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Food Allergies


A food allergy is an immune reaction the protein found in particular trigger foods.  An immune reaction provides a chemical called histamine to fight the allergen.  Common triggers include hen’s eggs, cow’s milk, peanuts and tree nuts.  Less common triggers include seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat.  A food ‘allergy’ is different to a food ‘intolerance’ which is a chemical reaction and not as dangerous.

Food allergies are not genetic, so having other family members with food allergies will not significantly increase your risk of having a food allergy.

Most food allergies result in an immediate and obvious reaction. Symptoms include hives, swelling around the mouth and vomiting. These symptoms should subside within a few hours.


Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that needs urgent medical attention. Nuts are the most common allergens that cause anaphylaxis. Within minutes of exposure to the allergen, individuals can have potentially life-threatening symptoms, which include:

  • difficult or noisy breathing,
  • swelling of the tongue,
  • swelling or tightness in the throat,
  • difficulty talking or a hoarse voice,
  • wheeze or persistent cough, and/or
  • loss of consciousness or collapse.



There are many unproven tests for ‘diagnosing’ allergies. These can result in people avoid foods which don’t need to be avoided. Skin pricks are the most common tool for diagnosing allergies, but these can often produce misleading positive results, so it is always recommended to follow a skin prick test with a supervised food challenge.



Many food allergies are not severe and are outgrown with time. However, if you think you have a food allergy:

  • have it correctly diagnosed by an Accredited Practising Dietitian or doctor,
  • learn the signs and symptoms of mild and severe (anaphylactic) reactions,
  • learn to read food labels to avoid trigger foods,
  • always advise people of your allergies when eating food prepared by others,
  • develop an anaphylactic response plan with your health care professional.


The content displayed on this webpage is intended for informational purposes and is a guide only. It does not replace or substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Information contained on this webpage must be discussed with an appropriate healthcare professional before making any decisions or taking any action based on the content of this webpage.