We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
JAMA Patient Page |

Food Allergies FREE

Denise M. Goodman, MD, MS
JAMA. 2013;310(4):444. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.6853.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

A food allergy is an exaggerated response of the immune system to certain foods, such as milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, wheat, and soy.

An allergy is not the same as food intolerance. Food intolerance can occur with some of the same foods that cause allergies. Symptoms of food allergy include hives or eczema; hoarse voice; wheezing; swelling of lips or face; abdominal pain; diarrhea or vomiting; problems swallowing; difficulty breathing; and itchy eyes, throat, or skin.

Food intolerance often causes abdominal pain or cramps or diarrhea. This can be caused by cow’s-milk products (lactose intolerance) and grains containing gluten, such as wheat, barley, and rye (celiac disease).


It is important to accurately identify the suspected food. A health care professional may do this by

  • Providing a small amount of the food under medical supervision (provocation or challenge testing)

  • Eliminating the food until you are better, then carefully start the food again under medical supervision (elimination diet)

  • Using blood or skin tests

These tests should always be done under medical supervision, especially if your first reaction was severe. Severe cases of food allergy may cause low blood pressure or a blocked (obstructed) windpipe.


The most important intervention is to avoid the food, which may require careful reading of labels and detailed questions when eating out. You may be able to treat mild reactions with antihistamines. If the reaction is severe, it may cause life-threatening airway obstruction requiring immediate treatment with epinephrine (adrenaline). If you know you have a food allergy, you should talk to your doctor about whether you need to carry injectable epinephrine with you at all times.

Allergy shots do not help with food allergies. Sometimes children can outgrow food allergies, especially allergies to milk, eggs, wheat, and soy. Peanut, tree nut, and shellfish allergies are more likely to persist throughout life.

Box Section Ref ID

For More Information

To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA’s website at jama.com. Many are published in English and Spanish.


The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 312/464-0776.

Sources: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, US Food and Drug AdministrationChafen JJS, Newberry SJ, Riedl MA, et al. JAMA. 2010;303(18):1848-1856.

Topic: Allergy



Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Spanish Patient Page: Alergias alimentarias

Supplemental Content

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Related Collections