Is it a Food Allergy? When to go to the Doctor

Food allergies and food intolerance are two very different things and it is important to know what distinguishes one from the other.

Food intolerance is not life-threatening, while food allergies can be quite serious and require emergency medical attention in some situations. Being aware of the differences between these two issues is very important, so we will explore each one separately.

Maybe you eat a meal at a local seafood restaurant and you don’t quite feel “right” afterwards. Do you think it is indigestion? Or do you have the signs of a food allergy? Should you take a Benadryl and wait it out or should you seek medical attention?

When should you see a doctor for food allergies?

If you have restricted certain foods from your diet because you think you may have a food allergy, you should see a doctor to be tested. If your mouth itches after you eat certain foods and you regularly experience gastrointestinal upset, it could be due to an allergy. When a person has regular rhinitis symptoms or reflux after eating particular things, it could be an indication of a food allergy.

Infants, who fail to gain weight or grow at a normal rate, could have an allergy to formula or certain foods. Any of these symptoms could indicate an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods and you should consult with an allergist, immunologist or gastroenterologist to be examined.

When should you seek emergency medical treatment for a suspected food allergy?

There are some general guidelines which should be taken into consideration before seeking medical attention for a food allergy. If you think you could be experiencing an allergic reaction to food, you should err on the side of caution and go see a doctor.

However, if any of the following are experienced it very important to seek emergency medical attention:

• Experiencing hives, swollen lips or tongue
• Difficulty breathing
• Changes in the level of consciousness after a person eats
• Asthma attack after eating a food that does not normally bother you
• Low blood pressure, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, severe nausea, diarrhea

Any of these symptoms can be the result of a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition which can sometimes be triggered from an allergy to food. A severe asthma attack is also a condition which requires emergency medical treatment; otherwise the person’s airway can close up and make it impossible to breath.

Are Hives Dangerous?

You can try home treating food allergies if you do not experience any serious symptoms. Many people think food allergies only cause hives, but hives can result due to many things such as; infections, exercise, cold, stress, medication, heat and chemical exposure.

A mild case of hives which does not cover the whole body can be treated with an antihistamine. However, if the hives do not respond to an antihistamine and are accompanied by other symptoms, it is time to go see a doctor to be checked out.

Prognosis for Food Allergies:

If your doctor has diagnosed you with a true food allergy, it is very important to know what things you can and cannot eat. You should pay attention to exactly what you are eating and when dining out if you have doubts about the ingredients in a menu item, do not be afraid to ask your server exactly what is in the food. By educating yourself about the dangers of food allergies and knowing the signs and symptoms that accompanies this condition, you can protect yourself from having a reaction and know what to do in the event you do.

Photo by William Brawley

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