What are allergies

Common symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  1. itchy, red, watering eyes (conjunctivitis)
  2. swollen lips, tongue, eyes or face
  3. tummy pain, feeling ill, vomiting or diarrhoea
  4. a raised, itchy, red rash (hives)
  5. sneezing and an itchy, runny or blocked nose (allergic rhinitis)
  6. wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and a cough
  7. dry, red and cracked skin

The symptoms vary depending on what you’re allergic to and how you come into contact with it.

For example, you may have a runny nose if exposed to pollen, develop a rash if you own a skin allergy, or feel sick if you eat something you’re allergic to.

See your GP if you or your kid might own had an allergic reaction to something. They can assist determine whether the symptoms are caused by an allergy or another condition.

Read more about diagnosing allergies.


Favorite Resources for Finding a Specialist

American Rhinologic Society

Through research, education, and advocacy, the American Rhinologic Society is devoted to serving patients with nose, sinus, and skull base disorders.

Their website’s thorough coverage of sinus-related issues includes rarer conditions, such as fungal sinusitis, which are often excluded from other informational sites. It also provides a valuable search tool to discover a doctor, as well as links to other medical societies and resources that are useful for patients.

Cleveland Clinic

Their website contains an exhaustive guide on sinusitis and an easy-to-use «Find a Doctor» search tool.

ENThealth

ENThealth provides useful information on how the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) are all connected, along with information about sinusitis and other related illnesses and symptoms, such as rhinitis, deviated septum, and postnasal drip.

As part of the American Academy of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, this website is equipped with the ability to assist you discover an ENT specialist in your area.

In July 2016, Natasha Ednan-Laperouse collapsed on a flight from London to Nice, suffering a fatal allergic reaction to a baguette bought from Pret a Manger. At an inquest, the court heard how Natasha, who was 15 and had multiple severe food allergies, had carefully checked the ingredients on the packet. Sesame seeds – which were in the bread dough, the family later found out – were not listed.

“It was their fault,” her dad Nadim said in a statement. “I was stunned that a large food company love Pret could mislabel a sandwich and this could cause my daughter to die.”

This horrifying case highlights how careful people with allergies need to be, as do the food companies – not least because allergies own been growing in prevalence in the past few decades.

“Food allergy is on the rise and has been for some time,” says Holly Shaw, nurse adviser for Allergy UK, a charity that supports people with allergies.

Children are more likely to be affected – between 6 and 8% of children are thought to own food allergies, compared with less than 3% of adults – but numbers are growing in westernised countries, as well as places such as China.

“Certainly, as a charity, we’ve seen an increase in the number of calls we get, from adults and parents of children with suspected or confirmed allergy,” says Shaw. Certain types of allergy are more common in childhood, such as cow’s milk or egg allergy but, she says: “It is possible at any point in life to develop an allergy to something previously tolerated.”

Stephen Till, professor of allergy at King’s College London and a consultant allergist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital believe, says that an allergic reaction occurs when your immune system inappropriately recognises something foreign as a bug, and mounts an attack against it.

“You make antibodies which stick to your immune cells,” he says, “and when you get re-exposed at a later time to the allergen, those antibodies are already there and they trigger the immune cells to react.”

Allergies can own a huge impact on quality of life, and can, in rare cases such as that of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, be fatal. There is no cure for a food allergy, although there has been recent promising work involving the use of probiotics and drug treatments. The first trial dedicated to treating adults with peanut allergy is just starting at Guy’s hospital.

“There is a lot of work going on in prevention to better understand the weaning process, and there’s a lot of buzz around desensitisation,” says Adam Fox, consultant paediatric allergist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals.

Desensitisation is conducted by exposing the patient to minuscule, controlled amounts of the allergen. It’s an ongoing treatment though, rather than a cure. “When they stop having it regularly, they’re allergic again, it doesn’t change the underlying process.”

What we do know is that we are more allergic than ever. “If you ponder in terms of decades, are we seeing more food allergy now than we were 20 or 30 years ago? I ponder we can confidently tell yes,” says Fox. “If you glance at the research from the 1990s and early 2000s there is beautiful excellent data that the quantity of peanut allergy trebled in a extremely short period.”

There has also been an increase in the number of people with severe reactions showing up in hospital emergency departments.

In 2015-16, 4,482 people in England were admitted to A&E for anaphylactic shock (although not every of these will own been below to food allergy). This number has been climbing each year and it’s the same across Europe, the US and Australia, says Fox.

Why is there this rise in allergies? The truth is, nobody knows.

What are allergies

Fox doesn’t believe it is below to better diagnosis. And it won’t be below to one single thing. There own been suggestions that it could be caused by reasons ranging from a lack of vitamin D to gut health and pollution. Weaning practices could also influence food allergy, he says. “If you introduce something much earlier into the diet, then you’re less likely to become allergic to it,” he says. A 2008 study found that the prevalence of peanut allergy in Jewish children in the UK, where the advice had been to avoid peanuts, was 10 times higher than that of children in Israel, where rates are low – there, babies are often given peanut snacks.

Should parents wean their babies earlier, and introduce foods such as peanuts?

Fox says it’s a “minefield”, but he advises sticking to the Department of Health and World Health Organization’s line that promotes exclusive breastfeeding for six months before introducing other foods, “and to not delay the introduction of allergenic foods such as peanut and egg beyond that, as this may increase the risk of allergy, particularly in kids with eczema”. (Fox says there is a direct relationship between a baby having eczema and the chances of them having a food allergy.)

The adults Till sees are those whose allergies started in childhood (people are more likely to grow out of milk or egg allergies, than peanut allergies, for instance) or those with allergy that started in adolescence or adulthood.

Again, it is not clear why you can tolerate something every your life and then develop an allergy to it. It could be to do with our changing diets in recent decades.

“The commonest new onset severe food allergy I see is to shellfish, and particularly prawns,” says Till. “It’s my own observation that the types of food we eat has changed fairly a lot in recent decades as a result of changes in the food industry and supply chain.” He says we are now eating foods such as tiger prawns that we probably didn’t eat so often in the past.

He has started to see people with an allergy to lupin flour, which comes from a legume in the same family as peanuts, which is more commonly used in continental Europe but has been increasingly used in the UK.

What are allergies

Sesame – thought to own been the cause of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse’s reaction – is another growing allergen, thanks to its inclusion in products that are now mainstream, such as hummus. One problem with sesame, says Till, is: “It often doesn’t show up extremely well in our tests, so it can be hard to gauge just how allergic someone is to it.”

Fox says it’s significant to stress that deaths from food allergy are still rare. “Food allergy is not the leading cause of death of people with food allergies – it’s still a extremely remote risk,” says Fox.

“But of course you don’t desire to be that one who is incredibly unlucky, so it causes grand anxiety. The genuine challenge of managing kids with food allergy is it’s really hard to predict which of the children are going to own the bad reactions, so everybody has to act as if they might be that one.”


The Best Research Resources

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

This academy’s website provides valuable information to assist readers determine the difference between colds, allergies, and sinusitis.

A primer guide on sinusitis also provides more specific information about the chronic version of the illness. Additional resources include a «virtual allergist» that helps you to review your symptoms, as well as a database on pollen counts.

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI)

In addition to providing a comprehensive guide on sinus infections, the ACAAI website also contains a wealth of information on allergies, asthma, and immunology. The site’s useful tools include a symptom checker, a way to search for an allergist in your area, and a function that allows you to ask an allergist questions about your symptoms.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)

For allergy sufferers, the AAFA website contains an easy-to-understand primer on sinusitis.

It also provides comprehensive information on various types of allergies, including those with risk factors for sinusitis.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC website provides basic information on sinus infections and other respiratory illnesses, such as common colds, bronchitis, ear infections, flu, and sore throat. It offers guidance on how to get symptom relief for those illnesses, as well as preventative tips on practicing good hand hygiene, and a recommended immunization schedule.

U.S. National Library of Medicine

The U.S. National Library of Medicine is the world’s largest biomedical library.

As part of the National Institutes of Health, their website provides the basics on sinus infection.

What are allergies

It also contains a number of links to join you with more information on treatments, diagnostic procedures, and related issues.


Severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)

In rare cases, an allergy can lead to a severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, which can be life threatening.

This affects the whole body and usually develops within minutes of exposure to something you’re allergic to.

Signs of anaphylaxis include any of the symptoms above, as well as:

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

Read more about anaphylaxis for information about what to do if it occurs.

Sheet final reviewed: 22 November 2018
Next review due: 22 November 2021

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Dealers

Allergies to cacao (the bean that is the main ingredient in chocolate) are possible, but they're incredibly rare — so rare that they don't even show up in recent medical literature.

What are allergies

Therefore, if you've experienced food allergy symptoms after eating chocolate, you can safely assume that another ingredient in the chocolate is causing your symptoms unless testing shows otherwise.

If you do experience allergy symptoms, call your doctor as soon as possible to discuss testing. Symptoms of anaphylaxis represent an emergency; take epinephrine immediately, if available, and call for an ambulance.


Other Potential Problems

There are two other potential issues with chocolate:

  1. Drug Interactions: Rarely, chocolate may cause symptoms that resemble allergy symptoms (like skin itchiness) in people taking the common medication Prozac (fluoxetine).

    It's possible that the sensitivity to the biological chemical serotonin that seems to cause this unusual reaction can happen due to Prozac, or other similar drugs. Be certain your allergist is aware of any medications you're taking before you undergo allergy testing. This could be especially useful information if your tests are negative.

  2. Bedford B, Yu Y, Wang X, Garber EAE, Jackson LS. A Limited Survey of Dark Chocolate Bars Obtained in the United States for Undeclared Milk and Peanut Allergens.

    Journal of Food Protection.

    What are allergies

    2017;80(4):692-702. doi:10.4315/0362-028x.jfp-16-443

  3. Visioli F, Bernardini E, Poli A, Paoletti R. Chocolate and Health: A Brief Review of the Evidence. Chocolate and Health. 2012:63-75. doi:10.1007/978-88-470-2038-2_5

  4. Lopes JP, Kattan J, Doppelt A, Nowak-Węgrzyn A, Bunyavanich S. Not so sweet: True chocolate and cocoa allergy. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. 2019;7(8):2868-2871. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2019.04.023

  5. Caffeine: Contrary to favorite belief, chocolate is extremely low in caffeine: one ounce of milk chocolate contains only six milligrams of caffeine.

    In comparison, one 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 34 milligrams, and a 2-ounce double espresso can range from 45 to 100 milligrams. However, if you are highly sensitive to caffeine, chocolate may exacerbate your symptoms, and you may discover that you're better off avoiding it. Dark chocolate has far more caffeine than milk chocolate.

  6. Cederberg J, Knight S, Svenson S, Melhus H. Itch and skin rash from chocolate during fluoxetine and sertraline treatment: case report. BMC Psychiatry. 2004;4:36. Published 2004 Nov 2. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-4-36

Thanks for your feedback!

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles.

Read our editorial policy to study more about how we fact-check and hold our content precise, dependable, and trustworthy.

  • Bedford B, Yu Y, Wang X, Garber EAE, Jackson LS. A Limited Survey of Dark Chocolate Bars Obtained in the United States for Undeclared Milk and Peanut Allergens. Journal of Food Protection. 2017;80(4):692-702. doi:10.4315/0362-028x.jfp-16-443

  • Cederberg J, Knight S, Svenson S, Melhus H. Itch and skin rash from chocolate during fluoxetine and sertraline treatment: case report. BMC Psychiatry. 2004;4:36. Published 2004 Nov 2. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-4-36

  • Visioli F, Bernardini E, Poli A, Paoletti R.

    Chocolate and Health: A Brief Review of the Evidence. Chocolate and Health. 2012:63-75. doi:10.1007/978-88-470-2038-2_5

  • Lopes JP, Kattan J, Doppelt A, Nowak-Węgrzyn A, Bunyavanich S. Not so sweet: True chocolate and cocoa allergy. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. 2019;7(8):2868-2871. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2019.04.023

  • Cederberg, Jonas, et al. "Itch and Skin Rash from Chocolate During Fluoxetine and Sertraline Treatment: Case Report." BMC Psychiatry. 2004.

    4:36.

Additional Reading

  1. Cederberg, Jonas, et al. "Itch and Skin Rash from Chocolate During Fluoxetine and Sertraline Treatment: Case Report." BMC Psychiatry. 2004.

    What are allergies

    4:36.

How to Stay Healthy, Breathe Easier, and Feel Energetic This Winter

Indoor allergies, freezing weather, less sunlight — winter can make it hard to stay well mentally and physically. Discover out how to protect yourself against seasonal allergies, the winter blahs, freezing winds, comfort-eating traps, and fatigue this year.

Learn More About the Ultimate Winter Wellness Guide

Sinusitis can be a confusing thing to treat for anyone. Because a sinus infection can be so easily confused with a common freezing or an allergy, figuring out the best way to alleviate your symptoms can be difficult.

Even more challenging, a sinus infection can evolve over time from a viral infection to a bacterial infection, or even from a short-term acute infection to a long-term chronic illness.

We own provided for you the best sources of information on sinus infections to assist you rapidly define your ailment and get the best and most efficient treatment possible.

Additional Reading

  1. Cederberg, Jonas, et al. "Itch and Skin Rash from Chocolate During Fluoxetine and Sertraline Treatment: Case Report." BMC Psychiatry. 2004.

    4:36.

How to Stay Healthy, Breathe Easier, and Feel Energetic This Winter

Indoor allergies, freezing weather, less sunlight — winter can make it hard to stay well mentally and physically. Discover out how to protect yourself against seasonal allergies, the winter blahs, freezing winds, comfort-eating traps, and fatigue this year.

Learn More About the Ultimate Winter Wellness Guide

Sinusitis can be a confusing thing to treat for anyone. Because a sinus infection can be so easily confused with a common freezing or an allergy, figuring out the best way to alleviate your symptoms can be difficult.

Even more challenging, a sinus infection can evolve over time from a viral infection to a bacterial infection, or even from a short-term acute infection to a long-term chronic illness.

We own provided for you the best sources of information on sinus infections to assist you rapidly define your ailment and get the best and most efficient treatment possible.


Why You Might Own Allergy Symptoms After Eating Chocolate

One reason so numerous people experience allergy and food intolerance symptoms after eating chocolate is that chocolates often contain foods that are problematic for people.

Here are some common allergens you can discover in chocolate:

  1. Peanuts and Tree Nuts: Obviously, some chocolates are filled with peanut butter or with whole nuts.

    But even chocolates that don't include peanuts or tree nuts as ingredients can be problematic for people with peanut allergies or tree nut allergies because manufacturers that make chocolate assortments containing nuts often make every of their chocolates on the same manufacturing line. Labeling rules do not require manufacturers to mention this on food labels, so always call manufacturers before eating high-risk foods love chocolates. You can also purchase chocolate from nut-free manufacturers love Vermont Nut-Free, or glance for label indications love "manufactured in a dedicated nut-free facility."

  2. Soy: Technically, chocolate is an emulsion (a mixture of two liquids that would otherwise separate), and just love mayonnaise and shelf-stable salad dressings, it generally includes an emulsifier to hold it solid at room temperature.

    Among the most common is soy lecithin, which is problematic for numerous people with soy allergies. This should be listed clearly on food labels.

  3. Corn: Corn is incredibly hard to avoid in the industrial food supply, and chocolate is no exception. In addition to high-fructose corn syrup in some chocolate brands, some manufacturers may use corn on production lines. Be especially alert for the presence of corn in white chocolate.
  4. Wheat and Gluten: The same issues that apply to peanuts and tree nuts also affect people with wheat allergies and celiac disease.

    Filled chocolates often use flour or wheat starch as a binder, and crisped rice can be problematic for celiacs because it often includes barley malt. Gluten-free chocolatiers include Endangered Species Chocolate and Equal Exchange.

  5. Milk:Dairy allergies are extremely common, especially in children, and almost every chocolate contains at least some milk.

    What are allergies

    If you're lactose intolerant and can tolerate little amounts of dairy products, attempt bittersweet, semisweet, or dark chocolate: Those chocolates are required by law to contain a higher percentage of chocolate liquor and, therefore, will own less milk and sugar. Dairy-free chocolates are on the market from brands love Tropical Source, Amanda's Own, Premium Chocolatiers, and Chocolate Decadence.

  6. Berries: Berries are among the more common allergenic fruits. Be careful of assortments; no matter how carefully you read the legend indicating which type of chocolate is located where in the box, it's too simple for pieces to get mixed up.

Always double-check labels on anything you purchase, since manufacturing practices can change without warning.


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