What are the most common food allergies?
Food Allergies can present itself in many ways in terms of symptoms, but these all stem because the body’s immune system then reacts to specific foods. These can vary in severity, and although more often than not they are relatively mild, they can be incredibly serious, where someone’s life is actually at risk.
Symptoms of a food allergy can present itself in different ways, and can affect a number of different areas of the body, at the same time, although common symptoms include; an itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat or ears; a raised itchy red rash, which is more commonly known as hives; swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, tongue and roof of the mouth; and vomiting.
We have briefly mentioned that in severe cases, food allergies, or any allergies for that matter can actually be life-threatening. This severe allergic reaction is known as an anaphylaxis. This is needs treating immediately, so it is essential that if you believe someone is suffering from anaphylaxis, you dial 999 immediately and say what you believe to be happening.
The symptoms of anaphylaxis usually develop suddenly, and will also worsen quickly. These symptoms can include; feeling lightheaded or faint; breathing difficulties, such as fast and shallow breathing; wheezing; a fast heartbeat; clammy skin; confusion and anxiety; or collapsing or even losing consciousness. On top of these very severe symptoms, they might also be suffering from more common symptoms as well such as; an itchy, raised rash; feeling or being sick; swelling; or stomach pain.
Unfortunately, many people are not aware that they are allergic to certain foods unless they consume them. They happen when the immune system, which is the body’s defence against infection, actually treats the protein that is found in that certain food as a threat. This then causes a number of different chemicals to be released, and it is these chemicals that then cause an allergic reaction, and this is when you will start to see the symptoms.
Although there are some foods that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction, which is what we will look at in more detail, it should be stated that almost any food has the potential to cause an allergic reaction.
Before we discuss some of the most common food allergies, it must be discussed that an allergy is not the same as an intolerance. It is often confused, but one of the main differences is that a food allergy is caused by the immune system, an intolerance is not; even though they might present some of the same symptoms.
A food intolerance might still cause a physical reaction, but is not life-threatening, unlike an allergy. The symptoms of a food intolerance are normally less serious and are more often than not limited to digestive problems. With allergies, consuming the food in even small amounts can be dangerous, but with an intolerance, you might be able to prevent a reaction, by making certain choices, or even be able to eat small amounts of the food without it causing you any trouble.
So, we are focusing on allergies as opposed to intolerances, but if you have ever wanted to know what are some of the more common food allergies; read on.
A milk allergy is one of the most common allergies that you will find in children. Again, this is not to be confused with a lactose intolerance, which is where your body cannot digest lactose – the sugar found in dairy products. Symptoms of a lactose intolerance, which is quite a common include; stomach pain, gas and diarrhoea.
A milk allergy is more severe and will affect much more than just your digestive system. Common symptoms can include wheezing, vomiting and diarrhoea.
People with a milk allergy will have to be incredibly careful about what they eat. Along with the obvious dairy products, like butter, cream and cheese; there is a lot of food that contains cow’s milk protein, which you might not have realised, like chewing gum, cake mix, meats and sherbets.
If you have been diagnosed with a milk allergy, it is important that you find other ways in which to get the vitamins and minerals that are often found in milk, such as calcium, protein and vitamins D and B12. Certain foods, like broccoli, spinach and soy products are often good sources. The good news is that dairy substitutes are much more readily available now, and are good sources of calcium and vitamin D. If you have a baby with a milk allergy, make sure you check the safest formula to use.
Finally, don’t forget to check the ingredients of items outside of the kitchen. Some cosmetics, creams, and different ointments contain a form of cows milk, along with some medication, so it is important to carefully check the labels of things.
The second most common food allergy in children is rather surprisingly eggs. It should be noted though that more than half of children who have been diagnosed with an egg allergy will actually grow out of their allergy by the time they are 16.
Common symptoms of an egg allergy, include a lot of digestive distress, skin reactions, breathing problems, and in extreme cases; anaphylaxis.
Some people with an egg allergy are not actually allergic to the whole egg. This is because it is possible to be allergic to just egg whites, or yolks, but not the other. This is because the protein in both of them actually differs slightly.
The normal treatment for an egg allergy, like other allergies, is to eat a completely egg free diet. That said, it might be possible for those with an egg allergy to eat eggs. Heating your eggs can change the shape of the proteins that cause the allergy. This might then mean that your body does not see them as harmful, which will mean that they are less likely to cause a harmful reaction.
An example of this is found in a study that looked at children with an egg allergy. They found that 70 percent of children could actually tolerate eating biscuits or caked containing cooked egg. Other studies have also suggested that introducing baked goods to children who do have an egg allergy, can shorten the time that it takes to actually outgrow the allergy.
It should be noted though that this can be risky, and can have severe consequences. It is so important to check with your doctor before you start to reintroduce any food that does contain eggs.
Nut allergies are among some of the most common allergies but are often some of the most severe as well. A tree nut allergy is thought to affect around one percent of the US population and is considered to be incredibly common. It is classed as an allergy to some of the nuts and seeds that come from trees. These include; brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pine nuts and walnuts.
People that do have a tree nut allergy will more than likely be allergic to the food products that are made with these nuts, such as butter and oils. Often, medical professionals will also advise people to avoid all tree nuts, even if they are only allergic to one. This type of allergy is normally a lifelong condition, and as we have previously mentioned, can be incredibly severe. Statistics suggest that tree nut allergies are actually responsible for around fifty percent of anaphylaxis-related deaths. More often than not, people who have this type of allergy will carry around an epi-pen, which is a shot of adrenaline should they come into contact with a tree nut, and will more than likely save their life.
Adrenaline is a naturally occurring hormone that can reverse the effects of the allergy, and potentially save the life of someone who is suffering from a severe allergic reaction.
Another common food allergy is shellfish and is caused by your body attacking proteins from the crustacean and mollusc families of fish – more commonly known to us as shellfish. This includes; prawns, crayfish, lobster, squid and scallops.
The normal trigger is because of a protein called tropomyosin. The symptoms of a shellfish allergy can develop rather quickly and can be similar to other food allergies; however, a true seafood allergy can sometimes be hard to distinguish from a reaction to a contaminant of seafood, like bacteria, a virus, or parasites. Symptoms can often present themselves in the same way.
Normally, the way to tell if it is a true seafood allergy is that it will not resolve over time, and the only way to deal with the food allergy is the same as others, and this is to eliminate shellfish from their diet to avoid a reaction.
It is important to note though that the vapours from cooking shellfish can also trigger a shellfish allergy, so people are advised to avoid being around shellfish when it is being cooked.
Another really common allergy is a wheat allergy, which is an allergic response to one of the proteins that is found in the product. Although there are adults who do suffer from a wheat allergy, it is a food allergy that tends to affect children the most. A lot of children do outgrow it though, normally by the time they reach ten years of age.
The symptoms are very similar to other allergies, and a wheat allergy can cause digestive distress and upset, hives, vomiting, swelling, and anaphylaxis in very severe, extreme cases.
A wheat allergy should not be confused with celiac disease, which is a gluten sensitivity, although their symptoms can be severe and unpleasant, it is not usually life-threatening. Like other food allergies, a true wheat allergy can cause an immune response to one of the proteins that is found in wheat. When you consider that there are hundreds, it can be hard to pinpoint a particular one that causes it. The reaction can be severe, and fatal in some cases.
Celiac disease is not fatal, or even life-threatening, but are caused by an abnormal immune reaction to one of the specific protein, and that is gluten. This is also found in wheat, which is why people get them confused, and people with a celiac disease normally have to avoid wheat and other grains that contain the gluten protein.
People with a wheat allergy, however; only have to avoid wheat and can actually tolerate gluten from grains that do not contain wheat.
Unlike a lot of food allergies, a wheat allergy can be diagnosed through a pinprick skin test. Although, once you have had it confirmed, unfortunately, the only way to treat the allergy is to avoid wheat and products that contain wheat. It is so important to check the labels of everything though, as some cosmetic and beauty products also contain wheat, which can affect those with an allergy.