Have you experienced allergy symptoms after eating a specific food? As a leading provider of food allergy treatments in Atlanta, Dr. Chacko regularly helps patients concerned about their health following an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, food allergies can strike at any time, and reactions can range from mild to severe. But with an understanding of common allergens, it is possible to minimize exposure and stay safe.
What Is a Food Allergy?
Before we get to the eight most common food allergies plaguing the world, let’s talk about what exactly a food allergy is.
Simply put, a food allergy is a condition in which a particular food (or foods) trigger the body’s abnormal immune response, causing some nasty, and sometimes debilitating, symptoms. As with any allergy, food allergies occur when your immune system misidentifies the proteins in certain foods as potentially harmful.
Some of the most common symptoms of food allergy sufferers experience are:
- Swelling of the tongue, face, or mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Decreased blood pressure
- An itchy rash
- Anaphylaxis (in more severe cases)
Cow’s Milk Allergies
An allergy to cow’s milk is prevalent and often found in babies and younger children.
Luckily, around 90% of children that suffer from an allergy to cow’s milk will outgrow it. This means that this food allergy is much less common in adults, but the sheer quantity of children affected by this allergy every year makes it one of the most common food allergies in the world.
An allergy to eggs is incredibly common in the United States with children, again, being the most severely impacted population.
Some of the symptoms of an allergic reaction to eggs include:
- Stomach ache
- The presence of hives or a rash
- Difficulty breathing
- Anaphylaxis (in severe cases)
While not as many children (68%) will outgrow their allergy to eggs as those with an allergy to cow’s milk, this food allergy still affects thousands of children every year making it the second most common food allergy.
Similarly to many other food allergies, the best treatment for an egg allergy is to practice an egg-free diet.
Tree Nut Allergies
As you can likely conclude, an allergy to tree nuts is an allergic reaction that occurs in response to the consumption of some of the seeds or nuts that come from trees. An allergy to tree nuts sits at number three on our list of the eight most common food allergies with an estimated impact on up to 1% of the total U.S. population.
To make things even more complicated for those suffering from a tree nut allergy, any foods and dishes prepared with the use of tree nuts will also pose a danger to them. This means that those with a tree nut allergy are advised to altogether avoid all types of tree nuts- even if they’re only found to be allergic to one or two of them.
Here’s a list at some of the tree nuts most commonly found to cause allergic reactions:
- Brazil nuts
An oral challenge food allergy test is an effective method for identifying the allergens responsible for a reaction.
While you may be quick to assume that peanuts belong in the category of tree nuts, peanuts are a food allergy group of their very own as they’re considered legumes. While these two food allergies are distinct from each other and come at two different spots on the list, it is common for those affected by an allergy to tree nuts to also suffer from a peanut allergy.
As is the case with many food allergies, it isn’t exactly known why peanut allergies occur, but it is commonly thought that a family history of a peanut allergy increases your risk for having one. An allergic reaction to peanuts affects an estimated 4-8% of children in the United States and 1-2% of the adult population.
An allergic reaction to shellfish occurs when your body misidentifies the proteins found in the meat of an animal belonging to the mollusk or crustacean family. Of these proteins, the most common to trigger an allergic reaction is known as tropomyosin.
Unfortunately, and dissimilarly to some of the other food allergies on this list, a shellfish allergy tends to stick around, so the best way to treat this allergy is through an active effort to eliminate all shellfish from one’s diet.
Here are a few of the different meats that fall into the shellfish category:
A wheat allergy is found to affect children mostly and is often outgrown upon reaching the age of 10. A wheat allergy can be more challenging to diagnose in comparison to the other allergies on this list as it is often confused with celiac disease (which isn’t a life-threatening condition, unlike a wheat allergy).
A wheat allergy can be identified through skin prick testing and is effectively treated by avoiding wheat and products containing wheat.
Soy allergies come seventh on our list of the 8 most common food allergies, affecting an estimated 0.4% of children. Soy allergies are most commonly observed in infants and children under the age of three.
An allergic reaction to soy is triggered by a protein in soy-based products and can cause symptoms such as:
- Itchy mouth
- Runny nose
- The presence of a rash
- Anaphylaxis (in severe cases)
Fish allergies are incredibly common and are shown to affect, on average, around 2% of adults. It should be noted that while many food allergies are observed within the period of childhood, it isn’t at all uncommon for a fish allergy to rear its ugly head later in life. 40% of those with a fish allergy report that they didn’t begin suffering from the condition until their adult years. For this reason, it’s incredibly important that we understand the signs and symptoms associated with a fish allergy (and any food allergies, in general).
Many of us assume that those suffering from a shellfish allergy are more likely to suffer from a fish allergy, but this is a common misconception. Since fish with fins and shellfish don’t share the same proteins, this means that those suffering from a shellfish allergy may not suffer from fish allergies at all.
What to Do if You Have a Food Allergy
If you have a food allergy, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself or your child.
- Check ingredients labels for the presence of allergens like milk, peanuts, tree nuts, etc.
- Get tested for food allergies at your allergist’s office.
- Carry an epinephrine auto-injector in case of anaphylaxis.
- Consider the desensitization process called oral immunotherapy treatment (OIT).
Professional Food Allergy Treatments in the Atlanta Area
Are you or your child experiencing the common symptoms of a food allergy? Dr. Chacko offers reliable food allergy testing and treatment at our centers in Alpharetta, Atlanta, Canton, Cumming, Duluth and Johns Creek. For assistance, call (678) 668-4688 or request an appointment today.
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