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  5. Food Allergy Rashes: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Have you noticed sudden changes in your skin when eating certain foods? This may be because you are allergic to particular food, which could be triggering an allergic reaction.

Such allergic reactions can affect your skin, liver, and respiratory tract. However, with simple preventive tips and precautions, you can control its severity.

Let’s take a closer look at the causes, symptoms, and the treatments available.

Why Do Certain Foods Trigger Allergic Reaction?

Allergic reactions to certain foods occur when your immune system reacts to the protein found in that specific food item. Your immune system considers it as a pathogen and tries to attack it. Naturally, your body reacts to the attack, which leads to the development of skin rashes. In some cases, allergic reactions can get severe and even turn into a life threat (Anaphylaxis).

You may develop a rash shortly after eating a food that you are allergic to. You may get it on your mouth, face and neck. But in some cases, you may develop allergic rashes just from touching the food item. The symptoms of food allergy rashes are mostly the same for both adults and children. Only in a few rare cases, symptoms might be different.

Symptoms Of Food Allergy Rash

  • Sneezing
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Swelling of lips and face
  • Runny nose
  • Tingling sensation in your mouth
  • Burning sensation in your mouth.
  • Rashes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting

Symptoms for severe food allergic reaction or anaphylaxis

  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Itchy and painful throat
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Respiratory issues
  • Rashes covering major areas of the body
  • Streaming nose and eyes
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Swelling on your lips, mouth and throat

young woman scratching her itchy arm

Did You Know?

  • Studies show that almost 250-550 million people across the world suffer from food allergies. The numbers are high in developing countries.

What Food Causes Skin Allergies?

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) [1] stated that there are certain type of foods that causes allergic reactions such as -

  • Eggs
  • Cow’s milk
  • Wheat
  • Certain fish
  • Shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Gelatin
  • Corn
  • Seeds like sunflower, poppy and sesame
  • Meat such as beef, pork, chicken and mutton
  • Seeds, often sesame, sunflower, and poppy
  • Spices like coriander, mustard and garlic

Besides these common allergenic food items, there are other foods that may trigger allergic reactions on your skin, as stated by Food Allergy Research and Education [2].

Additionally, if the protein present in a specific food item is similar to that of another food of the same category, it may further trigger an allergic reaction. This is known as cross-reactivity. [3] For example, if you are allergic to cow’s milk, you may also develop allergies from goat’s milk as both of them have the same proteins. Similarly, people allergic to latex are likely to be allergic to fruits like kiwi, avocado and banana.

Food allergies are usually diagnosed during early childhood stages. However, different blood and skin tests at later life can also be used to identify allergens causing reactions. Usually, most people outgrow food allergies with age but it can even stay for a lifetime.

Treatment Options Available For Food Allergy Rashes

1. Clean Up

When you feel the first instinct of developing an allergic reaction, clean your mouth or the area of your body exposed to the food item you are doubting to have caused allergies. If possible take a quick shower to reduce the effect of the allergic reaction and prevent it further.

2. Use A Cream Or Gel

If you have already developed skin rashes, you can use an over-the-counter anti allergic soothing cream or gel on the affected areas of your body. Choose creams or gel that are formulated with soothing ingredients such as aloe vera or coconut oil.

3. Antihistamine

Antihistamine is a commonly used drug that prevents different symptoms of allergy. It helps to reduce inflammation on your skin and also controls itchiness around the rashes. Different over-the-counter antihistamines are available and each of them are formulated with distinct active ingredients.

Antihistamine takes time to get into your system and start working. You can take it orally or apply it topically. However, avoid mixing it with any other medicine. Consult your doctor before taking any medicine and do as directed.

4. Epinephrine (Adrenaline)

This should be used when allergic reactions are severe (anaphylaxis). Remember this is an emergency medication that should not be taken without your doctor’s advice.

5.Consult a doctor

If your child is allergic to certain food items, it is better to get a consultation from a professional nutritionist or a dietitian. It will not just help your child to avoid any kind of food allergy rashes but also solve his/her long term health issues.

If you are an adult and have suddenly started developing allergic reactions to specific foods, consult an allergist to diagnose and suggest precaution and treatment.

atopic skin on boy face

How Are Food Allergy Rashes Diagnosed?

1. In order to detect whether your rashes are caused by allergic reactions to specific foods, your doctor may ask you to get a radioallergosorbent blood test done [4]. This blood test will spot the number of antibodies being produced by your immune system. Your doctor will identify the food allergen by seeing the raised level of certain antibodies in your body.

2. Another method to diagnose your food allergy rash is through an allergy skin test which is also known as scratch test or skin prick test. It helps your doctor identify the substance causing the allergic reaction in your body. The skin on the forearm is usually scratched with a needle to allow a drop of allergen to get inside your skin. If your skin develops redness or itches, it is likely that you are allergic to the particular substance.

3. Your doctor may also ask you to maintain a food diary. It is the most simple way to determine which food is causing you allergic reaction. Once the diagnosis is done, you need to avoid foods triggering allergies to prevent any symptom. This process is called elimination and change of diet.

How Long Does A Food Allergy Rash Last?

A food allergy rash may need time to appear, depending on the food item and the quantity eaten. In some cases, it takes hours for the skin rashes to appear as your immune system takes time to react to the food. But sometimes, you may notice immediate reactions.

Usually, once your immune system settles down, the symptoms slowly disappear. If you are taking medicine for skin rashes, it will subside the irritation and discomfort within a short period. But it may take a day or two for your skin to return to its normal form. Also, scratching makes your skin rashes worse. It may make the skin rashes stay for a longer period and also lead to severe skin infections.

Studies suggest, in some cases, there are chances that the second wave of food allergy rashes occur. Even though it is a very rare phenomenon, it’s better to take precautions.

Difference Between Food Allergy Rash & Food Intolerance

Food Allergy Rashes

Food Intolerance

A food allergy occurs when your immune system attacks the proteins found in a certain food, considering it as a pathogen.

Food intolerance is basically a digestive problem which has similar symptoms like a food allergy.

Food allergy rash occurs within minutes or hours after consuming the food you are allergic to.

Food intolerance can develop non-itchy rashes on your arms which is also known as chicken skin.It happens over time.

If you are allergic to a certain food, even a small amount can be dangerous.

With food intolerance, a small amount may not create a huge problem.

According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology many cases initially suspected as food allergy rashes are later diagnosed as food intolerance. Hence, self-diagnosis is not suggested. If you get rashes after consuming certain foods, visit a doctor to determine the condition.

Wrapping Up

The best way to avoid food allergies is by eliminating the food item from your diet permanently, once you are able to identify the allergen. You can visit a doctor and seek medical advice on treating the condition. However, what’s more important is diagnosis to take necessary steps to prevent it. Your doctor will suggest different tests to find out the accurate causes and help you with the do’s and don'ts. Besides taking medications, make sure to practice healthy lifestyle routines, eat a healthy diet, and take necessary precautions to stop it from recurring.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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