8 Most Common Food Allergies (The Essential Guide)
The 8 Most Common Food Allergies Are:
4. Tree nuts
There are a lot more food allergies than the 8 listed here. These 8, however, make up over 85% of all food allergies nationwide.
Food allergies are very common – more common than many people assume, particularly in children. According to recent studies from FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), it’s estimated that 1 in 13 children have at least 1 food allergy. 30% of those 6 million children have more than 1. It’s also worth noting that the CDC reports a more than 50% increase in food allergies among children in the United States since 1997.
Note: Food allergy is not the same as food intolerance. We’ll cover that in another article soon.
Parents of children with these allergies are required to be consistently aware of what their kids are eating so they avoid allergic reactions. And it’s not simply a matter of abstaining from drinking a glass of milk or ordering something other than fish. Countless other foods are prepared with one of these 8 most common allergens, rendering them toxic to an allergic person. The severity of a particular allergy varies from child to child, from mild to life-threatening, in some cases. And each one of the most common food allergies discussed in this article presents their own unique set of challenges.
Here are the 8 most common food allergies (in order of prominence)
No food allergy is more common than milk. It’s estimated that approximately 7 percent of all children in the US have this allergy. It typically makes itself known very early, between 1 and 12 months after birth.
The components inside milk that causes an allergic reaction to those predisposed are the proteins whey and casein. People in this group must avoid all foods that include milk as an ingredient. A milk allergy, by the way, is not the same as lactose intolerance. LI is a condition where the individual doesn’t have enough lactase, an enzyme necessary to break down lactose (a sugar found in milk.)
If a food has milk in it, somewhere on the label will be the words “contains milk,” “whey milk,” “made with milk,” or some similar variant. If milk allergies exist in your household, make sure to familiarize yourself with the different words that food labels use to warn that milk is present; words like casein, whey, and lactate. You may be surprised by some of the less-obvious products that often contain milk: skin and hair care products, some canned tuna, some sandwich meats, hot dogs, and even so-called non-dairy creamer.
On a positive note, a high percentage of kids with a milk allergy grow out of it between 5 and 8 years of age.
Taking second place on the most common food allergies list behind milk is eggs. Estimates say this group encompasses just under 3% of American children. Though not detectable as early as milk allergies, most egg allergy diagnoses happen within two years after birth.
Similar to milk, it’s the proteins inside the egg white and yolk that cause allergic reactions. Individuals can be allergic to both or one of the two. Regardless, it’s always recommended to those with this allergy to abstain from eggs altogether. Where food labels are concerned, look out for not only “contains egg” but also “contains egg substitutes.” Pasta is off limits for those with an egg allergy. Non-food items such as some anesthesia medication and the flu vaccine often contain egg, as well.
Most children with an egg allergy grow out of it by 10 years of age, some even as early as 5. Very few adults live with an egg allergy.
Though not as common as egg or milk allergies, those allergic to peanuts seem to have the most serious reactions; in many cases, life-threatening. In the US, the number of peanut allergies has seen a higher increase in the last two decades than any other food allergy. It’s estimated that 1.4% of children have one.
For the sake of clarification, peanuts differ from tree nuts (also on the 8 Most Common Food Allergies list) because peanuts are legumes and do not grow in trees. Also note that people with a peanut allergy are not always allergic to other legumes like beans, lentils, and peas. However, a substantial percentage are – around 30%.
In addition to avoiding foods that indicate peanuts (or peanut oil) on the label, other items like skin care products, pet food, and chili should be flagged.
The percentage of children who grow out of this is only around 20%.
Almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans, walnuts. These are only a handful of members of the tree nut family. Basically, if it’s not a peanut, it’s probably a tree nut.
There are three interesting aspects of this allergy. The first is that people who have it are advised to avoid peanuts, but not usually vice versa. This is because of the cross-contact risk that is associated with tree nuts. Second, it’s possible to be allergic to one specific tree nut, though it’s recommended to still stay away from them all. And third, though coconuts are tree nuts, many people with a tree nut allergy have no negative reaction to them.
Tree nut warnings on food labels have been known to list particular nuts using their Latin name, so watch out for that. This practice is less common than the simple phrase “contains nuts,” which is what you’ll usually see, but it’s still worth mentioning. Be wary of natural and/or artificial flavoring on ingredient lists. These often contain tree nuts. Other foods to scrutinize are pesto sauce, chocolate, candy, cookies, crackers, and cereal. Foods with nut meal and nut oil are also off limits.
Though only 0.8% of children are estimated to have a tree nut allergy, few of them ever grow out of it. Less than 10% do.
More information about tree nut allergies can be found on one of our previous blog posts here.
Soy is “a protein derived from soybeans, used as a replacement for animal protein in foods.” It’s found in many foods, particularly those found in most vegetarian diets. Tempeh, miso, and edamame are just a few examples. Alternate sources of protein would need to be explored by vegetarians allergic to soy. Allergic reactions to soy, generally, are almost always mild with few exceptions.
Soy allergies are estimated to affect less than 0.5% of children. A high percentage of these kids grow out of it, some as early as 4 years old and most by age 10. Adults are rarely allergic to soy.
Interesting fact: a surprising percentage of children with soy allergies have a milk allergy as well.
About the same percentage of children allergic to soy are allergic to wheat; less than 0.5%. Those with wheat allergies can attest that this is one of the most difficult allergies to live with. A very large amount of the common foods we consume in America contain wheat; ice cream, deli meats, soy sauce, beer, crackers, cereal, bread…even imitation crabmeat. Though there are grain substitutes, living with this allergy still tends to be quite a hassle compared to other most common food allergies. Even household items like glue and Play-Doh often contain wheat.
Between 20-25% of kids with wheat allergies are also allergic to at least one other grain. Individuals with Celiac Disease (those allergic to gluten) cannot eat wheat because wheat contains gluten, as do other grains including barley and rye. This group of people accounts for a sizable portion of those with wheat allergies, though it’s actually gluten they’re allergic to.
Growing out of a wheat allergy is common. Most see it fade completely as early as 3 years old. Few adults are allergic to wheat.
Of the most common food allergies on this list, this is the first that is more prevalent in adults (0.5%) than children (0.2%). Fish allergies usually develop during adulthood rather than childhood. This allergy typically causes very serious reactions in those affected. Once developed, it almost never fades.
Some people discover that they are only allergic to one species of fish; halibut, tuna, and salmon being the most common. But it’s best for these people to just avoid all fish entirely. Similar to those with a single tree nut allergy, you’re better safe than sorry.
Often, people will think they’ve discovered a fish allergy after eating a particular seafood meal. They’ll display some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction like nausea, strained breathing, and throat swelling. When in reality, all that’s happened is they’ve eaten fish that wasn’t fresh and gotten a case of scombroid poisoning. If you feel there’s a good chance you may really have a fish allergy, consider getting officially tested to know for sure.
Foods with fish in them will almost always make known on the label the specific type of fish that’s included. Some common foods to watch out for include barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, artificial seafood, caesar dressing, and gelatin. Also, keep in mind that places like fast-food restaurants often use one oil vat to fry multiple types of food – say, fries and fish filets. Be wise, ask questions, and abstain from certain establishments and foods when necessary. This advice applies to all of the most common food allergies.
This entry in the most common food allergies list is, like fish, more common in adults than children. Well over 50% of first-time allergic reactions to shellfish happen during adulthood. Creatures in the shellfish family are not the same as those in the fish family. This is worth noting because many people who are allergic to shellfish are not allergic to fish, and vice versa.
Shellfish come in two varieties: mollusks and crustaceans. Mollusks include creatures like scallops, mussels, oysters, and clams whereas crustaceans include lobster, crab, shrimp, and others. Crustacean allergies are much more common. Whichever shellfish type a person is allergic to, it’s best to avoid both altogether for reasons already explained. However, crustaceans tend to cause more serious reactions compared to mollusks.
In fact, it’s best for those allergic to either fish or shellfish to stay away from seafood restaurants entirely. Cross-contamination is common and is therefore not worth the risk. Also, be aware that Asian food, in general, is a risky endeavor for someone with common food allergies such as fish or shellfish as fish sauces and oils are very common in the kitchen.
For those allergic to crustaceans, identifying harmful foods by reading labels is easy. Mollusks, on the other hand, isn’t regarded as a major allergen. This means some food labels may not provide accurate information as it may not be listed at all.
Some additional facts on food allergies
The number of foods that have documented cases of an allergic reaction is over 170.
Over 15 million people in the United States are estimated to have a food allergy.
Between 1995 and 2005, food allergy-related hospitalizations tripled and continue to increase in frequency today.
A serious allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is treated with a drug called epinephrine (adrenaline) via syringe.
Bullying directed at children with food allergies is common.
There is no cure for food allergies.
The most recent food allergy that’s gaining momentum is sesame.
One last thing
As you now know, a fact about the most common food allergies is that many kids grow out of them as they age. This is absolutely true for many young people. Not all, though. Some allergies last a lifetime, while others fade away. Regardless of where you or your child is on the food allergy spectrum, education is of the utmost importance to stay healthy and safe.
Thank you for reading 8 Most Common Food Allergies (The Essential Guide). Check back often for regular articles on similar topics. SafeSweets.com is your online source for information regarding food allergies, allergen-free treats, and more!
Statistics presented in this article are found on foodallergy.org.
8 Most Common Food Allergies (The Essential Guide)
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