Understanding the Most Common Food Allergies

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Understanding the Most Common Food Allergies

Food allergies occur when your immune system mistakes certain proteins found in various foods for toxins. This overreaction results in symptoms that may range from digestive upset to life-threatening anaphylaxis.

Although any food can trigger an allergic response, researchers have identified nine foods that cause 90% of all food allergies. Our team at Allergy A.R.T.S. in Amarillo, Texas, is happy to provide information regarding these common triggers.

1. Peanuts and tree nuts

Peanuts and tree nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts, are among the most common food allergens. Even a tiny amount of these allergens can cause severe reactions in susceptible individuals.

Symptoms range from mild itching and hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Strict avoidance is crucial for those with nut allergies, and careful reading of food labels is necessary to prevent accidental exposure.

Notably, despite their name, peanuts are actually legumes grown and harvested from the ground. Peanut allergies can range from mild to severe enough that even touching a pan containing trace amounts of peanut oil can cause an allergic reaction.

2. Milk and dairy products

A milk allergy is more common in children but can persist into adulthood. Symptoms include skin rashes, digestive issues, wheezing, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis.

Fortunately, many non-dairy alternatives are available, making it easier for individuals to avoid milk and its derivatives.

3. Eggs

Egg allergies are often prevalent in young children and commonly outgrown by age 5. However, in some cases, it may persist into adulthood. The proteins found in egg whites are the usual culprits for allergic reactions.

Symptoms may range from mild skin rashes and nasal congestion to digestive problems and respiratory distress. Checking labels is crucial when avoiding eggs since they are common ingredients in baked goods, mayonnaise, and certain sauces.

4. Wheat

Wheat allergies are relatively common, particularly in children. Reactions can occur within minutes to hours after consuming wheat or wheat-based products. Symptoms include hives, swelling, itching, difficulty breathing, and sometimes anaphylaxis.

Individuals with wheat allergies must avoid bread, pasta, cereals, and other wheat-containing products. Instead, substitute alternative grains like rice, corn, and quinoa.

5. Shellfish and fish

Shellfish allergies are more prevalent in adults and are divided into two categories: crustaceans (e.g., shrimp, lobster, crab) and mollusks (e.g., clams, mussels, oysters).

Generally, if you’re allergic to one type of fish, you’re allergic to other fish. Thus, if you reacted to salmon or tuna, you should also avoid trout, bass, cod, etc. Interestingly, having a shellfish allergy doesn’t mean you’re allergic to fish or vice versa.   

Allergic reactions to shellfish and fish can be severe, including respiratory distress, gastrointestinal symptoms, and anaphylaxis. 

6. Soybeans and sesame seeds

Soybean allergies usually appear in childhood and often occur alongside peanut allergies, which makes sense because both are legumes.

Sesame is the newest major allergen on the FDA’s label warning list, added in 2023 because reactions tend to be severe, including anaphylaxis. Check food labels carefully since sesame seeds are often found in humus, flour, oil, and other everyday products. Items manufactured before 2023 will not include warning labels.

7. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and certain spices

While not part of the top nine most common allergies, some individuals with pollen allergies also experience allergic reactions (cross-reactivity) to certain foods, namely fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. For instance, if you’re allergic to certain grasses, you may also experience an allergic reaction to melons or uncooked zucchini.

Diagnosing and managing food allergies

If you suspect a food allergy, seeking medical care for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan is essential.

Diagnostic and other services at Allergy A.R.T.S. include skin prick tests, blood tests, or closely supervised oral food challenges to identify specific allergens.

Once diagnosed, your provider creates a treatment strategy that may include strict avoidance, using an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) as necessary, or immunotherapy to reduce your sensitivity to specific allergens.

Schedule your evaluation at Allergy A.R.T.S. today by calling the office or requesting an appointment online.