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For many people, some clues to allergies are obvious and easily recognizable. Be suspicious if you or your child: Have excessive congestion with thick mucus in nose, throat or chest. Have symptoms that typically occur about 15 to 60 minutes after eating. If the allergy is extremely severe, changes can be noted in seconds. Some [...]

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Part 1: Typically Recognized Clues of Allergies

For many people, some clues to allergies are obvious and easily recognizable.

Be suspicious if you or your child:

  • Have excessive congestion with thick mucus in nose, throat or chest.
  • Have symptoms that typically occur about 15 to 60 minutes after eating. If the allergy is extremely severe, changes can be noted in seconds. Some symptoms, however, routinely take 24 to 36 hours or so before they become evident.

These include:

  • Eczema, an itchy rash. If the rash does not itch, it is not eczema. It tends to affect the arm and leg creases most often but can be in spotty areas any place on the body. Foods often cause immediate itching when they are eaten, but the rash does not occur until the next day.
  • Hives are the other common itchy rash from food allergy. These look just like mosquito bites.
  • Bed wetting or urgent need to urinate
  • Pain in area around eyes, especially upon awakening in morning.
  • Swollen lips or tingles inside the mouth or on tongue immediately or shortly after eating.

The following are some very common physical clues that are frequently missed as being caused by allergies or sensitivities to foods. Many will find it difficult to believe, but in some children and adults, these symptoms can be caused by a simple food allergy.

  • Red, itchy or watery eyes
  • Dark black, blue or red eye circles
  • Bags under the eyes
  • Wrinkles under the eyes
  • A spaced out or frightening “demonic” look to the eyes
  • A roundish or swollen face
  • Abnormally rosy cheeks
  • Itching, wiggling or rubbing of the nose, a horizontal wrinkle across the bridge of the nose caused by upward rubbing
  • Sneezing in bouts
  • A drippy nose
  • Nose, chest or ear congestion, sometimes described as a “fullness” in the head or sinuses
  • Dry, cracked lips from mouth breathing due to nose allergies
  • Redness around mouth, often caused by licking
  • A yellowish line around the outside of the lips
  • A mottled tongue with bald, island-like patches
  • A white coated tongue (often called thrush) usually means a yeast overgrowth, possibly due to excess use of antibiotics. (This also causes bloating and a red ring around the anus.)
  • Bright red or hot earlobes
  • Asthma
  • A throat-clearing cough
  • Bloating shortly after eating
  • Belching or rectal gas after eating. (What you taste is a suspect food.)
  • Bad breath despite proper oral care (Often due to milk, eggs or wheat)
  • Abdominal pain  or belly discomfort
  • Nausea or vomiting. Allergic infants have recurrent formula problems. Some young allergic children can vomit clear mucus, at will. Chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation (often due to milk and dairy) are common problems for in older children and adults.
  • Reflux (heartburn and/or belching) or bloating shortly after eating and rectal gas, both can be caused by unrecognized food allergies.
  • Leakage of bowel movements onto underwear. Grapes are one of many causes.
  • Irritable bowel, diverticulitis, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can be caused or aggravated by persistent unrecognized intestinal allergies.
  • Itchy or “crawling” feeling skin
  • Swollen skin folds over knuckles.
  • Wiggly legs
  • Tics, twitches, epilepsy or seizures
  • Painful swollen joints or arthritis
  • Muscle aches, especially at night
  • Heart beat irregularities
  • High blood pressure

Other Clues:

  • Bed wetting after the age of five.
  • Ear infections called serous otitis or fluid behind the ear drums is typically due to milk and dairy and often noted in infants and toddlers.
  • Recurrent infection is often secondary to allergies. The tissues swell, germs invade, and this can lead eventually to chronic ear, sinus and chest infections.
  • Red painful sores on inner cheeks, called aphthous ulcers or canker sores
  • Inability to speak clearly or normally. Some speak too fast or in a higher than normal pitch. Rarely, there’s a total loss of voice.
  • Excessive sleepiness such as suddenly becoming unconscious (narcolepsy) after eating or from the smell of certain foods.
  • Joint tenderness, arthritis, (consider pork, wheat, eggs and dairy)
  • Perplexing sudden inexplicable changes in behavior, such as aggression, anger, irritability, moodiness, easy crying, or sudden vulgarity.
Doris J. Rapp, M.D.
Board Certified in Pediatrics, Allergy and Environmental Medicine
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics (Emeritus) at SUNYAB.



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