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Food allergies differ from other allergies because even a minuscule amount of the wrong food can be fatal, whereas the severity of other allergic attacks is usually proportional to the size of the dose. Traces of the offending food in poorly labeled processed foods, on cross-contaminated utensils, and carried on the hands of others pose a constant threat to those with food allergies.
Food allergies can be dangerous if IgE antibodies have been produced in response to a particular food protein. A person might not have a reaction upon the very first exposure to the allergen; however subsequent exposures can become increasingly more severe due to the immune system's ability to recognize the allergen more quickly each time. This may lead to anaphylaxis (a system-wide reaction in the body that occurs within minutes to 2 hours after ingestion of the food) causing respiratory and cardiovascular issues. If a person is at risk for an anaphylactic reaction to food, it is important to keep an epi-pen in close reach and share a plan of action with people around you or your child (caregivers, teachers, school nurse, etc.). You can download a free action plan from the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (www.foodallergy.org).
Food allergies are dangerous because the severity of a reaction can go from mild to life-threatening rapidly. Even trace amounts can cause a reaction in someone who is allergic. The allergen doesn’t even have to be ingested to cause a reaction; skin contact or inhalation of protein (e.g., steam from cooking an allergen) can sometimes trigger it.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.