• Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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9 most common food allergies you should know

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Food allergies are a growing concern for many individuals and families worldwide. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), approximately 33 million Americans are living with life-threatening food allergies, and 1 in 13 children have food allergies that can be life-threatening. Every 10 seconds, a food allergy sends a patient to the emergency room.

Food allergies can cause a range of symptoms, from mild discomfort to life-threatening reactions, and it is essential to be aware of the most common allergies.

Cow’s milk

Cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) is a common and potentially serious condition that affects approximately 2-6% of infants and young children. It is caused by an immune system reaction to one of the proteins in cow’s milk. This reaction can trigger a range of symptoms, from mild hives and itching to life-threatening anaphylaxis. CMPA is often confused with lactose intolerance, but they are two distinct conditions. Lactose intolerance is a digestive issue that occurs when the body can’t break down lactose, a sugar found in milk. In contrast, CMPA is an immune system response that can be potentially life-threatening. Managing CMPA requires a strict dairy-free diet, which can be challenging for families, especially when it comes to social gatherings and meals outside the home. However, with the right support and resources, children with CMPA can lead happy and healthy lives. Breastfeeding mothers may need to modify their diet to protect their allergic infants, and non-breastfed babies may require alternative formulas. Fortunately, most children outgrow CMPA by age three, offering a hopeful prognosis for affected families.

Eggs

Living with an egg allergy can be a daily challenge, as eggs are a common ingredient in many foods, from bread and pasta to baked goods and processed snacks. This hidden presence of eggs in various foods makes it difficult for individuals with an egg allergy to navigate menus and grocery stores, and requires constant vigilance to avoid accidental exposure.

As the second most common food allergy in children,egg allergies affect approximately 1 in 50 kids under the age of 18. Fortunately, most children outgrow egg allergies by age 16, with 68% experiencing remission. The primary reason behind egg allergies are proteins found in egg whites, making egg white allergies more common than egg yolk allergies.

Managing an egg allergy requires a strict egg-free diet, but not all egg-containing foods may need to be avoided. Research shows that about 67% of children with egg allergies can tolerate baked goods containing eggs, as the heat from cooking can alter the proteins and reduce their allergenicity.

However, this approach should be undertaken with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as consuming eggs when allergic can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening reactions.

Tree nuts

Tree nut allergies are a common food allergy affecting up to 3% of people worldwide. These allergies involve nuts and seeds that come from trees, such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts. Individuals with a tree nut allergy are often advised to avoid all tree nuts and products containing them, like nut butters and oils, as being allergic to one type increases the risk of reacting to others. While a 2021 study suggests that some people allergic to one type of nut may tolerate others, it’s crucial to manage the allergy under medical supervision, potentially through strategies like oral immunotherapy. Notably, tree nut allergies are typically lifelong, with less than 10% of people outgrowing them.

Tree nuts are different from peanuts, which are legumes related to beans and peas and grow underground, while tree nuts grow on trees. Tree nut allergies are the second most common cause of emergency room visits due to food allergies and are responsible for half of anaphylaxis-related deaths.

Peanuts

Peanut allergies, like tree nut allergies, are very common and can cause severe and potentially fatal reactions. Although peanuts are legumes, different from tree nuts, up to 40% of people with peanut allergies are also allergic to at least one tree nut.

Fortunately, about 20% of children with peanut allergies outgrow the condition as they reach their teenage years. The exact cause of peanut allergies is unknown, but a family history of the allergy may increase the risk. Managing peanut allergies involves strict avoidance of peanuts and peanut-containing products.

Shellfish

Shellfish allergy is the most common food allergy in adults, affecting millions of people worldwide.

Unlike other food allergies that typically present in childhood, shellfish allergy often appears in adulthood, sometimes without warning. It is triggered by proteins in shellfish such as shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, oysters, scallops, snails, and octopus. Shellfish allergy is a lifelong condition, requiring ongoing vigilance to avoid allergic reactions. Symptoms can occur rapidly after consuming shellfish, and include digestive disturbances such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach pain. In addition to consuming shellfish, inhaling vapours from cooking shellfish can also trigger allergic reactions. This means that individuals with shellfish allergy need to be mindful not only of what they eat, but also of their environment. Managing shellfish allergy requires strict dietary management and precautionary measures. This includes carefully reading food labels, asking questions about ingredients and food preparation, and carrying an EpiPen or other emergency medication.

Fish

Fish allergy is the most common adult-onset allergy, with up to 40% of affected individuals reporting their first symptoms later in life. An individual allergic to one type of fish, is very likely to be allergic to others due to the similarity in allergenic proteins among various fish species. Common fish species responsible for this allergy include tuna, salmon, cod, and catfish, but reactions can occur with any of the 20,000 fish species.
Fish allergies can cause severe reactions, including vomiting, diarrhoea, and, in rare cases, anaphylaxis, which is potentially life-threatening. It is important to note that fish allergies are biologically different from shellfish allergies, so it is possible to be allergic to one and not the other.

Wheat

Wheat allergy is a common childhood allergy that often disappears by age ten, but its impact can be significant. When a person with a wheat allergy consumes wheat, their immune system goes into overdrive, reacting to the proteins found in this grain. Unlike celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, which specifically target gluten, a wheat allergy requires a strict avoidance of all forms of wheat.This can be a challenging task, given wheat’s widespread use in foods worldwide. However, the growing availability of wheat-free alternatives like corn and oats offer a silver lining. With more options than ever before, managing a wheat allergy is becoming increasingly manageable.
Symptoms of a wheat allergy can range from mild to severe, making strict dietary management crucial to preventing allergic reactions.

Soybean

Soybean allergy is a common childhood allergy that often comes hand-in-hand with other food allergies, particularly peanuts, as both are legumes. In fact, research shows that a significant majority of children with soy allergies also have peanut allergies. This allergy is typically triggered by proteins in soybeans or soy-based products and affects up to 0.5% of children, with infants under 3 years old being most commonly affected. The good news is that about 70% of affected children outgrow the allergy over time. However, some infants allergic to cow’s milk may also react to soy. Symptoms of soy allergy can range from mild reactions like an itchy mouth and runny nose to more severe manifestations like rash, asthma, or even anaphylaxis in rare cases. As with other allergies, complete avoidance of soy is the primary treatment. But with the growing availability of soy-free alternatives, a soybean allergy is becoming increasingly manageable.

Sesame

Sesame is a common ingredient in many foods, but it can be dangerous for people with allergies. Sesame has been recognised as a major allergen, and it is now required to be listed on food labels. Some people with peanut or tree nut allergies may also be allergic to sesame, so it is important to be aware of this risk. To stay safe, people with sesame allergies should always check food labels and ask questions if they are unsure.