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8 Most Common Food Allergies

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8 Most Common Food Allergies
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3. Tree Nuts

A tree nut allergy is an allergy to some of the nuts and seeds that come from trees.

It's a very common food allergy that's thought to affect around 1 percent of the U.S. population (19, 20, 21).

Some examples of tree nuts include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts

People with a tree nut allergy will also be allergic to food products made with these nuts, such as nut butters and oils.

They are advised to avoid all types of tree nuts, even if they are only allergic to one or two types (22).

This is because being allergic to one type of tree nut increases your risk of developing an allergy to other types of tree nuts.

Additionally, it's easier to avoid all nuts, rather than just one or two types. And unlike some other allergies, an allergy to tree nuts is usually a lifelong condition.

Allergies can also be very severe and tree nut allergies are responsible for around 50 percent of anaphylaxis-related deaths (23, 24).

Because of this, people with nut allergies (as well other potentially life-threatening allergies) are advised to carry an epi-pen with them at all times.

An epi-pen is a potentially life-saving device that allows those with allergies to inject themselves with a shot of adrenaline if they begin to have a severe allergic reaction.

Adrenaline is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates the body's "fight or flight" response when you are stressed.

When given as an injection to people having a severe allergic reaction, it can reverse the effects of the allergy and save the person's life (25).

Summary: A tree nut allergy is one of the most common food allergies. It's frequently associated with severe allergic reactions and the treatment is usually a lifelong avoidance of all tree nuts and tree nut products.

4. Peanuts

Like a tree nut allergy, peanut allergies are very common and can cause severe and potentially fatal allergic reactions.

However, the two conditions are considered distinct, as a peanut is a legume. Nevertheless, those with peanut allergies are often also allergic to tree nuts.

While the reason people develop a peanut allergy isn't known, it is thought that people with a family history of peanut allergies are most at risk.

Because of this, it was previously thought that introducing peanuts through a breastfeeding mother's diet or during weaning may trigger a peanut allergy.

However, studies have since shown that introducing peanuts early may be protective (26).

Peanut allergies affect around 4–8 percent of children and 1–2 percent of adults (27, 28).

However, around 15–22 percent of children who develop a peanut allergy will find it resolves as they move into their teenage years.

Like other allergies, a peanut allergy is diagnosed using a combination of patient history, skin prick testing, blood tests and food challenges.

At the moment, the only effective treatment is complete avoidance of peanuts and peanut-containing products (22).

However, new treatments are being developed for children with peanut allergies. These involve giving precise and small amounts of peanuts under strict medical supervision in an attempt to desensitize them to the allergy (29, 30).

Summary: A peanut allergy is a serious condition that can cause a severe allergic reaction. Treatment is lifelong avoidance of peanuts and peanut-containing products.

5. Shellfish

A shellfish allergy is caused by your body attacking proteins from the crustacean and mollusk families of fish, which are known as shellfish.

Examples of shellfish include:

  • Shrimp
  • Prawns
  • Crayfish
  • Lobster
  • Squid
  • Scallops

The most common trigger of a seafood allergy is a protein called tropomyosin. Other proteins that may play a role in triggering an immune response are arginine kinase and myosin light chain (31, 32).

Symptoms of a shellfish allergy usually come on quickly and are similar to other IgE food allergies.

However, a true seafood allergy can sometimes be hard to distinguish from an adverse reaction to a contaminant of seafood, such as bacteria, viruses or parasites.

This is because the symptoms can be similar, as both can cause digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.

A shellfish allergy doesn't tend to resolve over time, so most people with the condition must exclude all shellfish from their diet to avoid having an allergic reaction (33).

Interestingly, even the vapors from cooking shellfish can trigger a shellfish allergy in those who are allergic. This means that many people are also advised to avoid being around seafood when it's being cooked (34).

Summary: The most common trigger of a shellfish allergy is a protein called tropomyosin. The only treatment for a shellfish allergy is removing all shellfish from your diet.

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