You’ve just finished dinner, and there it is: A twinge in your mouth or itchiness along your face.
An estimated 4 to 6 percent of children and 4 percent of adults suffer from food allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And allergic reactions to food can be swift — symptoms can appear at any age, even after eating foods you’ve previously had no problem consuming.
What Is A Food Allergy?
Food allergies occur when the immune system mistakes a particular food or ingredient as a harmful substance.
Exposure to these foods — or allergens — sparks your body’s natural defense mechanisms, triggering a series of symptoms that range from uncomfortable to life-threatening.
While food allergies and reactions can vary, some common foods are much more likely than others to bring on an allergic reaction.
Common Food Allergies
1. Peanut Allergy
Peanuts are among the most common food allergens — and the number of people who report suffering from peanut allergies is on the rise.
Peanut allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe. When exposed to peanuts, some may experience an acute, life-threatening reaction called “anaphylaxis.” Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Trouble breathing and swallowing
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
2. Milk Allergy
Reactions to a milk allergy can range from uncomfortable hives to serious anaphylaxis. Keep in mind, a milk allergy is different from lactose intolerance.
- A milk allergy is an overreaction of the immune system after drinking milk.
- Lactose intolerance, however, occurs when the body has difficulty digesting dairy foods, resulting in symptoms like nausea, gas, and bloating. This reaction does not involve the immune system.
Infants and young children are most likely to develop an allergy to milk — and they’re also likely to outgrow the allergy later in life.
3. Shellfish Allergy
People who suffer from a shellfish allergy should avoid eating marine animals with shells, including shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops, and oysters.
Shellfish allergy symptoms typically emerge within a few minutes of eating a shellfish. They can range from mild stuffiness to a severe anaphylaxis.
4. Soy Allergy
Soybeans are a common ingredient in many processed foods. Though soy allergy symptoms tend to be mild in nature, anaphylaxis can occur. People suffering from this allergy should always consult food labels to identify harmful ingredients.
Soy is a member of the legume plant family, which includes peanuts, lentils, and peas. People who have a food allergy to soy are not necessarily allergic to other legumes.
5. Tree Nut Allergy
Tree nuts include walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios.
Peanuts, which are legumes, are not a part of this group. Many doctors, however, recommend that those who are allergic to tree nuts avoid peanuts as well, as these two foods can sometimes come in contact during the food manufacturing process.
Do You Have a Food Allergy?
Only a doctor can diagnose a food allergy. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms, you should contact your health care provider.
Once diagnosed, your doctor can recommend a treatment plan and diet adjustments to treat your food allergy. Learn more about food allergy testing at the UPMC Sino-Nasal Disorders and Allergy Center website.