Photos of Common Food Allergy Symptoms

Food allergy symptoms can range from a rash, sneezing, congestion, or nausea to severe abdominal pain or life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Common reactions include:

Being aware of food allergy symptoms can help you spot reactions. This article will teach you the common reactions and what they look like.

8 Most Common Food Allergies:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy

These "big eight" allergens account for about 90% of food allergy reactions in the US.

Hives (Urticaria)

rash on arm

Dr P. Marazzi / Science Photo Library / Getty Images 

Hives (urticaria) are a common symptom of food allergies. They can appear anywhere on the body.

They can result from any food allergy. But hives are especially likely in people allergic to:

  • Peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Shellfish

When you get hives, you may first notice an itchy patch. Then bumps form and can look like a rash.

These bumps are called wheals. They have well-defined edges. They may be flesh-colored or red.

Wheals can appear, change shape, and disappear very quickly. Also, while most itch, they don't always.

To see if a red patch is urticaria, press the center of a wheal. If it's a hive, it'll turn white (called "blanching").

Hives aren't life-threatening. But they are annoying and uncomfortable.

Emergency Symptoms

Get medical help immediately if you get hives along with:

  • Swelling around your lips, face, or eyes
  • Difficulty breathing

These are symptoms of a life-threatening anaphylaxis reaction.

Eczema

This photo contains content that some people may find graphic or disturbing.

eczema skin rash

Mion / Phanie / Getty Images 

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an itchy, scaly rash. The inflamed skin can turn into dry patches that flake off.

Food allergies don't cause eczema, but eating certain foods that you're allergic to can trigger or exacerbate eczema. Eating or just touching a problem food can cause a reaction.

Common triggers include:

  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Eggs

Food allergies aren't the only possible cause—eczema can also be exacerbated by environmental irritants such as pollens or animal dander.

It's most common in babies and often improves as they get older. However, children and even adults may continue to struggle with eczema. In babies, eczema often develops on the face, cheeks, or around the mouth.

Scratching can lead to infection, and healthcare providers recommend swaddling babies or placing mitts on their hands to keep them from scratching.

Recap

Hives are itchy patches with raised edges. They're sometimes red. They aren't dangerous but can be annoying.

Eczema is an itchy, scaly rash that's flaky. It's especially common in young children.

Itchy Red Eyes (Allergic Conjunctivitis)

Allergies can cause itchy, watery, and swollen eyes. This is called allergic conjunctivitis (AC).

AC is more common in pollen allergies (hay fever) than with food. Still, food allergies can trigger it in some people.

Anaphylaxis Warning

An anaphylactic reaction can include eye symptoms. If you have itchy, swollen eyes plus other symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as trouble breathing, get emergency medical help.

Swelling of the Lips, Mouth, or Tongue (Angioedema)

woman with a swollen lip having an allergic reaction
susandaniels / Getty Images

Angioedema is swelling of the lips, mouth, or tongue. It's similar to hives but occurs under the skin.

This swelling can be a sign of anaphylaxis. Watch for other symptoms, as well.

Food allergies linked with this symptom include:

  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Milk
  • Eggs

Recap

Itchy, red eyes (allergic conjunctivitis) are more common with pollen allergies. But they're still possible with food allergies.

Angioedema (swelling of the lips, mouth, or tongue) can be a sign of anaphylaxis. Watch symptoms carefully.

Abdominal Pain

a man holding his abdomen in pain
Jan-Otto / Getty Images

Abdominal pain can occur from a food allergy. Watch for pain, vomiting, and diarrhea within two hours of eating. It often hits within minutes of ingesting a problem food.

It's easy to confuse these symptoms with those of food intolerance. A true food allergy usually involves skin and respiratory symptoms as well. So watch for abdominal pain plus other signs of food allergy.

Summary

Hives, eczema, allergic conjunctivitis, angioedema, and abdominal pain all are possible food-allergy symptoms.

Get emergency medical help if:

  • Symptoms come on suddenly
  • You have several of them
  • You have breathing problems

A Word From Verywell

Rashes and stomachaches can be caused by many conditions. If you think you might have a food allergy, talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you find out the cause of your symptoms and determine whether you are at risk of anaphylaxis.

Food Allergies Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Man
7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Food allergy.

  2. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Hives (urticaria).

  3. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Eczema (atopic dermatitis) overview.

  4. KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation. Eczema (atopic dermatitis).

  5. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Eye allergies.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Urticaria (hives) and angioedema.

  7. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Food intolerance versus food allergy.

By Jeanette Bradley
Jeanette Bradley is a noted food allergy advocate and author of the cookbook, "Food Allergy Kitchen Wizardry: 125 Recipes for People with Allergies"