Understanding

food allergies

The body’s immune system keeps you healthy by fighting off infections and other dangers. A food allergy reaction occurs when your immune system overreacts to a food or a substance in a food, identifying it as a danger and triggering a protective response.

Food allergy reactions can vary unpredictably from mild to severe but any reaction can be potentially serious. Mild food allergy reactions may involve only a few hives or minor abdominal pain, though some food allergy reactions progress to severe anaphylaxis with low blood pressure and loss of consciousness.

In the U.S., the eight most common food allergens are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Milk and egg allergies rank first and second as the most common allergies in children.

An allergy to peanuts has become one of the most common causes of severe allergy attack, and cases are on the rise. If you are allergic to peanuts, you have a 25 to 40% higher chance of also being allergic to tree nuts.

Did you know?

Peanuts and tree nuts often touch one another during manufacturing and serving processes? Speak with your allergist about whether you should also avoid tree nuts.

If you have a peanut allergy, keep an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen®) with you at all times. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis, a sudden and potentially deadly condition that requires immediate attention and treatment.

Eight major allergens must be listed on packaged foods sold in the U.S., as required by federal law. Visit the Food Allergy Resource and Education (FARE) website to download tips about how to identify ingredients on food labels.

Food allergies are not the same as food intolerances, and food allergy symptoms overlap with symptoms of other medical conditions. That’s why it is important to have your food allergy confirmed by an appropriate evaluation with an allergist.

Other major foods causing allergic reactions

  • Soy Allergy – Soybean allergy is one of the more common food allergies, especially in babies and children.
  • Shellfish Allergy – including crab, lobster, shrimp and mussels is one of the more common food allergies.
  • Fish Allergy – Salmon, tuna and halibut are just three kinds of finned fish people can be allergic to.
  • Tree Nut Allergy – Tree nuts include walnut, almond, hazelnut, cashew, pistachio and Brazil nuts.
  • Wheat Allergy – is most common in children, though most usually outgrow it by age three.

FARE offers many tools and resources about food allergies. Among them is the Be a PAL: Protect A Life™, which helps children learn how to be a good friend to kids with food allergies. For a complete list of the resources available through FARE, click here.