How to Test for Food Allergies: A Guide to Finding Answers to Your Symptoms

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Published:  April 9, 2024

With 33 million Americans living with food allergies, it’s not unusual to question whether your post-meal symptoms could be part of a bigger problem. If you’re experiencing symptoms like hives, digestive discomfort, or even respiratory issues after meals, you might be on the path to uncovering a food allergy. 

What is a Food Allergy?

At its core, a food allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to proteins found in food, mistakenly identified as harmful. This immune misstep triggers a chain reaction, releasing substances such as histamine and prostaglandins that lead to the symptoms many are all too familiar with.

How Does a Food Allergy Differ from a Food Intolerance?

While both can cause discomfort, food intolerances are more about digestion than immune response, lacking the potentially life-threatening edge that allergies can have. Symptoms like bloating, headaches, or indigestion, while unpleasant, don’t carry the same risks as an allergic reaction, which can escalate to anaphylaxis.


Food allergies can cause either immediate or chronic symptoms ranging from mild to severe, including:

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anaphylaxis, in severe cases

Most Common Allergens

While there are over 170 foods that can cause allergic reactions, the most common food allergies are often referred to as the “Big Nine.” They include:

  1. Peanuts
  2. Cow’s Milk
  3. Eggs
  4. Soy
  5. Wheat
  6. Shellfish
  7. Tree nuts
  8. Sesame
  9. Fish

Testing for Food Allergies

Food allergy testing begins with a detailed medical history, including previous reactions to foods and family history, to assess risk factors. Diagnostic testing may involve:

Skin Prick-puncture Testing

Small amounts of suspected food allergens are placed on the skin, which is then pricked to allow the allergen to enter just below the surface. A positive reaction typically appears as a raised bump.

ImmunoCAP Lab Testing

This blood test measures the amount of IgE antibodies to specific foods, helping to identify potential food allergies without the need for direct exposure.

Once diagnosed, the primary treatment is strict avoidance of the identified allergens. Your allergist will also develop a food allergy action plan, which may include emergency treatments like epinephrine in case of accidental exposure.

Get Tested for Food Allergies at Impact Medical

Navigating food allergies can be challenging, but with the help of an allergist at Impact Medical, it’s possible to manage them effectively. Click here to schedule a consultation today and begin your journey to a diagnosis and treatment plan.