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The Common Food Allergies You Need to Know

Cow’s milk, eggs, and tree nut allergies are among the top 8 food allergens. Find out the remaining 5 most common food allergies and why knowing can be life-saving.

The Common Food Allergies You Need to Know


What is the most common allergy? Common food allergies, also known as the big 8 allergens or the top 8 allergens, can lurk in unsuspecting places. Understanding how to spot them is a key part of avoiding an allergic response. 

Read on for everything to know about the common 8 big allergens.

What Are Common Food Allergens?

What are top food allergens? Food allergens impact 85 million Americans, and 32 million of those people could have a potentially life-threatening response. In fact, every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends somebody to the emergency room. 

For this reason, it is important to know about the major allergens. The following food allergies list details the most common 8 allergens.

What Are the 8 Allergens?

How many common food allergens are there? Nearly any food is capable of triggering an allergic reaction. However, the eight allergens listed below cause the majority of adverse reactions. 

1. Cow's milk
2. Egg
3. Wheat 
4. Soy
5. Peanut 
6. Tree nuts (i.e. almonds, walnut, pecans)
7. Fish 
8. Shellfish (i.e. shrimp, crab, lobster)

Sesame is the next major allergen being added to the food allergens and intolerances list. Starting in 2023, sesame will become the ninth major allergen. Food manufacturers in America will be required to list sesame as an allergen in plain language on packaged food. 

Can Food Allergies Go Away?

It is important to understand the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance before discussing whether or not food allergies can be outgrown

Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance

A food allergy involves the immune system. Immune cells produce antibodies against the food protein they identify as an allergen. 

With a food allergy, an immune reaction is triggered, which can lead to anaphylactic shock and even death in severe circumstances. Immediate attention and emergency medicine are often required.

On the other hand, a food intolerance typically exists on more of a spectrum. In the case of intolerance, such as lactose intolerance, the body is lacking a key enzyme that helps to digest the food component. The deficiency of an enzyme can cause unpleasant symptoms or digestive discomfort. 

Can Food Allergies Be Outgrown?

An allergy diagnosed in childhood has a greater likelihood of being outgrown than one diagnosed during adulthood. 

Many children can outgrow allergies to: 

• Milk
• Egg
• Wheat
• Soy 

These allergies are typically developed or diagnosed early in life. One exception to this is children displaying severe symptoms or multiple allergies. These children are less likely to experience a reduction of symptoms. 

Allergies that children are less likely to grow out of, and develop later in life, include: 

• Peanut
• Tree nut
• Fish 
• Shellfish 

Of these allergens, peanut allergies are the most common, least likely to be outgrown, and tend to be a lifelong allergy. 

Food Allergens and Allergen Management

There are effective strategies to reduce the risk of food allergies. Understanding how to properly respond to food allergies is an important aspect of allergen management.

For example, a milk allergy can cause an immune reaction. The immune response can range from hives to anaphylaxis. In the case of anaphylaxis, immediate medical care is needed. 

Easy steps to reduce the risk of food allergies include: 

• Staying educated and informed

• Reading food labels and checking every ingredient list (experts recommend three times, one at the store, one at home, and one before cooking or eating)

• Calling the manufacturer to clarify any questions

• Avoiding foods with unknown ingredients

• Being aware of cross-contamination

• Communicating with family members, caregivers, schools, co-workers, etc. 

Recognizing Food Allergen Reactions

There are two different kinds of reactions to food allergens: 

1. Anaphylaxis Type 1 (Immediate Hypersensitivity Reactions)
2. Inflammation

While both of these reactions are triggered by immune cells, the second type is considered a slower response. It produces milder, less immediate reactions. Anaphylaxis, on the other hand, can be deadly and life-threatening. 

Even if there is speculation that a child has outgrown a food allergy, one should consult with a qualified medical team to confirm this suspicion. Failing to involve an allergist to safeguard against the risk of anaphylactic shock could place the child in significant danger and even risk death. 

How To Avoid Food Allergies

Avoiding food allergies requires preparation, effective strategy, and vigilant attention. There are simple steps to take today that can help protect against the risk of reaction tomorrow. 

What Foods Have Hidden Allergens?

Food allergens can be sneaky. Many lurk in places that one would not suspect them to. Be careful about cross-contamination or exposure when handling: 

• Cosmetics (i.e. hair care products, soaps, body oils, creams)
• Medications 
• Nutrient supplements
• Perfumes
• Pet foods 

Food Allergies Treatment

The treatment of food allergies can be tricky. Currently, there are no identified treatments against food allergies. The best practice is to avoid the allergic response by avoiding the food allergen. 

The following actions can help mitigate an allergic reaction: 

• Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms 

• Carry at least two emergency medications 

• Replace emergency medications before they expire

• Wear a medical identification (medical ID), such as a bracelet or phone application

• Clearly label foods in the classroom, home, etc.

• Visit a dietitian for additional safety tips

• Visit an allergist for detailed blood, skin, and/or oral tests before introducing or reintroducing foods into the diet

• Consider ordering from a meal delivery program that caters to known allergies and intolerances

• Avoid cross-contamination

• Plan proper emergency preparedness materials so that safe food allergy management can be possible

• Join a support group (especially when newly diagnosed)

The Final Word on Common Food Allergies

From medications to perfumes, food allergens can be found in many places. Since they send someone to the emergency room every three minutes, it is critical to understand how to spot common allergens, signs, and symptoms of a food allergy. 

Instead of feeling fearful, choose an effective allergen management strategy to focus on today. 

References: 

Common Allergens. Food Allergy Research & Education. https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens?gclid=Cj0KCQjwub-HBhCyARIsAPctr7xiaCtHS12p6s63kxkoCJDLIYzq3oayh1hZ_ZEOf8ypUD72iBhZs3saAns3EALw_wcB

Food Allergy Research & Education. Living With Food Allergies. Food Allergy Research & Education. https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies

Sesame Allergy. Food Allergy Research & Education. https://www.foodallergy.org/living-food-allergies/food-allergy-essentials/common-allergens/sesame.

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on December 20, 2021. Updated on February 03, 2022.

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