Managing My Food Allergy
On this page you will find information about food allergy, including the symptoms of food allergy and resources to help manage it. We have Factsheets available to help you work out whether you have a food allergy or food intolerance and we can also provide support when it comes to identifying your food intolerance. You can find all of our Factsheets at the bottom of this page.
What is Food Allergy?
Food allergy is caused when the body mistakenly makes an antibody (IgE) to 'fight off' a specific food. When the food is next eaten (or sometimes is just in contact with the skin) it triggers an immune system response which results in the release of histamine and other substances in the body.
These cause various symptoms, depending on where in the body they are released. Very rarely the immune system chemicals are released throughout the body, causing a 'systemic' reaction (such as anaphylaxis).
Food Allergy Labelling?
All pre-packaged food must show a list of ingredients which clearly identifies all the ingredients. There are different regulations for foods that are not pre-packaged and which are prepared on-site in smaller food businesses e.g. a café/sandwich shop/deli. There is still a requirement to provide information on the ingredients and allergen content but how this information is shared is up to the individual business.
They may choose to provide this information in a written form, for example on a chalk board, or they may communicate the information verbally.
What Are the Symptoms of Food Allergy?
Normally food allergy symptoms appear within a few minutes of eating the offending food, although they may be delayed by up to a couple of hours. The symptoms are usually those of 'classic' allergy, some of which are listed below:
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling (rash or nettle rash)
- Runny nose
At the bottom of this page you will find our downloadable Food and Symptoms Diary. Use this to track your symptoms to discuss with your GP. Click here to access it.
What Is the Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Intolerance?
Food allergy is quite uncommon and normally causes symptoms within a few minutes of eating the offending food or being in contact with the relevant substance. Food intolerance (non-allergic hypersensitivity) is much more common. The onset of food intolerance symptoms is usually slower and may be delayed by many hours after eating the offending food; the symptoms may also last for many hours, even into the next day. Some common food intolerances include lactose intolerance; gluten intolerance and histamine intolerance.
You can find more information about the differences in our downloadable Food Allergy or Food Intolerance? Factsheet.
What Could I Be Allergic To?
There are 14 major food allergens which need to be mentioned (either on a label or through provided information such as menus) when they are used as ingredients in a food product or meal. However you can be allergic to any food substance.
The top 14 food allergens are:
- Cereals containing gluten;
- Sesame seeds;
- Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites).
How Can I Manage My Food Allergy?
You can find a whole host of useful tips on management and avoidance on our relevant Factsheets below but there are 3 key things to be on top of when it comes to managing a food allergy:
- Identify and avoid the cause (if possible)
- Recognise the symptoms of an allergic reaction by keeping a food diary
- Know what to do if it happens again
For more detailed information about food allergy, food intolerances, allergy medications, or for more useful tips on management and advice on shopping and cooking for a restricted diet, please find further useful resources below…