands in their mouths or pull or scratch at their tongues. Their voices may also become hoarse or squeaky, or they may slur their words.

Certain language

Children may use certain words or phrases to describe an allergic reaction. They may say something like “my tongue feels full (or heavy)” or “it feels like something is poking my tongue.” Listen for strange descriptions like this, as the child could be attempting to describe the symptoms noted above.

Food allergies can range from mild to severe, so pay close attention to the symptoms of a food allergy and the circumstances noted above. Seek medical attention if you or a loved one has a reaction from a food allergy. You can stop by a GoHealth Urgent Care center near you or save your spot online using the widgit below. We’re here to help!


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