What is a Food Allergy?
Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food, triggered by the body’s immune system. In individuals with food allergies, the immune
system mistakenly responds to a food (known as the food allergen) as if it were harmful, triggering a variety of negative health effects. Some food allergies can be outgrown, but some are lifelong; there is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of the food allergen is the only way to prevent a reaction.
Common Food Allergens
More than 170 foods are known to cause a reaction in some people; however, eight foods account for 90% of all allergic reactions to food. They are:
• tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
• shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, shrimp)
While these eight allergens are the most common, a student may have a severe, life threatening allergy to a different food, and they may be allergic to more than one food.
Did you know?
88% of schools reported that they had one or more students with a food allergy. Unexpected food allergens can be found in non-food Items such as:
• modeling clay and paper mache (may contain wheat)
• crayons (may contain soy)
• shaving cream (may contain milk)
• finger paints (may contain milk oregg whites)
• soaps (may contain wheat, dairy, soy, or nut extracts)
Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance
Food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance, are often confused with food allergies because both can result in cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms. Food intolerance involves the digestive system, while a food allergy involves the Immune system. Food intolerances are generally not life-threatening, unlike food allergies, which can cause severe, life-threatening reactions. It is important that food allergies are diagnosed by a doctor.