A food allergy is an immune system response that’s triggered by eating certain foods.
Symptoms experienced can include itching and tingling in the mouth, hives, runny nose, sneezing, itching of the eyes, and stomach cramps.
Although this is less common, people who experience a severe reaction to a food-provided allergen may go into anaphylactic shock and find it difficult to breathe.
When this occurs immediate medical attention is necessary because anaphylaxis can kill.
Food allergies are very common. Around 5% of adults and 8% of children are affected. Any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction, but some foods present a greater risk than others.
Shellfish allergy is quite common. It occurs when your body attacks the proteins provided by shrimp, crab, lobster, and other aquatic crustaceans.
Although it’s possible to be allergic to a single type of shellfish, most people who eat one type of shellfish and experience an allergic reaction discover they are allergic to other types of shellfish too.
Shellfish allergy can be severe and some people who are afflicted with it can even experience a reaction to the vapours of shellfish being cooked.
Around 2% of adults are affected by fish allergies and although fish allergies and shellfish allergies are often grouped together under the umbrella term “Seafood Allergy“, just because people are allergic to shellfish it does not mean they have an increased likelihood of being allergic to fish.
Unlike a lot of other food allergies, fish allergy often develops later in life and around 40% of sufferers become afflicted with the problem during their adult years.
Egg allergy is more common during childhood, but around 50% of children who experience the problem are free of it by the time they reach the age of 3.
The reaction is actually caused by the egg proteins ovomucoid, ovalbumin, and conalbumin.
When eggs are cooked it destroys some of the allergens, but not others. For this reason, some sufferers only experience a reaction to raw eggs.
Some people may also experience a reaction because they are allergic to chicken or turkey. When this happens it’s known as bird-egg syndrome.
4. Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk allergy is more prevalent during infancy. It’s one of the most common childhood allergies and around 2-3% of children have this problem during their first year of life.
Fortunately, around 90% of children outgrow it, so cow’s milk allergy is not common in adults.
When babies have this allergy, their mothers may have to remove cow’s milk from their diet before attempting breastfeeding, otherwise the allergens may be passed on via their milk.
5. Tree Nuts
Tree nut allergy is usually lifelong. The nuts that are most likely to cause problems are cashews, walnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds.
When people are allergic to one type of tree nut they are generally advised to avoid tree nuts in general because people who are allergic to one kind are more likely to develop an allergy to other kinds and reactions can be very severe.
Tree nut allergies cause around 50% of anaphylaxis-related deaths.
Like tree nuts, peanuts are capable of causing severe and potentially fatal reactions.
The two conditions are not the same because peanuts are classed as a legume. However, people who are allergic to peanuts often discover they react badly to tree nuts as well.
It’s unclear why people develop an allergy to peanuts, but it’s thought the problem may be hereditary. Fortunately, around 12-22% of children who have this problem find they become free of it during their teenage years.
Some people experience an allergic reaction to fruit that typically manifests itself as inching and/or burning of the lips, mouth, and throat.
The reaction usually occurs within just a few minutes or eating fruit and is generally short-lived. It’s most common with raw fruit, is the result of a condition called pollen-food syndrome, and only affects people who are allergic to pollen.
Wheat allergy is quite common and can be especially prevalent among babies. Wheat contains several allergens, but the main one is called gliadin and it’s found it the gluten.
For this reason, people who have wheat allergies are often told to switch to a gluten-free diet. The condition is often mistaken for celiac disease because both can present similar digestive symptoms.
Soy allergies are most commonly seen in young children, but around 70% of children outgrow it.
The symptoms of soy allergy are very similar to those experienced by people who are allergic to cow’s milk and it’s not unheard of for people to have both allergies at the same time.
It’s unclear how many people have a sesame allergy, but statistics suggest the prevalence of the condition has increased significantly since the turn of the century.
Levels of sensitivity can vary greatly from one person to the next and, at its most severe, sesame allergy presents the risk of anaphylactic shock.
To make matters worse, sesame extracts are added to many foods. People who have this allergy are sometimes advised to carry a epinephrine auto-injector to act as a first-line treatment should the worst come to the worst.
Rice allergy is a reaction to the proteins in rice. People who have this problem can also have a reaction to inhaling the steam produced by cooking rice.
This allergy seems to be most prevalent in China, Korea, and Japan, but the inhabitants of those countries consume more rice than people living in many other countries of the world, so perhaps that’s not so surprising.
For a lot of vegetarians, Quorn products are often a valued source of protein and many non-vegetarians consume corn products as well.
However, Quorn contains a patented ingredient called Mycoprotein that provides protein taken from a species of fungus (fusarium venenatum) and people who are allergic to it can experience severe reactions.
Fortunately, such intolerances are rare, but many Quorn products also contain egg, milk, and gluten.
Some Important Considerations
Unfortunately, food allergies can be difficult to live with because it’s not just a case of avoiding the known culprits. Sufferers will also need to avoid the foods that contain them.
For example, someone who is allergic to eggs is unlikely to be able to eat mayonnaise and people who experience a reaction to cow’s milk would do well to avoid other foods that contain it, such as butter, cheese, and yoghurt.
If you are worried about food allergies or think you may have one, we suggest you share your concerns with your doctor.