Food allergies

It’s estimated that food allergies affect 4 percent of adults and 4-6 percent of children — but if they affect you, they demand 100 percent of your attention.

Most food allergies bring on symptoms that can include:

  • Hives or a skin rash

  • Nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting or diarrhea

  • Stuffy or runny nose

  • Sneezing

  • Headaches

  • Asthma

  • Anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing and can send the body into shock

Food allergies are most prevalent in babies and children, but they can appear at any age, even if you’ve eaten the same food for years. The best way to manage food allergies is to avoid eating ”trigger” foods, and to make sure the food you do eat is prepared or manufactured safely.

If you think you have a food allergy, it’s important you see an allergist for diagnosis. A food allergy will usually cause some sort of reaction every time the trigger food is eaten. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and you may not always experience the same symptoms during every reaction.

Common food allergies:


An egg allergy develops when your immune system becomes sensitized and overreacts to the proteins in egg whites or yolks. Eggs are a hidden ingredient in many foods, including canned soups, salad dressings, ice cream and many meat-based dishes like meatballs and meatloaf. Even some commercial egg substitutes contain egg protein.

Several types of the seasonal u (in uenza) vaccine also contain small amounts of egg protein. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), no one with an egg allergy should receive the nasal spray version of the u vaccine.


Corn isn’t required to be noted as an ingredient on labels. If you’re allergic to corn, it’s important to learn the names of products and ingredients that can be derived from it. These include: baking powder, caramel, cellulose, citric acid, dextrin, dextrose, inositol or xylitol (sugar alcohols), malt, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate (MSG), semolina, sodium erythorbate, sorbitol, starch, vanilla extract or xanthan gum.

Corn and corn-derived products are found in a wide variety of packaged foods, including: cereals, candies, jams, syrups, sauces, snack foods, canned fruits, prepared meats like hot dogs and deli meats and even some beverages.


An allergy to sh may not become apparent until adulthood.

Fish is a common ingredient in sauces such as Worcestershire sauce and Caesar dressing and is sometimes found in imitation crab products. It’s prevalent in Asian cuisine, which uses sh-based stock for many dishes. And if you’re allergic, you should consult your allergist before taking sh oil dietary supplements.

Shell sh is among the most common trigger foods. It’s also one of the most dangerous, sending more food-allergic people to hospital emergency rooms than any other.

Having an allergy to a nned sh (such as tuna, halibut or salmon) does not mean that you are also allergic to shell sh (shrimp, crab and lobster).

Milk and Dairy

Milk is one of the most common trigger foods. Between 2 and 3 percent of children younger than age 3 are allergic to milk. Luckily, about 80 percent of children are likely to outgrow their milk allergy before they are 16.

Milk or dairy allergies and lactose intolerance are not related. People with a milk or dairy allergy experience symptoms because their immune system reacts as though milk and other dairy products are a dangerous invader. People who are lactose intolerant cannot digest the sugar in milk (lactose) because they have a defciency of lactase, an enzyme produced by cells in the lining of the small intestine.

Tree nuts

People who are diagnosed with an allergy to a speci c tree nut may be able to tolerate other tree nuts, but allergists usually advise these patients to avoid all nuts.

Tree nuts are often used as garnishes in salads, as an ingredient in Asian dishes, and as an ice cream topping. They may also be found in baking mixes, breading, sauces, desserts and baked goods. Tree nuts include, but are not limited to, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios and Brazil nuts. These are not to be confused or grouped together with peanuts, which are legumes, or seeds, such as sun ower or sesame.


People with a peanut allergy must be very careful about what they eat, since peanuts are one of the trigger foods most commonly associated with anaphylaxis.

Peanuts and peanut products are commonly found in candies, cereals and baked goods. If you’re eating out, ask the restaurant staff about ingredients — for example, peanut butter may be an ingredient in a sauce or marinade. Be extra careful when eating Asian and Mexican food and other cuisines in which peanuts are commonly used.


A member of the legume family, soy is a common ingredient in infant formulas and many other processed foods. In young children, soy is one of the most common trigger foods. Typically, allergic reactions rst appear in infants and children under 3, but most of them outgrow the allergy by age 10.

Along with infant formula, soy can be found in canned broths, soups, canned tuna, processed meats and hot dogs, energy bars, baked goods and many other processed foods. It’s common in Asian cuisine and is sometimes contained in chicken nuggets, low-fat peanut butter and alternative nut butters. People with a soy allergy should not consume soy milk, soy yogurt or ice cream, edamame, miso, tempeh or tofu.


Managing a wheat allergy includes strict avoidance of wheat ingredients in both food and nonfood products.

Wheat is a grain found in many foods — cereals, pastas, crackers and even some hot dogs, sauces and ice cream. It is also found in nonfood items such as Play-Doh, as well as in cosmetic and bath products.

Foods that don’t contain wheat as an ingredient can be contaminated by wheat in the manufacturing process or during food preparation. As a result, people with a wheat allergy should also avoid products that bear precautionary statements on their labels, such as “made on shared equipment with wheat,” “packaged in a plant that also processes wheat” or similar language. The use of those advisory labels is voluntary, and not all manufacturers do so.

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