Food allergies are common, affecting about 32 million people in the United States. While most food allergies are mild and can be managed at home, some can be severe and even life-threatening. Here are the most common food allergies.
Types of Food Allergies
There are two main types of food allergies:
- Immunoglobulin (IgE) mediated food allergies refer to foods that cause your body to make IgE in response to certain foods. These food allergies usually trigger mild or severe symptoms that typically occur within a few hours of eating certain foods.
- Non-IgE mediated food allergies occur when your body doesn’t make enough IgE after consuming a particular food, but other parts of the immune response are engaged. Symptoms may include skin or digestive symptoms that occur up to three days after ingesting the food.
9 Common Food Allergies
Nine food allergies cause about 90 percent of allergic reactions in the US.
- Milk: Cow’s milk is the most common childhood allergy. Ninety percent of kids outgrow it by the time they are three years old.
- Eggs: Eggs are the most common food allergy in children. Symptoms of an egg allergy vary. Some people with an egg allergy will experience digestive issues like a stomach ache or a skin reaction like hives. In contrast, others may have respiratory problems, including severe reactions like anaphylaxis. Like milk allergies, most children will outgrow it.
- Fish: One percent of people in the US have an allergy to finned fish. 40 percent of people who are allergic to fish experience their first reaction as an adult
- Crustacean shellfish: Shellfish allergies occur when the body attacks the proteins from the crustacean and mollusk families, and they are the most common food allergies for adults. The most common protein to trigger a shellfish-related allergic reaction is tropomyosin, followed by arginine kinase and parvalbumin. Even the vapors from cooking shellfish can trigger a response in some instances.
- Tree nuts: Tree nut allergies occur when a person has an allergic reaction to nuts and seeds that come from trees. An allergic reaction to one tree nut increases the risk of being allergic to another, so those with a tree nut allergy are usually advised to avoid all tree nuts and seeds. Unlike some allergies, tree nut allergies are usually lifelong conditions. Tree nut allergies can be severe; they are responsible for about half of the anaphylaxis-related deaths.
- Peanuts: Peanuts are not nuts; they are legumes, making them different than tree nut allergies. Peanut allergies affect about one to three percent of children and two percent of adults.
- Wheat: The proteins in wheat may trigger a wheat allergy. It most commonly affects children, but most outgrow it by the time they are ten years old.
- Soybeans: A soybean allergy is triggered by a protein in soy and soy-containing products. It affects about 70 percent of children.
- Sesame: In 2021, sesame was declared a major allergen in the US. Sesame allergies affect about one million people in the country.
Living With Food Allergies
If you have food allergies, you should avoid the food or foods that trigger a reaction. For this reason, it’s important to read food labels to make sure the food is safe to eat. It’s also essential to learn the symptoms of an allergic reason and have a plan in case of accidental ingestion.