What are the Most Common Food Allergies?

A. B. Kelsey

Food allergies are a growing problem in developed and developing countries. Although people can be allergic to any kind of food, some foods are more likely to trigger allergic reactions than others. The following foods are responsible for a majority of the food allergies in the United States.

Wheat allergies are common, especially in children.
Wheat allergies are common, especially in children.

One of the most common food allergies in American children is cow’s milk. A milk allergy is typically directed against the milk proteins, particularly whey and casein. Most kids will outgrow a milk allergy by the time they are five years old.

A bottle of milk. Milk allergies are often caused by casein or whey.
A bottle of milk. Milk allergies are often caused by casein or whey.

Eggs are another common food allergy. While most of the egg allergies are directed towards the protein in the egg white, some individuals are allergic to the egg yolk and some people are allergic to both. A majority of children will outgrow an egg allergy by age five, but they will have an increased risk of developing asthma and nasal allergies as they get older.

Allergies to shellfish, like oysters, are common.
Allergies to shellfish, like oysters, are common.

Soy is another one of the common food allergies that are more typical in children than in adults. Soy allergies are usually outgrown at a young age, and will rarely cause a life-threatening reaction. Wheat allergies, on the other hand, can cause painful allergic reactions in both children and adults. Although kids will typically outgrow this allergy at an early age, those who develop a wheat allergy as an adult are stuck with it for the rest of their lives.

Allergies to tree nuts, like walnuts, are one of the most common types of allergies.
Allergies to tree nuts, like walnuts, are one of the most common types of allergies.

Peanut allergies are the leading cause of food-related deaths. Peanut proteins seem to be very adept at provoking some people’s immune systems into a lethal attack. Because only a few children outgrow a peanut allergy, it is one of the most common food allergies seen in adults. Peanuts are actually a legume, so many people with peanut allergies can eat tree nuts such as pecans and walnuts. Tree nut allergies can also be severe, however, and are again less likely to be outgrown than other common food allergies such as soy, eggs and milk. In addition, individuals who are allergic to one kind of tree nut are highly likely to be allergic to other tree nuts.

Food allergies may manifest as hives.
Food allergies may manifest as hives.

Seafood allergies include both fish and shellfish. Children are not likely to outgrow these allergies, so it is another common allergy in American adults. An allergic reaction to seafood can be quite severe, even causing potentially life-threatening reactions. A majority of people who are allergic to shellfish are not allergic to fish and vice versa. However, people who allergic to one kind of shellfish have a high risk of being allergic to other shellfish.

Food allergies may manifest as skin rashes.
Food allergies may manifest as skin rashes.

All of these common food allergies cause people to have an allergic reaction when their immune systems overreact to the proteins in the food. Common signs of a food allergy include a rash, stuffy nose, sneezing, itching or watery eyes, hives, vomiting and red, itchy skin. More severe symptoms include a tightening in the throat, hoarseness and wheezing.

Itching of the face, mouth, neck and throat are common symptoms of a food allergy.
Itching of the face, mouth, neck and throat are common symptoms of a food allergy.

Some individuals can even have an allergic reaction that involves more than one body systems. This reaction is called anaphylaxis, and it can cause the tongue or throat to swell, airways to constrict, blood pressure to drop suddenly and a loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis can be fatal if not treated very quickly.

Eggs are a common food allergy.
Eggs are a common food allergy.

If someone is allergic to a certain food, then this food needs to be avoided at all times. Although this might sound simple, many of the common food allergens are hidden in other ingredients. It is critical for people with food allergies to become experts at reading food labels. The FDA requires manufacturers of packaged foods to list on the label whether the product contains any of the common food allergies listed in this article.

Sneezing is one common symptom of a food allergy.
Sneezing is one common symptom of a food allergy.
Common food allergies include itchy, watery eyes and rash.
Common food allergies include itchy, watery eyes and rash.
Peanut allergies are the leading cause of food-related deaths.
Peanut allergies are the leading cause of food-related deaths.

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