Food allergies can be a tough pill to swallow. Many begin in childhood and can continue through your life, causing allergic reactions that range from mildly inconvenient to potentially deadly. Many of the most common allergens are also common in our daily lives – they line store shelves, hide in common food items, and even show up in some seriously surprising places.
To make things worse, food allergies are on the rise. Experts aren’t sure why more children and adults are experiencing food allergies than ever before, but they are sure that a few common foods are the main culprits. Here are the top five.
Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children and adults. It’s typically a lifelong allergy; according to experts, only about 20% of children will outgrow a peanut allergy in adulthood.
It’s also the most common food allergy to cause anaphylaxis, a severe and life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention. Other symptoms of peanut allergy may include hives or skin rashes, itching or tingling in the mouth and throat, digestive problems, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Even a small amount of peanut exposure can trigger serious reactions in some patients – a problem that is compounded by the fact that peanuts are a common (and often hidden) ingredient in foods, candies, and sauces.
Cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in infants and young children. Most children will outgrow a milk allergy by the age of 5, though some will carry the allergy into adulthood.
If you are allergic to milk, your body overreacts to milk proteins like casein and whey, causing allergy symptoms. Symptoms can include digestive upset, skin rashes or hives, itching or tingling, wheezing, shortness of breath, and anaphylaxis.
It’s important to note that a milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance. Patients that are lactose intolerant cannot digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy products, which causes gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating and diarrhea. Lactose intolerance cannot cause anaphylaxis or other allergy-specific symptoms.
Eggs are one of the most common food allergies in children. Patients may have reactions to the proteins in egg whites, egg yolks, or both; it’s recommended to avoid eating eggs entirely if you have an egg allergy. The most common symptoms include digestive issues (like cramps or vomiting) and skin rashes. In rare cases, anaphylaxis can occur.
Like other food allergens, eggs can be difficult to avoid. They are a hidden ingredient in many common foods and recipes, and cross-contamination can be a factor. The good news is, most children outgrow an allergy to eggs by early adolescence.
A wheat allergy occurs when your immune system overreacts to one of several proteins found in wheat. Wheat allergy is more common in children than adults, and most will outgrow the condition by the teenage years.
Wheat allergy causes the typical allergy symptoms, including digestive issues, skin rashes or hives, itching or tingling, trouble breathing, wheezing, and anaphylaxis. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and usually occur within 2-3 hours after exposure.
Wheat allergy is not the same as celiac disease, though the two are often mistaken. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an adverse digestive response to gluten, a protein found in wheat. Celiac disease cannot cause allergy symptoms or anaphylaxis.
Shellfish allergy is the most common food allergy in adults, although it can begin in childhood. Shellfish allergies are typically lifelong and can be severe. Symptoms can include hives, vomiting, swelling, and anaphylaxis, and can be triggered by ingestion or, in rare cases, by exposure through the skin or airways.
If you have a shellfish allergy, your immune system overreacts to proteins found in certain marine animals. These can include crustaceans (shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and prawns) and mollusks (clams, scallops, oysters, mussels, octopus, etc.). Crustaceans, and shrimp, are the most common culprit of shellfish allergy.