Q: Is it true that food allergies to shrimp or peanuts will get worse with every accidental exposure? I had my first (quite bad) reaction to shrimp at 25 years of age, and this worries me.
Dr. Sicherer: No, it is not true. It is a common myth that allergic reactions automatically become worse with each exposure. However, the correct answer is still worrisome.
The severity of future reactions is unpredictable. It could be the same, less or more severe.
There are many factors that determine severity of a food-allergic reaction, including the type of food, the amount eaten, whether you have asthma, your state of health at the time you ingested the food, how sensitive you are, etc. Unfortunately, if you have already experienced a severe reaction, it certainly could happen again.
It is important to talk to your doctor about how to avoid the allergen(s), when and how to self-inject epinephrine and the need for emergency care in the event of an accidental ingestion.
Dr. Scott Sicherer is Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Together with Dr. Hemant Sharma, he writes “The Food Allergy Experts” column in the American Edition of Allergic Living magazine. Questions submitted below will be considered for answer in the magazine.