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Food Allergies

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • The article provides a comprehensive guide to food allergies, discussing symptoms, causes, prevention, and treatment strategies.
  • Symptoms of food allergies can range from mild reactions like hives and wheezing to severe ones like difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.
  • The most common food allergens are cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat, which can be found in numerous everyday foods.
  • Prevention methods include avoiding known allergens, desensitization under medical supervision, breastfeeding, and informing others about your allergies.
  • Various treatment options are available for food allergies, including antihistamines, skin creams, injectable epinephrine, immunotherapy, desensitization, and Chinese herbal formulas.

Possible Symptoms for Food Allergies

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarse voice
  • Swollen eyelids, face, lips, and/or tongue
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swollen throat
  • Swollen lips
  • Itching anywhere on the body, especially on the mouth, throat, eyes, and skin
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Blocked airways[1]
  • Loss of consciousness[2]

Top 8 Food Allergy Causes

1. Cow’s Milk

Cow’s milk is the leading cause of food allergies in people of all ages. Some children outgrow milk allergies by the time they turn 2 or 3 years old, though milk allergies end up following many children into adulthood.[3] Cow’s milk is found in many foods, including yogurt, bread, butter, cheese, ice cream, and pastries like donuts, biscuits, and muffins.[4]

2. Eggs

Egg whites and yolks are the most common food allergens after cow’s milk, and mostly affect infants and young children.[5] Eggs are commonly found in foods like mayonnaise, ice cream, pasta, coffee drinks, and most baked goods.

3. Fish

Bass, cod, and flounder are examples of fish that can trigger allergies. Many types of fish contain a protein in their muscles called parvalbumin that contributes to most fish allergies. Enolases, aldolases, and fish gelatin are other known allergens in fish.[6] Unexpected sources of fish include barbecue sauces, Caesar salad dressings, and Worcestershire sauce.

4. Shellfish

Most types of shellfish contain a protein called tropomyosin that has been linked to allergies.[7] Shellfish that can cause allergic reactions are shrimp, crabs, scallops, lobster, oysters, and clams.

5. Peanuts

Peanuts account for the majority of severe food-related allergic reactions around the world and affect children and adults alike.[8] There are at least 7 proteins in peanuts found to trigger severe allergic reactions. Foods that commonly contain peanuts include peanut butter, Thai and Chinese dishes, baked goods, candy, and margarine.[9]

6. Soy

Soybeans and soy products contain up to 16 proteins that have been linked to allergy symptoms in people of all ages, though children are most commonly affected by soy allergies.[10] Soy can be found in foods and products that contain edamame, miso, natto, soy sauce, tempeh, and tofu.[11]

7. Tree Nuts

Almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are just some of the tree nuts that cause allergies. Tree nuts contain a number of seed storage proteins and plant defense-related proteins that trigger a range of allergy symptoms, though skin reactions are the most common symptom associated with tree nut allergies.[12]

8. Wheat

Wheat allergies are more common in children than in adults and have been linked to severe reactions such as anaphylaxis. People who are allergic to wheat can experience symptoms when either eating or inhaling wheat. Wheat can be found in many processed foods including bread, pasta, pizza, and beer.[13]

4 Ways to Prevent Food Allergies

1. Avoid Known Allergens

Food allergies can be prevented by avoiding known allergens at all times. Read the labels of all packaged foods and call the manufacturer if you have questions about the ingredients or the facilities in which the foods were prepared. Also, stay mindful of cross-contact when eating at restaurants, cafeterias, home kitchens, and other places where your meal may come into contact with known allergens.[14]

2. Practice Desensitization

Desensitization is the act of eating a small amount of food that causes allergies on a daily basis. This allows the body to develop a tolerance to the food, which may help minimize or eliminate allergic reactions. Desensitization must be done under an allergist’s guidance to reduce the risk for severe reactions and complications like anaphylaxis.[1]

3. Choose Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is shown to prevent the development of allergic diseases in children.[15] If you are pregnant, consider breastfeeding your child to prevent the development of food allergies. Breastfeeding may not be effective at preventing allergies if you drink cow’s milk, or if you have already started formula-feeding your baby.

4. Inform Friends and Family

Tell your friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers, and others with whom you interact about your food allergies. This can be helpful when you’re eating at someone else’s house for dinner or when you’re participating in potlucks. Informing community members about your food allergies may help minimize your exposure to known allergens.

Possible Food Allergies Treatment Options

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Food Allergies Treatment

  • When did you first notice food allergy symptoms?
  • Which symptoms do you experience the most?
  • How long do your symptoms last?
  • Which foods trigger your symptoms?
  • How often do you experience allergy symptoms?
  • How do you find relief from your symptoms?
  • What steps do you take to avoid allergic reactions?
  • Have you ever experienced severe allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis?

Food Allergies May Also be Known as:

  • Food Allergens
  • Food symptoms


Frequently asked questions

  • What are some common symptoms of food allergies?

    Symptoms can vary from milder reactions like hives, wheezing, and swelling to severe ones such as difficulty breathing, fainting, and even loss of consciousness.
  • What are the most common food allergens?

    The most common food allergens include cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat.
  • How can I prevent allergic reactions to food?

    You can prevent allergic reactions by avoiding known allergens, practicing desensitization under an allergist’s guidance, breastfeeding, and informing others about your allergies.
  • What are some treatment options for food allergies?

    Treatment options for food allergies can include antihistamines, soothing skin creams, injectable epinephrine, immunotherapy, desensitization, and Chinese herbal formulas.
  • What is desensitization in the context of food allergies?

    Desensitization is a process where you're gradually exposed to the allergen under medical supervision, with the aim of reducing your allergic reaction over time.
  • Can breastfeeding help prevent food allergies?

    Yes, the article suggests that breastfeeding may help in preventing food allergies.
  • What are Chinese herbal formulas in relation to treating food allergies?

    Chinese herbal formulas are a type of alternative medicine that may be used to treat food allergies, although more research is needed in this area.
  • How can others help me manage my food allergies?

    Informing others about your allergies can help them avoid serving you allergenic foods and they can also be prepared to help in case of an allergic reaction.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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