8 Common Food Allergies

Food allergies affect about 5 percent of adults and 8 percent of children, so you probably know more than one person with a food allergy. Here’s something you may not know: most food allergies are caused by one of only eight foods. Any food can cause an allergy, but these eight foods account for 90 percent of food allergies.

A food allergy is a condition in which foods trigger an abnormal immune response within the body. If you’re allergic to a certain food, your immune system wrongly identifies some of the proteins in that food as harmful and launches a defense that includes releasing chemicals like histamine. Allergic reactions to food may include swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, or an itchy rash. Sometimes, a food allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. So, which are the eight most common allergens?

Cows milk allergies usually only affect kids under three years of age. It’s seen in about 2-3 percent of babies and toddlers, but most kids outgrow it. Some children have symptoms like swelling, rashes, hives, vomiting, and sometimes even anaphylaxis. Other children have symptoms like vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. The reaction depends on the type of milk allergy. Children with milk allergies must avoid all milk-based products, including milk, milk powder, cheese, butter, margarine, yogurt, cream, and ice cream.

Most kids outgrow egg allergies by the time they turn 16. Symptoms include digestive issues, skin reactions, respiratory problems, and, rarely, anaphylaxis. It’s possible to be allergic to either the egg whites or the egg yolks while not being allergic to the other, and an egg white allergy is more common. An egg-free diet is the best way to combat an egg allergy, but some people can tolerate eggs in baked goods. In fact, some research suggests that introducing baked goods that contain eggs into the diet can help a child outgrow the allergy. It’s very important to talk to your allergist before trying this, though.

Tree nut allergies affect about 1 percent of the population of the U. Even if you’re only allergic to one kind of tree nut, it’s advisable to avoid them all, as being allergic to one kind raises your risk of developing an allergy to another kind. Tree nuts include Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts. They can be very serious, and people with tree nut allergies are advised to carry epi-pens at all times.

Peanut allergies are common, severe, and potentially fatal. About 4-8 percent of kids and 1-2 percent of adults are allergic to peanuts, and about 15-22 percent of kids outgrow their peanut allergy in their teenage years. As with tree nuts, people with peanut allergies should carry an epi-pen and avoid all peanuts and peanut-containing products.

A shellfish allergy can be triggered simply by breathing in shellfish fumes. A true shellfish allergy can sometimes be hard to distinguish from a reaction to contaminants of seafood because the symptoms for both are digestive issues. Shellfish include shrimp, prawns, crayfish, lobster, squid, and scallops, and people don’t grow out of shellfish allergies.

Kids with wheat allergies usually outgrow them by age 10. Like other allergies, a wheat allergy can cause digestive distress, skin reactions, and sometimes anaphylaxis. It’s different from a gluten-sensitivity, primarily because wheat allergies can be fatal. Treatment is a wheat-free diet, but gluten from other grains is usually fine.

About 4 percent of kids have soy allergies. About 70 percent of these kids outgrow the allergy, usually by age 3. Symptoms include an itchy, tingly mouth, runny nose, rash, asthma, or breathing difficulties, and in rare cases, soy allergies can cause anaphylaxis. If your child has a soy allergy, it’s important to read labels, because many products contain soy.

Fish allergies affect about 2 percent of adults. It’s not uncommon for a fish allergy to appear later in life, and about 40 percent of people with fish allergies develop the allergy as an adult. Symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, but anaphylaxis can also occur and fish allergies are potentially fatal. Because of this, it’s recommended that people with fish allergies carry an epi-pen.

Do you think you or your child may be allergic to one of these foods? When you enlist the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist, you can be confident that your doctor will help you find the solutions you need to manage your allergies. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all of our physicians are board-certified in allergy and immunology and can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about our available services.