Whether you’re born with a food allergy or suddenly develop one in adulthood, it’s important to be able to recognize the telltale symptoms, and how to best avoid triggering a reaction.
What is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy is a condition in which certain foods trigger an abnormal immune response. It’s caused by your immune system wrongly recognizing some of the proteins in a food as harmful. Your body then launches a range of protective measures, including releasing chemicals like histamine, which causes inflammation.
Here are the eight most common food allergens:
- Cow’s Milk
A cow’s milk allergy produces swelling of the face, raised rash, wheezing or persistent cough along with diarrhea. Cow’s milk is the most common allergy in the pediatric population. Around 2 to 3 percent of children experience hypersensitivity to cow’s milk. The good news is that around 80 percent of those affected outgrow milk allergies. Unfortunately, the only treatment of cow’s milk allergy is avoidance. Some children can tolerate cow’s milk in baked goods that have been exposed to high heat.
Proteins in egg whites differ from egg yolks, so it is possible to be allergic to one and not the other. Egg allergy is another common allergy in children, but again, a high percentage (around 68 percent) outgrow the allergy by age 16. Egg allergy creates discomfort in the digestive process, as well as skin reactions. Avoiding eggs is the best known treatment. However, since heat transforms the proteins, it is possible to tolerate eggs in some baked goods.
- Tree Nuts
Those who are allergic to tree nuts such as: almonds, cashews, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts are advised to avoid all tree nuts. This is because being allergic to one runs the risk of developing an allergic reaction to others. Rather than running the gambit of avoiding one type of nut, it’s just easier to avoid all tree nuts. Those with nut allergies are advised to carry an epi-pen with them at all times. The epi-pen injects a shot of adrenaline, a naturally occurring hormone that begins to reverse the allergic effects.
Like tree nuts, a peanut allergy can be life threatening. Those with a familial history of peanut allergy are most at risk of development. Like some allergies, as children grow, they may find that their body resolves the issue. However, in children who become allergic to peanuts, only 12 to 22 percent outgrow their allergy. Complete avoidance of peanuts is the only effective treatment. Food manufacturers are well aware of this issue, and in accordance, label food products with peanut warnings.
Symptoms of shellfish allergy can be indistinguishable from contaminated seafood. Both result in digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain. Being allergic to shellfish can be harsh as the allergy does not resolve itself over time. Simply being around the vapors of cooking shellfish may trigger a reaction. Avoidance is key. Shrimp, crayfish, lobster, squid and scallops are all examples of shellfish.
Wheat is everywhere, but it is specifically the wheat proteins that trigger an allergic reaction. Wheat proteins are not only found in food products but in cosmetics as well. The good news is that symptoms in minor wheat allergies can be reduced with antihistamines.
Soy allergies affect a very small population of children under three, with most growing out of it. With soy allergies, it’s important to read food labels, as most food is processed with soy in today’s market. Symptoms can range from an itchy, tingly mouth and runny nose, to a rash, asthma or breathing difficulties. Minor soy allergic symptoms can be treated with antihistamines, but the only sure treatment is avoidance. Severe allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis. Once anaphylactic shock sets in, an epi-pen must be administered.
Fish allergies are common, affecting up to around 2 percent of adults. Unlike other allergies, it’s not uncommon for a fish allergy to surface later in life, with 40 percent of people developing the allergy as an adult. Like shellfish or peanut allergies, the allergic reaction to fish can be triggered from miniscule, trace amounts. It’s important to always carry an epi-pen. Fish and shellfish differ in their proteins, so those allergic to one are not always allergic to the other. Like shellfish symptoms, allergic reactions to fish might be mistaken as poorly cooked food contamination. As with other allergens, avoidance is the best treatment.
Connected Health in Wexford, Pennsylvania is a concierge primary medicine practice that believes strongly in putting the focus back on the patient. We connect our patients not just with physicians, but also pharmacists, personal trainers and registered nutritionists. If you’d like to learn more about our concierge care services or want to explore your membership options, give us a call at (724) 933-4300. You can also book an appointment online!