A reaction to food, whether due to a food allergy or food intolerance, can be scary and confusing. Dr. Neetu Godhwani, an allergist and immunologist at Advanced Specialty Care, shares and answers some of the most common food allergy questions she receives from patients.
Follow along as Dr. Godhwani explains food allergy vs food intolerance, child vs adult food allergies, common reactions, treatments and more!
What is the difference between a food allergy vs a food intolerance?
A food allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a specific food with an abnormal response. The symptoms for an immediate type food allergy vary from mild to severe symptoms and typically include hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing.
A food intolerance does not involve the immune system. An intolerance is a digestive system issue. Lactose intolerance is an example of food intolerance. A person with lactose intolerance lacks an enzyme that is needed to digest lactose, the sugar present in milk. When a person with lactose intolerance eats milk products, symptoms such as gas, bloating, and abdominal pain may occur.
How common is food allergy?
11 percent of people age 18 or older (greater than 26 million adults in the US) – have food allergies. Results from a 2015-2016 survey of over 38,000 children in the US found that approximately 8 percent have food allergies. That is one in 13 children.
What are the most common food allergies in children vs adults?
Food allergies are more common in children than adults. In United States children, the most common food allergens are 1) peanut, 2) milk, 3) shellfish and 4) tree nuts. In early life, the most common food allergy is cow’s milk (50% of food allergic infants under the age of 1). Among adults in the US. the most common food allergens are shellfish (2.9%), milk 1.9%), peanut (1.8%), tree nuts (1.2%) and fish (0.9%)
Is eczema a sign of food allergy?
Studies suggest that 1/3rd of children with moderate to severe eczema also have underlying food allergy. There is controversy about the degree to which food allergy contributes to chronic eczema, however elimination of common food allergens in some children may help improve their eczema. The role of food allergy in adults with eczema is not well studied.
Why do I get itching in my mouth when I eat certain fruits or vegetables?
People that have pollen allergies can experience itching in their mouth or throat when eating raw fruits or vegetables that have proteins similar to those found in the pollens that person is allergic to. This is called oral allergy syndrome and symptoms tend to be mild. When these fruits and vegetables are heated, the protein is changed and therefore the body does not tend to recognize and react to it. One example is raw apples. People who have a birch tree pollen allergy may have itching in the mouth with apple consumption. However, apple pie is tolerated because it is cooked. Birch tree pollen allergic patients may also have itching in the mouth with consumption of peaches, cherries, pears, plums, hazelnut, and walnut.
Can food allergy be outgrown?
Allergies to milk, egg, wheat and soy often resolve in childhood. Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish are thought to persist into adulthood, however studies suggest that approximately 20% of peanut allergic children will outgrow their peanut allergy
What is food oral immunotherapy?
For patients with underlying food allergy quality of life is affected by fear and anxiety of exposure and possibly reacting. To help decrease this fear and anxiety, some patients with food allergy may consider undergoing a food desensitization process. The goal of immunotherapy (or desensitization) is to raise the threshold dose of food protein that causes a food allergy reaction. This is done gradually and cautiously over time. Successful immunotherapy can allow one to eat a significant/increased amount of the problem food without a reaction. However, the problem food needs to be consumed on a regular basis to maintain the desensitization. Our practice offers desensitization for peanut, cashew, walnut, cow’s milk, egg and sesame.
If you have any questions or need assistance managing your food allergies, please contact our office at (203) 830-4700 or click here to schedule an appointment online.