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Food allergies are more common than you might think. Nearly 32 million people in the United States have reported having them. That’s almost 10% of the population with allergies to milk, soy, wheat, shellfish or peanuts.
Food allergies are caused by your body identifying proteins in foods as enemies, thereby launching into protective measurements to fight back, causing inflammation and other reactions.
This is by no means a definitive list of allergy symptoms, but here are some common reactions to look out for:
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Rashes and hives
- Itching and tingling in the throat or mouth
- Shortness of breath
- Anaphylaxis (which can be life-threatening!)
Let’s investigate the most common food allergies further.
A milk allergy is the body’s reaction to proteins in milk. Not to be confused with lactose intolerance, milk allergies are among the most common food allergies in young children. And while milk is highly nutritious, it can cause stomach cramps, rashes and swelling in those suffering.
It’s also hard to avoid. Butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream — lots of delicious food contains milk.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that most children grow out of it.
Whether you crack open a newspaper or dig into the internet, you’re bound to get the sense that peanut allergies are everywhere, affecting 4%-8% of children and 1%-2% of adults. Peanut allergies are among the most common and most fatal of the food allergies, causing anaphylaxis more often than the other four we mention. For some, even a little contact with peanuts can cause an enormous reaction.
Because traces of peanuts are found in so many foods, it’s important to always read labels and be aware of what you put in your body.
Shrimp. Prawns. Lobsters. Crayfish. Oysters. Shellfish allergies are no joke!
It’s a lifelong condition and reactions can happen quickly and without much warning. Even small amounts of shellfish or the vapors emitted from cooking can cause people to react. Most people who are allergic to one group of shellfish are allergic to other types. For this reason, people with shellfish allergies should be wary of seafood restaurants and fish markets.
Ah, wheat. From amber waves of grain to the baker’s counter, wheat is everywhere. But for those with wheat allergies, that’s a problem.
Not to be confused with celiac disease, which is a non-life-threatening autoimmune disorder, wheat allergies are the body’s reaction to any of the hundreds of proteins that are contained in wheat.
White blood cells treat wheat as an enemy and attack it. While they do that, the body exhibits any number of symptoms including nausea, abdominal pain, itching, shortness of breath, swelling of the lips and tongue, or even anaphylaxis.
While many outgrow wheat allergies by adolescence, adults with wheat allergies will live with it for life. The only treatment is a wheat-free diet.
Soy is a product that comes from, you guessed it, soybeans. And it is the last of the five most common allergies we’ll discuss.
Soy allergies are most common in children under the age of three, but adults can have them as well. Symptoms are mostly mild: itchy rashes or hives can appear around the mouth. Only in very rare cases will people experience anaphylaxis.
Unfortunately, many products can carry soy including high-protein energy bars, infant formula, canned tuna and baked goods. As always, checking the label is the best course of action you can take.
Food allergies are more common than you think. But knowing the signs your body gives can, in a very real sense, make the difference in life and death. If you have food allergies, always be sure to check the label and be careful when ordering out. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe keeping an EpiPen on your person.
Do you have any experience with food allergies? What do you do to help reduce the symptoms and risks? Tell us below!