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Food Allergy Facts

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession. I enjoy writing, reading historical novels, gardening, and helping people live a healthier life.

Peanuts are a common food allergy.

Peanuts are a common food allergy.

Types of Food Allergy

A food allergy is a type of medical abnormality that occurs when an individual eats a food that triggers a harmful immune response. The immune system attacks the proteins in the problem food, which triggers a reaction called allergens.

Symptoms may range from a mild response to a serious one. A mild response causes an itchy mouth or a few hives. A more severe response may cause throat swelling and a problem with breathing. Anaphylaxis is a life-0threatening reaction that can even cause death. Children (about 40%) that have food allergies to more than one food must avoid the offending food as that is the only treatment at this time, however, some food allergies are outgrown.

It is estimated that 32 million people have food allergies in the United States, according to research. Approximately 5.6 million children (under 18 years of age) have food allergies.

Food Allergies and Eczema in Children

Most Common Food Allergies

While there are 160 foods that can cause food allergies, approximately 90% of food allergies are due to tree nuts. Food allergies result in 30,000 emergency room visits, 2,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths annually.

The most common food allergies include:

  1. Tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pecans)
  2. Milk
  3. Eggs
  4. Fish (flounder, cod, bass, etc)
  5. Peanuts
  6. Soybeans
  7. Shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp)
  8. Wheat

Peanut allergies are found in 0.6-1.0% of all people, and the symptoms also range from mild to severe.

The law requires that common food allergies be listed on food labels. Reading labels is essential if you have food allergies.


Food Allergy Symptoms

Knowing the symptoms of food allergies is important as mild symptoms one time could be life threatening the second time.

The common symptoms are:

  1. Hives
  2. Rash or flushed looking skin
  3. A tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth
  4. Facial. Tongue or lip swelling
  5. Vomiting or diarrhea
  6. Abdominal cramping
  7. Coughing or wheezing
  8. Lightheadedness and/or dizziness
  9. Swelling in the throat and vocal cords
  10. Difficulty breathing
  11. Loss of consciousness

Are You at a Higher Risk for Food Allergies?

Your family history may be a factor if they have had asthma, eczema, hives or allergies. Just being allergic to one type of food puts you at an increased risk for being allergic to other foods. Age is a factor, particularly before the digestive system matures. Infants and toddlers are much more likely to have food allergies. Asthma and food allergies offen occur simultaneously.

Some factors increase the risk for an anaphylactic reaction. They include not treating a more severe reaction with epinephrine in a timely fashion. Just being a teen or a young child increases the risk. Having asthma and oddly enough, not having hives or any skin reaction when you have food allergy increases your risk of anaphylaxis.

Skin Prick Test—John Hopkins Hospital

Increase in Food Allergies

The prevalence of food allergies in children has increased by 50% between 1997 and 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. In particular, the prevalence of peanut and tree nut allergies have more than tripled in children of the USA. Only 20% of children outgrow their peanut allergy, and only 4%-5% of children outgrow seafood allergies.

Working with a doctor, like an allergist, is a good idea. They can treat your child and help manage their allergies as they grow.

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Many factors have contributed to the increase in allergies in children:

  1. A damp or insanitary environment, especially true in some foreign countries
  2. The use of antacids for children
  3. The increased use of multivitamins
  4. Eating more of the most allergenic foods, like fish, peanuts, soy
  5. Eating out in restaurants as you do not have complete control over ingredients
  6. Too many processed foods can trigger an allergic reaction

These factors may result in an immune system that does not fight infections, which can certainly be dangerous.

Child Seeing Doctor

Child Seeing Doctor

Prevention and Treatments for Food Allergies

Prevention is the best treatment, which means you must always know exactly what you are eating. If you have had a more serious reaction, then wear a medical alert bracelet.

Severe reactions require an epinephrine auto-injector (Adrenaclick, EpiPen), which would be prescribed by your doctor. The copay on insurance can be expensive, but this pen can save you life. Be extremely careful in restaurants, even asking the chef about ingredients is important. Be sure the school knows that your child has food allergies.

A new medication has been developed to treat peanut allergies for children. The New England Journal of Medicine published the information about the AR101 medication. In the study they delivered a controlled daily dose of peanut protein to build up a tolerance over time, which will minimize the dangers of accidental exposure to peanuts. The FDA is expected to approve this medication in the near future.

Food allergies have become a serious problem for many people, so prevention is the key to eating in a safe fashion.

Food Allergies

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on July 30, 2020:

Hi Linda,

We never use to hear about food allergies but they are rampant now. They are doing a lot of research on the peanut allergy, so I hope for the best.

Thanks s much for your comments, Linda.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 15, 2020:

Hi Peggy,

I don't remember food allergies ever being mentioned when I was growing up either. I think there are numerous factors that may be responsible. I dont know if he researchers really have the answers yet.

Thank you for your generous comments, Peggy.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 14, 2020:

Those statistics that you cited about the 50% increase in food allergies just between the years of 1997 to 2011 are horrendous. Something is obviously wrong. When I was growing up many years ago, we hardly ever heard of food allergies. I am sure there were some, but nothing like today. The factors you listed are also informative. We ate very few processed foods decades ago compared to what is available today.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 21, 2019:

Hi Alyssa, You are fortunate that no one in your home has food allergies. Thanks so much for your comments.

Alyssa from Ohio on April 21, 2019:

This was very informative! I'm fortunate, no food allergies for me, but my husband does. As far as we know, our son doesn't have any, and hopefully it stays that way.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 11, 2019:

Hi Flourish, I do not think anyone knows for sure why we get allergies. I am sorry to hear about your allergies. I know that can be miserable. I appreciate your comments.

FlourishAnyway from USA on April 11, 2019:

Ii am allergic to pecans (and pecan trees) although I love them. I somehow acquired this as I aged. I can’t even carry birdseed in thick 40 pound plastic bags in the body of my car because I cough, choke and my eyes water terribly a few miles down the road. I have to get someone to put them in my car trunk. I was interested as to the list of reasons why food allergies have increased so much.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 10, 2019:

Hi Genna, You make a good point, as we don't always think of gettings allergies as we age. I am glad I don't have a peanut allergy as I like peanut butter. It sure can be very serious.

Thanks for your comments Genna.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on April 10, 2019:

Hi Pamela...

Interesting article, and painfully true in that allergies can cause serious health reactions -- even death. Children are especially susceptible at a very young age, such as peanuts or peanut butter. Sometimes, they grow out of them and sometimes they don't. And often when we grow older, we become intolerant to certain food additives. For example, I can't tolerate anything with the artificial sugars, such as Sweet N Low and Equal -- major bad reaction! This is a must read for everyone, Pam. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Clive, Yes, you are right. Thanks for your comment.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on April 09, 2019:

nuts and sea foods are a real killer

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Penny, You are right, corn is in so many things that it must be difficult for your family member. thank you for sharing your personal experience.

Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on April 09, 2019:

I had a family member that thought she had several allergies. It turned out that she actually had an allergy to corn, which is an ingredient in a large number of foods due to the use of cornstarch and corn syrup as ingredients.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Ms. Dora, I do hope this article helps some people.

I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Ruby, I'm glad you only have one allergy to clams. They are easier to avoid than something like peanuts.

I hope this article helps someone that has food allergies, or maybe someone else in their family has the. Thanks so much for commenting.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on April 09, 2019:

Thanks for the information and the warnings. Very helpful.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on April 09, 2019:

I have a long list of allergies but only one food allergy and that's clams. I only ate one and immediately developed a hive on my leg that itched terribly. This is an important article. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Nell Rose, The peanut allergy seems to be one of the worse. People have to make sure they know exactly what they are eating at all times.

I appreciate your comments Nell.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on April 09, 2019:

We are fortunate to have no food allergies in our immediate family, but it is such a common problem, especially in young children now, that our school has signs posted on the entryway doors saying that this is a "Peanut Free Zone." Some children need only smell the peanuts to have a severe reaction. Thank you for a timely and informative article.

Nell Rose from England on April 09, 2019:

I think peanut allergies are awful. That poor girl on the plane who was just going on holiday and ate a sandwich, it killed her. a really useful article Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Pop, Glad your girls didn't have food allergies. I agree it is difficult for parents.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

breakfastpop on April 09, 2019:

I am very grateful that my girls escaped having food allergies. When I see what parents have to go through to avoid peanuts, I feel for them.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

HI Bill, Maybe immunity to all things is good! :) I am glad to hear you found the article interesting, and I appreciate your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Lorna, I think you are right about awareness of the dangers. It is shame that food allergies are more prevalent, but we have to think of prevention.

Thank you for your comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Maria, Now that I think og it I don't think I knew what ab anacid was until nursing school ether. As I researched the information I found in very interesting also.

I appreciate your lovely, kindd comments. Have a good week Maria. Love, Pam

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 09, 2019:

No food allergies here, which is not surprising considering my body and it's immunity to all things adverse. :) Interesting information, for sure.

Lorna Lamon on April 09, 2019:

Great article Pamela - I feel that over the years food allergies have increased for all the reasons you have mentioned. However, it's also good to know that we are now more aware of the dangers.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on April 09, 2019:

Dear Pam,

Well researched and presented as usual - thank you for this update on food allergies.

It's intriguing that the use of multivitamins and antacids in children can lead to allergies. I'm not sure I even knew what an antacid was until nursing school ... :(

Hope you are having a peaceful week. Love, Maria

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

Hi Dianna, My oldest son had problems with milk also, and we knew nothing about food allerigies at that time. I am happy to see more public awareness. I appreciate your kind comments.

Dianna Mendez on April 08, 2019:

When my grandson had his severe milk allergy years back the public was not as aware of the dangers and how to prevent reactions. Today I am happy to see awareness in public places such as schools, restaurants and businesses. You have covered this topic so well. It will help so many out there.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 08, 2019:

Hi Liz, I am glad to hear there is progress in England for listed ingredients. Food allergies are much more common now. We have a long way to go in finding out why these allergies are increasing.

I appreciate your comments. Have a good week.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 08, 2019:

Hi Jackie, I guess you are fortunate that you have allergies but none to food. I like to eat too, but I can't eat almonds. Other nuts are no problem.

Thank you so much for your comments. Have a good week.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 08, 2019:

Allergies are much more widely known about these days. Food providers in the UK are becoming more aware of the vital need to list allergens in their products. Hotels and restaurants have improved their protocols. But there is still more that can be done.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on April 08, 2019:

So weird Pamela that I had not even stopped to think about it, but I am allergic to so many medicines but not one food!

Lucky me cause I love to eat!

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