The term “food allergy” encompasses all allergic reactions that are triggered by foods. Some common foods that people are allergic to include peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, shellfish, and dairy products.
When someone who has a food allergy ingests food that she is allergic to, their body perceives the food as a threat. To get rid of this perceived threat, the immune system may cause a variety of symptoms, including anything from mild hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Along with information provided by patients, allergists may use testing and an elimination diet to identify specific food allergies. Two common allergy tests that doctors use are skin scratch tests and intradermal skin tests. Both are usually performed in an allergist’s office. An elimination diet carefully controls which foods a patient is exposed to, while patients and doctors look for ones that trigger allergic reactions.
Food allergies may be treated in a variety of ways, depending on their severity. Allergists may recommend a prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines for mild reactions. For severe cases, they might suggest avoiding certain foods altogether and prescribe an epinephrine pen in case a patient is accidentally exposed.
Food allergy appointments usually take about as long as typical doctor’s appointments. Depending on the tests needed and the treatments suggested, a single appointment may last anywhere from a part of a day or require a return to the allergist’s office for additional care.
Because they can be difficult to diagnose, patients with possible food allergies should seek out an allergist who specifically specializes in food allergies. A doctor who has treated many other patients who suffered from food allergies will be able to draw on that experience when making a diagnosis.
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