Can You Outgrow A Food Allergy?


For most people, holidays, birthdays and general celebrations are a happy time. For people with food allergies, these times bring additional challenges too. Does everyone know about their allergies? If it’s potluck, does everyone making food know about your food allergy? Cross contamination is a concern. Depending on the allergy, the reaction to some foods can be quite extreme! So, if it’s possible to outgrow a food allergy, that would be of keen interest.

According to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies. This includes 5.9 million children under 18. Of these children, 30% of them are allergic to more than one food. The CDC says food allergies are on the rise, but there isn’t consensus on that. Part of the problem is that parents are self-diagnosing based on what they see and reacting accordingly, instead of properly doing a blood test to confirm. Consequently, there may be people who think they’re allergic when they are not.

Is It Possible To Outgrow A Food Allergy?

The quick answer posed of whether you can outgrow a food allergy is yes. But and there’s always a but, it doesn’t happen for everyone. Before we get into the answer, let’s make sure we all understand the question.

What Is A Food Allergy?

People tend to confuse an allergy with an intolerance. They are not the same. A food allergy is when your immune system reacts after eating certain foods. An intolerance, while uncomfortable, is less serious because there is no immune system reaction. There are shared symptoms of each, but there are also major differences that will help you determine which you might be experiencing.

Food intolerance has symptoms that tend to come gradually over time. Reactions happen when you eat a lot of the food, but may not happen every time, only when you eat the food too often. Intolerance is not life threatening. The symptoms can be gas, bloating, heartburn, headaches or irritability.

A food allergy reaction happens fast, typically within minutes of ingestion. A very small amount can trigger a reaction. That reaction happens every time you eat the food. Most important, it’s potentially life threatening. An allergic reaction can affect your whole body. Symptoms include rashes, itchy skin, shortness of breath, chest pain, anaphylaxis and a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Common Food Allergies

Here’s list of foods to be watching out for if you think you have a food allergy:

  • Cow’s Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree Nuts

If you’re allergic to a food in one of these categories, you might be susceptible to another food in the same family. This is known as cross-reactivity.

Lifestyle Can Cause Food Allergies

Fear is playing a larger role in people developing food allergies from a young age. Parents are putting off feeding certain foods to their children out of worry over a potential allergic reaction, regardless of previous diagnosis. A study in England suggests that by children eating peanuts early, it might allow the immune system to develop better, avoiding allergies. Sometimes, that instinct to protect might lead to the immune system not developing the way it should.

Outgrowing Food Allergies

Like allergies to pollen and animals, it is possible to outgrow a food allergy, at least it is for some foods. Most children outgrow allergies to cow’s milk, egg, soy and wheat. This is true even if you had severe allergic reactions in the past. Sadly, if you’re allergic to tree nuts, fish or shellfish, they tend to persist throughout adulthood. About 20% of children with peanut allergies are fortunate enough to outgrow it, but if they are going to it’s usually by age 8 and almost never after age 10.

This is important. Don’t just rely on trial and error in determining if your food allergy is being outgrown, especially when it comes to nut allergies! Get tested. This is the only way to be sure. Consult with a pediatrician, allergist/immunologist to go over the results of the tests before adopting any changes in your or your child’s diet when it comes to allergies.

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