A food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs after eating a specific food. Even trace amounts of the food can cause symptoms, such as hives, nausea, and swelling of the lips, face, tongue or throat. Food allergy affects roughly 32 million Americans, including 5.6 million children under the age of 18.
Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but there are four that make up for 90% of food allergens in both children and adults, including:
Shellfish is one of the most common food allergens that causes the greatest number of allergic reactions. When a person who is allergic to shellfish is exposed to it, proteins in the shellfish bind to IgE antibodies made by the person’s immune system. This triggers the person’s immune defenses, which causes an allergic reaction that can be mild or very severe.
The shellfish family consists of two groups: crustaceans, such as shrimp, crab and lobster, and mollusks, such as clams, mussels, oysters, scallops and octopus. However, some people allergic to shellfish can still eat mollusks without having an allergic reaction. You should speak with your allergist before consuming mollusks to make sure it is safe for you.
A peanut allergy is the most common food allergy in children under the age of 18. Many confuse a peanut allergy with a tree nut allergy. However, tree nuts, such as almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and pecans, are not part of the same family as peanuts, which are legumes.
Peanuts are the most common food allergens associated with a life-threatening reaction, known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis occurs when an over-release of chemicals puts a person into shock, causing serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, swelling, tightness of the throat, rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure and cardiac arrest.
Tree nut allergy affects roughly 0.5 to 1% of the U.S. population. Tree nuts grow on trees, and the most common tree nut allergies are from walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews and pistachios. Similar to peanuts, tree nuts are most often linked to anaphylaxis.
According to FARE, cow’s milk allergy is the most common food allergy in infants and young children. While most children eventually outgrow this allergy, milk allergy is still a common food allergy in adults. The most common symptoms of a milk allergy include hives, upset stomach, and vomiting.
While peanut/tree nut allergies appear to more commonly persist into adulthood, most common food allergies, such as milk, egg, wheat, soy and sesame, are typically outgrown by adolescence or adulthood.
Get Allergy Tested at Northeast Allergy
With the help of an allergist, your symptoms usually can be prevented or controlled with major improvement in quality of life. The first thing an allergist will want to do is perform tests to determine what allergens are involved. Once that is addressed, they will develop a treatment plan for your individual condition with the goal of you living symptom-free!
At Northeast Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, we can now desensitize to peanut, milk and egg-containing foods. If a patient has an accidental small amount of any of these foods, desensitization can help protect them from developing a severe allergic reaction. It is important to note that these treatments take a lot of time and multiple office visits to ensure the treatment is given safely and effectively. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.