Food Allergies

A parent and child smile at each other while sitting at the kitchen table.

Living with a food allergy can be stressful, especially when you need to avoid foods or get anxious about eating. We offer testing, treatment and support for managing food allergies and related conditions.

Burghardt Food Allergy Center

OHSU’s Burghardt Food Allergy Center is the first and only center in the Pacific Northwest that treats food allergies. You’ll find:

  • Expert care and support in one place.
  • A team approach to complex food allergies.
  • Full evaluations to diagnose food allergies and address other possible causes of symptoms.
  • Immunotherapy treatments that can give you extra protection.
  • Care coordinated with other OHSU specialists:

Learn more about the Burghardt Food Allergy Center, which you'll find inside the OHSU Allergy and Clinical Immunology Clinic, Marquam Hill.

Understanding food allergies

You have a food allergy if your immune system treats a food or ingredient as a threat. For you, this food or ingredient is an allergen. Your immune system responds with an allergic reaction.

The nine foods most likely to cause allergic reactions are, in order:

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

Allergic reactions and their symptoms depend on the type of food allergy.

Emergency care for food allergies

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room for a severe allergic reaction:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Swelling throat, tongue or lips
  • Vomiting or diarrhea with a rash
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Feeling dizzy or passing out

For patients

Ask your provider for a referral.

Questions: 503-494-4300


Burghardt Food Allergy Center
OHSU Allergy and Clinical Immunology Clinic, Marquam Hill
Physicians Pavilion
3270 S.W. Pavilion Loop
Portland, OR 97239

OHSU Allergy and Clinical Immunology Clinic, Beaverton
15700 S.W. Greystone Court
Beaverton, OR 97006

Free parking for patients and visitors

For providers

IgE-mediated food allergy

What it is: Your body makes antibodies, or proteins, called immunoglobin E (IgE), in response to a new food or ingredient. The next time you encounter the food or ingredient, the IgE antibodies set off your immune system. This causes an allergic reaction, usually within one to two hours. It’s possible to have a reaction up to eight hours later.

Who’s affected: About 4% of U.S. children and adults have IgE-mediated food allergies. Most allergies appear in early childhood, but they can appear at any age.


  • Hives
  • Swelling in the face, throat or other body parts
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

If your symptoms are:

  • Mild: Take an antihistamine (Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin). Symptoms usually go away within a day.
  • Sudden and severe, with trouble breathing: Get emergency care. Symptoms can take a few days to go away.

Diagnosis: We’ll talk with you about your history of symptoms. This is our best tool for diagnosing a food allergy. We may do a skin-prick or blood test to confirm the diagnosis. Our doctors and nurses are trained to help children and adults through this process.

If needed, we may do a food challenge in our clinic, exposing you to the food in small steps.

Food protein-induced enterocolitis (FPIES)

What it is: A reaction to a food protein that causes the intestines to swell (inflammation). Symptoms usually appear one to four hours after eating.

Who’s affected: FPIES affects mostly babies and children under 5. It can affect adults.

Symptoms in babies and children:

  • Repeated or severe vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Feeling weak and tired
  • Loss of color
  • In some cases, a drop in blood pressure

Symptoms in adults:

  • Diarrhea one to four hours after eating (delayed diarrhea)
  • Cramplike pain in the belly

If your symptoms are:

  • Mild:  Drink fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Severe: Get medical care.

Evaluation: We may do tests to see if something else is causing symptoms. We may do a food challenge in our clinic, exposing you to the food in small steps.

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE)

What it is: A chronic (ongoing) condition that damages the esophagus, the food pipe that connects the throat and stomach. In this condition, white blood cells called eosinophils build up inside the esophagus. This can hurt the tissue or cause it to swell.

Who’s affected: You are more likely to develop EoE if you have:

  • Food or seasonal allergies
  • Acid reflux (when stomach acid rises into the esophagus)


  • Trouble swallowing
  • Food getting stuck in the esophagus
  • Chest pain or heartburn
  • Vomiting
  • Slow growth or slow weight gain in children

If your symptoms are:

  • Mild: We may have you try a special diet or medication.
  • Serious: We may do a procedure that stretches your esophagus.

Evaluation: We may do blood tests. You may see a gastroenterologist, a digestive-system doctor, to:

  • Look at your esophagus in a procedure called an upper endoscopy. It uses a tiny camera at the end of a flexible tube.
  • Do a biopsy. During the endoscopy, the doctor takes out a bit of tissue for study.

Oral allergy syndrome (pollen-food allergy syndrome

What it is: The immune system reacts to nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables that have proteins similar to pollen proteins. People with this allergy can usually eat the foods cooked with no symptoms.

Who’s affected: People with pollen allergies.


  • Itchy or tingly mouth or throat
  • In some cases:
    • Rash or redness
    • Swelling in the face
    • Vomiting

If your symptoms are:

  • Mild: You usually don’t need treatment.
  • Serious: You may need to carry epinephrine (EpiPen).

Evaluation: We do a skin-prick or blood test to confirm a pollen allergy.

Testing and treatment

Food challenges

These test whether you’re allergic to a food or ingredient. 

How it works: You eat a tiny bit of an allergen. If you have no symptoms after 10 to 15 minutes, we give you bigger amounts until you reach a standard portion. A nurse will be present to stop the challenge and treat you if you have symptoms.

Food avoidance (nutrition therapy)

We work with you on a plan to:

  • Avoid allergic reactions.
  • Treat reactions if they happen.
  • Help you understand which foods and ingredients are safe for you.
  • Make sure you’re getting proper nutrition.

Immunotherapy for IgE-mediated food allergy

We use food allergen immunotherapy to help protect you if you’re accidentally exposed to something you’re allergic to. You still need to avoid foods that cause symptoms.

How it works: Immunotherapy helps you build tolerance to a food or ingredient by exposing you to tiny amounts over time. You eat bigger amounts until you can have some of the allergen with milder reactions. This is called your maintenance dose.

You’ll take your maintenance dose daily for at least a year. Then we’ll check whether you need to adjust it.

Immunotherapy has limits:

  • It won’t prevent allergic reactions.
  • It does not work for every food allergy.
  • You may still need to carry emergency medications.
  • We don’t use it if you recently had a severe reaction.

You’ll take your doses with a member of our team present in case of a serious reaction. Until we find your maintenance dose, you’ll eat the food in our clinic with a team member who can respond to a serious reaction.


Our team

Director, Burghardt Food Allergy Center