Food allergies are more common than you think. Wheat-free this, soya that. Whether you’ve identified as a food allergy sufferer or have a sneaky suspicion that you should be cutting certain dishes out of your diet, we’ve sorted the facts from the fiction. Dig into our round-up of the most common food allergies to be aware of.
Most Common Food Allergies
More than 160 foods can cause an allergic reaction. However the ‘big eight’ are the most common allergenic foods that account for the majority of all allergic reactions. The list includes: milk, egg, nuts (peanuts and tree nuts), fish, shellfish, wheat and soy.
- Milk allergies are caused by the body's immune system fighting against one or more of milk's proteins.
- It’s particularly common in children under the age of 6 but often they outgrow the allergy.
- As cow’s milk is often present in other processed foods including seasonings, chocolate and margarine, it’s a food allergy that can affect your daily diet.
- Symptoms often can occur within an hour of consuming dairy.
- Soy, almond or coconut milk are common alternatives for milk allergy sufferers.
- An allergy to eggs develops as a result of the body’s immune system becoming sensitised to proteins in egg whites or yolks. As a result, the chemicals are released to defend against the proteins resulting in an allergic reaction.
- Similar to a milk allergy, it’s also common in young children who can go on to outgrow it later in life.
- Reactions to egg whites are the most common.
- Main symptoms may include skin reactions (hives, rash), stomach pain and respiratory problems.
- As well as processed foods, egg protein can be found in some vaccinations so it’s recommended to always make health professionals aware of your allergy.
- Fish allergies may be not as common as other food allergies, but the symptoms can be severe.
- Having a fish allergy does not necessarily mean you’ll also have a shellfish allergy and vice versa.
- Adults are more likely to be allergic to fish/shellfish than children.
- It’s recommended if you have a fish allergy to avoid seafood restaurants altogether as the proteins released into the air can cause a reaction.
- Shellfish are categorised in two groups: crustaceans (eg. lobsters, crab, shrimp) and molluscs (eg. Oysters, clams, snails).
Nuts - peanuts & nuts from trees
- Research has shown that peanut allergies appear to be on the rise in children.
- The peanut is a legume, related to foods such as peas, beans and lentils.
- Tree nuts are in a different category and include almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts.
- If you’re a severe sufferer please ensure you carry your prescribed medication at all times.
- A soy allergy occurs when the body’s immune system mistakes proteins found in soy for ‘invaders’ and sends antibodies against them, which results in allergic reactions.
- Part of the legume family, soy beans (or edamame) is a food that can be particularly tricky to avoid. It can be found in a host of processed foods from sauces (eg. Worcestershire sauce) to frozen meals and of course many Asian dishes.
- Symptoms can range from mild (runny nose) to severe (anaphylactic shock).
- Not to be mistaken with a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, wheat allergies occur when the body overreacts to the proteins found in wheat.
- As wheat is a predominant grain in the nation’s diet, this allergy can be challenging to keep under control.
- Nowadays, due to the influx of allergies and intolerances, many wheat-free products are easily accessible.
The Symptoms To Look Out For
- Allergic reactions can develop within minutes to several hours and can include one or more of the following (among others):
- Skin reactions: rash, hives, itching
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- Face, tongue, lip swelling
- Coughing and/or sneezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Abdominal cramps
- Chest pain
Keeping a diary of what foods set off allergic reactions is the best way to prevent allergic reactions. However, antihistamines can help relieve the symptoms of a mild to moderate allergic reactions.
In the most serious cases, a person has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), which can be life threatening.If you think someone has the symptoms of anaphylaxis – such as breathing difficulties, lightheadedness, and feeling like they're going to faint or lose consciousness – please call 999.