What Happens When You Eat Something You’re Allergic To

Food allergies can be severe and urgent health concerns. As many as 32 million Americans suffer from different kinds of food allergies that manifest in various ways. However, many confuse allergic responses with food intolerance. Here’s how to know if you’re allergic to what you just ate.

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Food intolerance occurs if your body can’t tolerate particular food types. A common example is lactose intolerance, where the body can’t process lactose—sugar from dairy. Intolerance causes discomfort but isn’t life-threatening.

On the other hand, a food allergy evokes a strong immune system response which can jeopardize your life. You should look for the following signs to determine if you ate something you shouldn’t have.


Look for raised pink bumps on your skin if you suspect a milder allergic reaction. Allergy hives resemble itchy bug bites and occur within minutes to a couple of hours after eating food.

Tightening Throat

Feeling that your throat is swelling and having trouble swallowing indicates an allergic response. Allergies cause inflammation of the esophagus and tighten the throat. Consult emergency services immediately if you have problems breathing.


If the body marks a protein as repulsive, it will release histamines. This immune response constricts the airways and makes you compulsively wheeze.

Swollen Tongue

If your tongue starts swelling after eating a particular food, that may indicate an allergic reaction. Although not as dangerous as the swelling throat, it may affect swallowing. Luckily, this symptom is commonly quickly resolved by itself.


Anaphylaxis is the most dangerous allergic reaction and is potentially life-threatening. It’s a combination of multiple allergic symptoms, including trouble breathing, a fast heartbeat, and losing consciousness. Call a medical professional immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. People with food allergies usually carry an EpiPen for emergencies from accidental exposure.

When to Call an Ambulance

Less intense allergic reactions can be soothed with over-the-counter medication at home. However, if you notice any of these symptoms of more serious concern, call for medical help immediately.

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