Scientific article

What is a true food allergy?

This causes immediate bodily reactions such as: 

  • Hives, swelling, itching 
  • Digestive symptoms  
  • Anaphylaxis (incl. shortness of breath, wheezing, and dizziness)

In very severe cases, the state of anaphylaxis develops into an anaphylactic shock. An anaphylactic shock is a life-threatening event caused by a combination of anaphylaxis symptoms. It leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure and shock, which requires treatment with epinephrine (a form of adrenaline) as soon as possible.  

Reactions usually occur within 2 hours of consumption, or occur with a 4 to 6 hour delay.  

8 most common food allergy triggers 

the big 8


Only 8 foods are responsible for 90% of allergic food reactions:  

  • Cow’s milk
  • Hen’s egg 
  • Fish 
  • Shellfish 
  • Peanuts 
  • Tree nuts 
  • Wheat 
  • Soybeans 

Patients who have been diagnosed with an allergy to these foods must avoid consuming them. Additionally, the must carry self-injectable epinephrine (e.g., EpiPen) with them. Parents and caretakers of children with a severe food allergy to one of the foods listed above should be trained to treat accidental ingestions.

General prevention of food related reactions

People dealing with either food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities should always be aware of the ingredients of the food they are eating. Intolerances and sensitivities do not call for urgent treatment. Still, it is easier to manage the problem by adhering to an exclusion diet than dealing with adverse reactions after ingesting a trigger food. Individuals with a true food allergy must avoid trigger foods at all costs. 

Furthermore, true food allergy sufferers should study product labels while shopping for groceries. For packaged foods, the FDA has strict labeling rules. Food labels need to state the name of the food, the amount of the product, the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, the ingredients listed in descending order, and the presence of all 8 main food allergens listed above. Food allergy sufferers should focus on buying and consuming whole, unprocessed foods. Whole foods are unrefined and contain no “hidden” ingredients that could potentially trigger allergic reactions.  

Individuals experiencing reactions to certain foods before should consult a nutritionist or allergist to discuss symptoms and treatment plans. If there is reason to suspect a true food allergy is causing allergic reactions, an allergy test can be ordered for an accurate diagnosis and subsequent prevention and treatment.  



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