Do Food Allergy Reactions Get Worse With Each Exposure?

Published: September 19, 2019
Do Food Allergy Reactions Worsen With Each Exposure?Photo: Getty

Q: Is it true that food allergic reactions to shrimp or other allergens will get worse with every unintended exposure? I had a severe reaction to shrimp at 25 years old. So the idea of subsequent and worse reactions alarms me.

Dr. Sicherer: No, it is not true. It has become a common myth that food-allergic reactions will automatically become worse with every exposure. However, the correct answer to this question is still worrisome.

The severity of future reactions is not predictable. A subsequent reaction could be the same level of seriousness, or it could be less severe or more severe.

Many Factors Influence Allergic Reaction Severity

There are many factors that determine severity of a food-allergic reaction, including the type of food, the amount of the allergen that’s consumed, 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 review with your doctor how to manage allergen avoidance. As well, review when and how to self-administer epinephrine, plus the need for emergency care in the event of an accidental ingestion.

Dr. Scott Sicherer is a practicing allergist, clinical researcher and professor of pediatrics. He is Chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. He’s also the author of Food Allergies: A Complete Guide for Eating When Your Life Depends On It.

Related: Can a child have a food allergy that’s not severe?

Submit a Question