Can Food Allergy Develop Suddenly?

food allergyIt is estimated that about 2% of all adults have food allergies, whereas around 4-8% of young children are allergic to some foods. Manifesting early in childhood and are usually outgrown, food allergy is responsible for the 30,000 hospital visits and 100-200 fatalities every year.

Food allergies can develop at any time in one’s life. You may be devouring a plateful of shellfish one day and avoiding the same food the following day as it suddenly causes you itchy hives and bad stomach pains. Why or how does this happen? Before we answer this, it is important first to understand what food allergy is.

What is food allergy?

Food allergy is an uncomfortable (sometimes harmful) reaction to otherwise harmless foods or food components. This reaction involves our body’s immune system. The term "food hypersensitivity" or "food allergy" is only used when the reaction has to do with the immune system. There are many different kinds of reactions that involve the immune system and "immediate hypersensitivity" is perhaps the best understood in the case of food allergies. This adverse immune response involves the following major components: food allergens, basophils and mast cells, and immunoglobulin E (IgE).

The Big 8

Although allergic reactions can occur to virtually any food, most reactions are caused by a limited number of foods, the Big 8 food allergens. These are shellfish (mollusks and crustacea), fish, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, tree nuts (walnuts), and peanuts. The Big 8 accounts for over 90% of all reactions to food allergies:

Symptoms of food allergic reactions

Clinical symptoms of food allergic reactions usually involve the respiratory system, the skin, and the gastrointestinal tract. A food allergic person having an attack may experience swollen or itchy lips, mouth, or throat. When food allergens enter the stomach, cramping, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or cramping a may occur. Hives, itching, redness of the skin, and eczema are also some of the typical symptoms of food allergic reactions. Other food allergic people may also suffer from runny nose, sneezing, and shortness of breath when exposed to food allergens.

Developing food allergy

All of us face the risk of developing food allergy later in our lives. But the risk is greater for those who have food allergic members in the family. Many studies have provided evidence that the development of food allergy is inherited. The offspring of one allergic parent is about two times at risk of developing such allergy compared with the offspring without food allergic parents. However, if both the parents are food allergic, a child is four times at risk of developing food allergy compared with a child who does not have a food allergic parent.

Additionally, people who suddenly develop food allergies are likely to have respiratory allergy histories such as asthma or allergic nasal symptoms. Many studies have also suggested that we can develop food allergy when we are being treated with stomach acid suppressing medicines. Basically, foods not digested properly are more allergenic than those digested properly. However, it would be highly unlikely to develop multiple food allergies.