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Food allergies or food intolerances affect nearly everyone at some point. When people have an unpleasant reaction to something they ate, they often think that they have an allergy to the food. Actually, however, only about 3% of adults and 6%-8% of children have clinically proven true allergic reactions to food.

Although nearly any food is capable of causing an allergic reaction, only eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the United States. These foods are:

Tree nuts

Food Intolerance vs Allergy

A food allergy triggers an immune system reaction that affects several organs in the body. Food intolerance symptoms are less severe and affect only the digestive system. In fact, experts say that many people who believe they have a food allergy have some kind of food intolerance.

Food Allergy symptoms

If the mast cells release chemicals in the ears, nose, and throat, a person may feel an itching in the mouth and may have trouble breathing or swallowing. If the affected mast cells are in the gastrointestinal tract, the person may have abdominal pain, vomoting, or diarrhea. The chemicals released by skin mast cells, in contrast, can prompt hives.

If someone has a life-threatening allergic reaction to a certain food, the doctor will counsel the patient to avoid similar foods that might trigger this reaction. For example, if someone has a history of allergy to shrimp, testing will usually show that the person is not only allergic to shrimp but also to crab, lobster, and crayfish as well. This is called cross-reactivity.

If you believe you may have had an allergic reaction to a food, contact your doctor immediately. If you are interested in finding out if you have any food allergies, make an appointment to see one of our Allergy Specialists at the Fairbanks Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic.