The Common 8 Food Allergies
Although any food can become a food allergy and cause an allergic reaction, there are 8 foods that have been identified to cause the majority of reactions in the United States. They are referred to as the common 8, and include the following:
- Milk – about 2.5% of children under age 3 are allergic to milk, and most of these children develop this allergy in their first year of life.
- Egg – most common food allergy among children, although most will outgrow an egg allergy.
- Peanuts – not to be confused with tree nuts, peanuts are grown underground and are part of the legume family. Being allergic to peanuts does not mean you have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume.
- Soy – one of the most common allergies, especially in babies and children. Soybeans are also part of the legume family.
- Wheat – 2/3 of children with a wheat allergy outgrow it by age 12. It is important to understand that an allergy to wheat is not the same as celiac disease.
- Tree nuts – include but are not limited to walnut, hazelnut, almond, cashew, pistachio, and Brazil nuts.
- Shellfish – unlike other allergies, this allergy is usually life-long. About 60% of people with a shellfish allergy experience their first allergic reaction as adults. Shellfish includes shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, mollusks, oysters, and scallops.
- Fish – otherwise known as finned fish, is also usually a lifelong allergy with about 40% of people with a fish allergy experiencing their first allergic reaction as adults. Salmon, tuna, and halibut are the most common fish allergies
More important than knowing the 8 common food allergies, is to understand the symptoms that you might experience if you are developing a food allergy, what to do if you suspect a food allergy, and what happens if and when you have an allergic reaction.
Symptoms and Allergic Reactions
While some symptoms of food allergies are mild and can go unnoticed for some time, some are severe and can be life-threatening. In addition, these symptoms can also be symptoms of other gastrointestinal diseases like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. These include:
- Tingling or itching of the mouth
- Hives, itching or eczema
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
The most life-threatening allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis. This reaction causes constriction of the airways, a swollen throat or sensation of a lump in the throat making it difficult to breathe, shock with a severe drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse, and possible loss of consciousness. This is a serious allergic reaction and immediate medical attention should be contacted.
If you are experiencing some or all the mild symptoms above, it can be helpful to start keeping a diary or record of the foods you are eating, your symptoms, and when you are experiencing the symptoms. After a few weeks, you should be able to determine what foods or food groups are causing you to have GI symptoms because there will be a pattern. You can then discuss this with your doctor.
As always, if you experience symptoms or have suspected food allergies, talk with your primary healthcare physician so that you can be evaluated, diagnosed, and treated properly. It is important that you not diagnose a food allergy on your own, as self-diagnosis can lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions and inadequate nutrition, especially in children.
Another treatment option is epinephrine, which is usually the first line of treatment for anaphylaxis. Epinephrine is a safe and highly effective medication that can reverse severe allergy symptoms. Most people know the term Epi-pen, and this is a device that allows epinephrine to be administered in a safe and efficient manner, when there is an allergic reaction.
Food allergies can be common, especially the common 8 allergens discussed in this blog. It is important to take notes of symptoms and talk with your primary healthcare physician so that you can get diagnosed and get treatment as fast as possible. If you have a severe reaction to a food, knowing what to do and how to administer epinephrine during an anaphylactic episode can be a life-saving treatment.
- Food allergy. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/food/. Accessed May 6, 2022.
- Living with food allergies. Allergy and Asthma Network. https://allergyasthmanetwork.org/allergies/food-allergies/living-with-food-allergies/. Accessed May 6, 2022.
- Food allergy research and education. https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/food-allergy-101. Accessed May 6, 2022.