Photos of Common Food Allergy Symptoms

Food allergy symptoms can affect much of your body. That includes your skin, stomach, airway, and eyes. 

Symptoms can range from minor (a rash or patch of dry skin) to severe and life-threatening (anaphylaxis).

Common reactions include:

  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Itchy, red eyes (allergic conjunctivitis)
  • Swollen lips
  • Abdominal pain

Being aware of food allergy symptoms makes you better able to 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.

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 reaction called anaphylaxis.

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 often caused by food allergies. Inflamed skin turns into dry patches that flake off. It's very common in babies.

Eating or just touching a problem food can cause eczema. Common triggers include:

  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Eggs

Food allergies aren't the only possible cause. Eczema is sometimes triggered by skincare products or irritants in the air, such as cat dander.

In babies, eczema often develops on the face, cheeks, or around the mouth. Healthcare providers recommend swaddling to keep babies from scratching, which can lead to infection.

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 this symptom. 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:

  • Berries
  • 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.

If symptoms come on suddenly, you have several of them, and you have breathing problems, get emergency medical help.

A Word From Verywell

Not every rash or stomach ache points to a food allergy. These symptoms can be caused by many conditions.

If occasional symptoms make you suspect a food allergy, talk to your healthcare provider. They can run tests to see what's bothering you.

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
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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). Updated June 11, 2018.

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

  4. KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation. Eczema (atopic dermatitis). Updated September 2019.

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

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Urticaria (hives) and angioedema. Updated April 22, 2020.

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