9. Food allergy.J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006; 117(2 Suppl Mini-Primer):S470-5JA
Food allergy, defined as an adverse immune response to food proteins, affects as many as 6% of young children and 3% to 4% of adults. Food-induced allergic reactions are responsible for a variety of symptoms involving the skin, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory tract and might be caused by IgE-mediated and non-IgE-mediated (cellular) mechanisms. Our understanding of how food allergy represents an abrogation of normal oral tolerance is evolving. Although any food can provoke a reaction, relatively few foods are responsible for the vast majority of significant food-induced allergic reactions: milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. A systematic approach to diagnosis includes a careful history, followed by laboratory studies, elimination diets, and often food challenges to confirm a diagnosis. Many food allergens have been characterized at a molecular level, which has increased our understanding of the immunopathogenesis of food allergy and might soon lead to novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. Currently, management of food allergies consists of educating the patient to avoid ingesting the responsible allergen and to initiate therapy in case of an unintended ingestion.