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Types of Food Allergy Symptoms

Medically reviewed by Chhavi Gandhi, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on January 14, 2023

Food allergy symptoms can range from what may be described as a slight nuisance or inconvenience to life threatening emergencies with reactions that need absolute and immediate medical attention. Let’s take a look at some of the main types of allergy symptoms, and define what the difference is between a true food allergy versus a simple food sensitivity.


Anaphylaxis reaction


Anaphylactic is a severe, life threatening reaction that can be triggered by foods which trigger an immune reaction that is IgE mediated. Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can be sudden and get worse very quickly. Initial symptoms of anaphylaxis like hives, itching, abdominal pain, vomiting can lead to:


  • Itching, hives (raised itchy red welts on the skin)
  • Swelling (anywhere on the body including the mouth, tongue, throat)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing
  • Feeling faint/dizzy
  • A drop in blood pressure with danger of collapsing


Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency! Without immediate medical attention, anaphylaxis can be life threatening and indeed potentially fatal if not treated in adequate time. If you or someone in your presence is experiencing such symptoms, it is critical to call for medical assistance and an ambulance, emphasizing that care is needed immediately.


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Anaphylaxis - Overview

Anaphylaxis - Overview

Non-IgE-mediated food allergy symptoms


Another type of allergic reaction is a non-IgE-mediated food allergy. These symptoms can take hours to show symptoms after ingesting. food. They can first develop  in babies, others later in life. In all cases, removal of the triggering food usually resolves the symptoms. . Some of these include: 


  • Food protein-induced allergic proctocolitis of infancy. Patients develop mucus and bloody stools with certain foods. This can occur while exclusively breastfeeding based off of the mother’s diet. 
  • Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome  (FPIES). This usually starts in infancy and childhood. Patients develop large volume vomiting and diarrhea that can cause volume loss and require emergency fluids be given), 
  • Celiac disease (gluten enteropathy). This is an immune triggered reaction in the bowels by the presence of gluten/gliadin proteins and can trigger chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, anemia and weight loss.


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Allergic Rhinitis & Conjunctivitis - Risk Factors

Allergic Rhinitis & Conjunctivitis - Risk Factors

Exercise-induced food allergies


In some cases, a food allergy can be triggered after eating a certain food and then exercising. This can lead to anaphylaxis in severe cases, sometimes known as food-dependent exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Drinking alcohol or taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as aspirin or ibuprofen may also trigger an allergy in people with this syndrome.


What is food intolerance?


A food sensitivity or intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. Individuals that suffer from a food intolerance may exhibit symptoms such as diarrhea, cramps and discomfort due to more of a digestive issue (for example: lactose intolerance.) These reactions are not qualified as true allergic reactions.


Important differences between a food allergy and a food intolerance include:


  • A food intolerance will appear most often several hours after ingesting a food item
  • Food allergies erupt almost immediately upon ingesting the allergy producing food item
  • A food intolerance is never life threatening, while an allergy can indeed cause anaphylaxis, becoming potentially fatal


When to Seek Medical Advice


If you believe that either you, your child, or another family member may have a food allergy, it’s highly recommended that you seek the guidance of your primary care physician, as you may require a referral to an allergy specialist. There are very specific tests that are reliable and can determine the allergy and corresponding treatment for everything from minor reactions to the most severe. This will help you enjoy a symptom-free life and help you stay aware of any potentially dangerous food item before it is ingested!


Written by Sherri Abergel

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