overhead view of allergist holding ruler near marked hand of woman

Food allergies can be a significant and frustrating concern for many individuals. People dealing with food allergies ––– most commonly milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish ––– can experience various symptoms that affect their dietary choices, daily routines, and social interactions. However, there is hope. According to Chioma Enweasor, MD, a pediatric allergist at Loma Linda University Children’s Health, it’s possible to outgrow a food allergy depending on certain factors. 

The reality of food allergies 

A study by The Food Allergy Research and Education organization reports that 33 million Americans have food allergies, including 1 in 13 children and 1 in 10 adults. The good news is that about 70% of children outgrow egg and milk allergies and “with time, many people outgrow their food allergies," Enweasor says.  

Outgrowing food allergies depends on two factors: the specific food and a person’s age. When someone is truly allergic — meaning their symptoms match allergen testing — they have the possibility of outgrowing the allergy. However, Enweasor notes that only around 20 – 30% of people outgrow peanut and tree nut allergies, and adults who develop a shellfish allergy typically do not outgrow them.  

Food allergies can include: 

  • Skin reactions such as hives and itching 

  • Digestive problems, including diarrhea 

  • Difficulty breathing 

  • Coughing or wheezing 

  • Swelling of the throat, mouth, tongue, or face 

If a person has a negative reaction to a food, that still does not necessarily mean they have a food allergy. A true food allergy is supported by a history of consistent symptoms and allergen testing.  

All food allergies are persistent and consistent, meaning a person will react the exact same way each time, and within a four-hour time frame. “A lot of people ask to get tested before they have any symptoms, which is not the recommended procedure. Testing does not predict whether or not you have an allergy,” Enweasor says. Some adults who test without a history of symptomatic reactions end up with false positives.  

It’s also important not to confuse food allergies with environmental allergies, such as headaches or a runny nose, both of which are not related to food. 

A positive outlook 

A food allergy can feel very life-limiting, but there is hope of outgrowing the allergy. For anyone with an allergy they cannot outgrow, there are FDA-approved medications that can help a person desensitize to the allergen and limit the risks of dangerous reactions. 

For more information about food allergies or to make an appointment, visit Pediatric Allergy, Immunology, and Pulmonology, or contact them at 877-558-6248