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Food Allergy

Allergy and Asthma Center -  - Allergist

Allergy and Asthma Center

Allergists located in McLean, VA


Many patients expect food allergies to appear in children, yet studies show that 45% of all allergies first occur in adults. At any age, a food allergy can lead to a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Anita N. Wasan, MD, at Allergy and Asthma Center precisely identifies your specific allergen and makes sure you’re well prepared to manage a severe allergic response. To receive expert care for a food allergy, schedule an appointment online or call the office in McLean, Virginia today.


What causes food allergies?

A food allergy develops when your immune system mistakenly identifies a food protein as a threat to your health. Every time that protein enters your body, the immune system releases chemicals that cause an allergic reaction.

Any protein-containing food may lead to an allergy, but eight types of food account for 90% of all allergies:

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

Most children outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, wheat, and soy by the time they’re adults. About 20% of children outgrow an allergy to peanuts. Otherwise, peanut, tree nut, fish, and shellfish allergies usually last for a lifetime.

It’s also important to know that 60% of shellfish and 40% of fish allergies first appear in adults.


What symptoms develop due to a food allergy?

The symptoms caused by a food allergy appear within a few minutes to a few hours after the food is consumed. Your symptoms may also vary from one time to the next, so a mild reaction one time may turn into a serious allergic response the next time.

Food allergies cause symptoms such as:

  • Hives or eczema flare-up
  • Skin redness around your mouth or eyes
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Itching in your mouth or ear
  • Swelling of your lips, tongue, or face
  • Runny or congested nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough

Food allergies can cause a sudden, severe reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis occurs typically within minutes of eating the food that causes your allergy, causing symptoms such as:

  • Swelling of your tongue or throat that blocks breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Feeling faint, confused, or passing out (due to a drop in blood pressure)
  • Loss of consciousness

An anaphylactic reaction is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Inject epinephrine if you have it on hand and call 9-1-1.


How are food allergies diagnosed and treated?

Dr. Wasan reviews your medical history and your symptoms, then performs allergy skin testing and a lab evaluation to determine which foods are the source of your allergies.

Although progress is being made on immunotherapy for peanut allergies, currently there’s only one way to effectively avoid a food allergy: eliminate the targeted protein from your diet. Dr. Wasan also makes sure you know how to respond to an anaphylactic reaction.

If you suspect your symptoms are due to a food allergy, call or book an appointment online today to receive a thorough evaluation at Allergy and Asthma Center.