1.1 Symptoms of a food allergy
The symptoms of a food allergy are often seen in the gastrointestinal tract, skin and respiratory system (Table 1).
Table 1 Common symptoms of a food allergy
|Organ affected||Symptoms seen|
|Gastrointestinal system||Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea|
|Skin||Itching, swelling (rash calledurticaria or nettle rash)|
|Respiratory system||Runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, cough|
These reactions can occur very quickly, within minutes of eating or even touching the offending food. This is known as an immediate-type reaction. Reactions can even occur days after eating the food, which is called a delayed reaction.
A strong allergic response to the allergen can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. There was a 615% increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK in the 20 years to 2012 (Turner et al., 2015). Admittedly, this was not just for food-related anaphylaxis, but this increase is worrying and cannot be ignored. Anaphylaxis needs to be treated urgently and we will explore this later.