Studies have shown that as many as 15 million Americans are living with some form of food allergies. These potentially life threatening allergies impact 1 out of every 13 children under the age of 18 in the US alone. According to a report released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 18 percent between 1997 and 2011. As the number of people with food allergies continues to grow, researchers are looking at many possible causes. While the cause of the faster than expected growth leaves many scratching their head, we know that there are a handful of foods that account for the most problematic. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education Organization eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions. Let’s take a closer look at the biggest culprits.
While some people mistake milk intolerance for a true allergy, milk allergies are statistically the most common. This type of allergy is most often seen in infants and young children, generally occurring during the first year of life. As many as 2.5 percent of children under the age of three show symptoms of a milk allergy. Signs of a milk allergy range from mild markers like hives or rash to serious symptoms like anaphylaxis. Most children who have been diagnosed with a milk allergy will be prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector to be safe. On the brighter side, the majority of children diagnosed with a milk allergy will outgrow it in their lifetime.
According to experts at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology as many as 2 percent of US children are allergic to eggs. These allergies start when your immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to the protein found in egg whites or yolks. If you are to eat an egg, your body views the proteins as invaders and emits chemicals to attack the foreign substance. It’s those chemicals that lead to the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Fortunately, much like a milk allergy, many children will outgrow an allergy to eggs. In fact, studies show that around 70 percent of children with this allergy will outgrow it by the age of 16.
According to a study funded by the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) Foundation, the number of kids in the US living with a peanut allergy more than tripled from 1997 and 2008. Similar studies in the United Kingdom and Canada show comparable growth in peanut allergies. Unlike the top two allergens, peanut allergies tend to be lifelong. New research shows promise, highlighting that more than 20 percent of children with peanut allergies may eventually grow out of their reactions.
#4: Tree Nuts
The category of tree nuts includes nuts such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, chestnuts, pine nuts and Brazil nuts. People who have an allergy to one type of tree nut have a much higher chance of being allergic to other types, so strict avoidance is recommended. People with tree nut allergies are also frequently told to avoid all types of nuts because the risk of cross-contamination. Unfortunately, people with tree nut allergies will likely have to avoid them for their lifetime. Studies have recently shown that just around 9 percent of children with a tree nut allergy will outgrow their sensitivity.
What makes a fish allergy different than many other allergies is that around 40 percent of people with this kind of allergy don’t experience their first allergic reaction until adulthood. The most common finned fish that cause difficulty are salmon, tuna and halibut. Interestingly, over half of the people who have an allergy to one type of fish, are allergic to other types, so they are generally instructed to avoid fish all together. Finned fish and shellfish are not the same, so being allergic to one doesn’t mean you are more likely to be allergic to the other.
Shellfish are not only one of the most common allergies, but also one of the most severe. People with a shellfish allergy tend to have more serious symptoms like anaphylaxis. Around 60 percent of people with shellfish allergy have their first allergic reaction as adults. Shrimp, crab and lobster are the most common shellfish to cause reactions.
Allergies to soybeans are among the most common food allergies, particularly in infants and young children. Studies have shown that almost half a percent of all American children are allergic to soy. Reactions to soy tend to be mild, including things like hives, rash and upset stomach. Soy allergies usually show up early in childhood and are commonly outgrown by age three. Research shows that the vast majority of children with soybean allergies will outgrow it by age 10.
Wheat allergies are most prevalent during childhood and are generally outgrown before adulthood. Symptoms of this sensitivity range from mild to severe and can get worse with additional exposures. Wheat allergies should not be confused with Celiac Disease. A wheat allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to the protein’s found in wheat. Celiac disease affects the small intestine and is caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. A wheat allergy is not a precursor to Celiac Disease.
Food allergies continue to rise from year to year with no well-understood cause. As scientists look for the reason behind the rise, medical professionals know that there are a number of foods that people just can’t eat. Whether their reaction is digestive upset or dangerous anaphylaxis, food allergies are serious. By knowing the foods that are most commonly problematic you know what foods to watch in your own diet.