Common Food Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Strategies

Wyndly Care Team
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What are the most common food allergies?

The most common food allergies include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (like almonds, cashews, walnuts), fish, shellfish (like crab, lobster, shrimp), soy, and wheat. These eight allergens account for about 90% of all food allergy reactions in the U.S.

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What Is a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the immune system to certain foods. This reaction can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to potentially life-threatening. It's important to identify and manage these allergies to prevent severe reactions.

According to Wyndly, a food allergy triggers the immune system to produce a specific type of antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing allergic symptoms. These symptoms can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system.

It's essential to distinguish between a food allergy and food intolerance. Unlike an allergy, food intolerance doesn't involve the immune system and is generally less severe. For instance, lactose intolerance results from the body's inability to digest lactose, leading to gastrointestinal symptoms. Such conditions, while uncomfortable, are not life-threatening and are not considered food allergies.

Food allergies can develop at any age but are especially common in children. However, adults can also develop new food allergies. It's also possible, yet less common, to outgrow a food allergy. The severity of symptoms can vary greatly between individuals and can even vary significantly from one reaction to the next in the same individual.

What Causes a Food Allergy?

A food allergy is triggered when the immune system mistakenly identifies certain food proteins as harmful, causing an allergic reaction. The immune system's response, which is meant to protect the body, actually causes allergy symptoms.

The specific cause of why the immune system responds this way is not entirely understood. However, it is believed to be influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

It's important to note that anyone can develop a food allergy. However, they are more common in people with a family history of allergies or asthma. Furthermore, certain common types of allergies can be linked to specific foods. For instance, people with a birch pollen allergy may also be allergic to apples, a condition known as Oral Allergy Syndrome.

Understanding what causes food allergies is key to managing them effectively. It allows individuals to be proactive in avoiding triggers and seeking appropriate treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Food Allergies?

The symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to severe, affecting various parts of the body. A food allergy reaction can cause itching, hives, and swelling, and in severe cases, even life-threatening reactions like anaphylaxis.

Mild to Moderate Symptoms

Mild to moderate food allergy symptoms can include itching, hives, and swelling of the lips, face, tongue, and throat. Digestive problems such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, or nausea may also be experienced. Some people may experience a tingling sensation in the mouth or throat, a condition known as Oral Allergy Syndrome.

Severe Symptoms

Severe food allergy symptoms, also known as anaphylaxis, can be life-threatening. These include difficulty breathing, dizziness or fainting, a rapid or weak pulse, and a drop in blood pressure. If you experience these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Knowing the symptoms of food allergies can help you react swiftly in case of an allergic reaction. It's important to remember that even common types of allergies can trigger severe symptoms, so always take any allergic reaction seriously.

What Are the Most Common Food Allergies?

Various foods can trigger allergic reactions, but some are more common than others. The most common food allergies include cow’s milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and wheat. These food allergens account for the majority of reactions in both children and adults.

Cow’s Milk

Cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in infants and young children. Symptoms can range from vomiting and hives to more severe reactions like anaphylaxis. It's crucial to differentiate it from lactose intolerance, which is a digestive disorder, not an allergy.


Egg allergy is another common food allergy among children, but many outgrow it by adolescence. It can cause skin reactions, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting.

Tree Nuts

Tree nut allergies, including allergies to almonds, walnuts, and cashews, can cause severe and potentially life-threatening reactions. Be aware that if you're allergic to one type of tree nut, you're at higher risk of being allergic to others.


Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies and can cause severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. It's important to note that peanuts are legumes, distinct from tree nuts.


Shellfish allergy can develop at any age and is usually lifelong. Two classes of shellfish, crustaceans and mollusks, can cause allergic reactions, but crustaceans cause the majority of reactions.


Wheat allergy can cause reactions ranging from mild hives to severe anaphylaxis and is common in children, but they usually outgrow it. Celiac disease and wheat allergy are two distinct conditions, although they both involve a reaction to wheat.

Understanding common food allergies can help individuals better manage their symptoms and avoid trigger foods.

How Can You Get Tested for Food Allergies?

Getting tested for food allergies is an important step in managing your symptoms and preventing severe allergic reactions. There are several methods a healthcare professional may use to diagnose a food allergy, including skin prick tests, blood tests, elimination diets, and oral food challenges.

A skin prick test is a common method used to test for food allergies. In this test, a small amount of the suspected allergen is placed on the skin, which is then pricked with a tiny needle. If a raised bump or hive develops at the test site, it suggests an allergy to that food.

Blood tests, also known as allergen-specific IgE antibody tests, measure the amount of allergy-causing antibodies in your bloodstream. These tests provide information about your sensitivity to specific allergens.

An elimination diet involves removing suspected foods from your diet for a period of time and then gradually reintroducing them to observe any reactions. This method should be conducted under medical supervision due to the risk of severe reactions.

Finally, an oral food challenge is considered the most accurate method to diagnose food allergies. Under careful medical supervision, you will consume small increasing amounts of the suspected allergen to observe for reactions.

If you suspect a food allergy, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and management. Getting tested for common food allergies can provide valuable information to help you manage your diet and avoid potential allergen triggers.

How to Manage and Treat Food Allergies?

Managing and treating food allergies involves both proactive steps to avoid allergens and using treatments to alleviate symptoms when exposure occurs. These strategies can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with food allergies.

Management Strategies

The primary management strategy for food allergies is avoidance of the allergen. This involves carefully reading food labels, preparing meals at home, and communicating your dietary needs at restaurants or social gatherings. Education and awareness are key in managing food allergies effectively. Moreover, it is crucial to have an emergency plan in place, which includes carrying an epinephrine auto-injector, in case of accidental ingestion leading to a severe allergic reaction.

Treatment Options

While avoidance is the best strategy, accidental exposure can happen. Over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines can help manage mild symptoms like itching or hives. For severe symptoms, epinephrine is the first-line treatment and should be administered immediately. It is also recommended that individuals with food allergies wear a medical alert bracelet and inform those around them about their allergy and what to do in case of an emergency.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is an emerging treatment for some food allergies. It involves placing a small amount of the allergen under the tongue to gradually desensitize the immune system. Studies have shown promising results with SLIT, especially in treating peanut allergies. However, it's important to note that this treatment should only be performed under the supervision of a healthcare provider due to the potential risk of severe allergic reactions.

Remember, managing and treating common food allergies is a comprehensive approach involving avoidance, emergency preparedness, and potential desensitization therapies. Consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalized advice and treatment plans.

What Is Anaphylaxis in Relation to Food Allergies?

Anaphylaxis is a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur rapidly following exposure to an allergen, including certain foods. In the context of food allergies, it's the most extreme reaction, requiring immediate medical attention.

Anaphylaxis usually involves more than one system of the body, such as the skin, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and cardiovascular systems. Symptoms may include a rash or hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, a rapid fall in blood pressure, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

It's vital for those with known food allergies to carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times. This device can deliver a dose of adrenaline that can reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis until medical help can be sought. Furthermore, it's crucial to understand that anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Even after using an epinephrine auto-injector, immediate medical attention is necessary.

Remember, managing and treating common food allergies requires understanding the potential severity of reactions. Anaphylaxis, although rare, is a serious consequence of food allergies that demands prompt action and awareness.

What Is the Current Research on Food Allergies?

Current research on food allergies is extensive, encompassing various aspects ranging from understanding the underlying causes, developing new diagnostic methods, to exploring innovative treatments. The primary goal is to improve the quality of life for those affected by food allergies and ultimately find a cure.

In the realm of causes, scientists are investigating the role of gut health in allergy development. Recent studies suggest a link between the gut microbiome and the immune system, potentially influencing one's susceptibility to food allergies. This connection between gut health and allergies is a promising field, offering potential avenues for prevention and treatment.

As for diagnostics, research is underway to refine allergy testing procedures and reduce reliance on problematic food challenges. This includes the development of blood tests that can accurately measure the severity of an individual’s food allergy.

For treatments, immunotherapy is a key focus. This procedure involves gradually exposing the immune system to increasing amounts of an allergen, with the aim of reducing its sensitivity. This method has shown promise, particularly in treating common allergies such as peanuts. However, it is important to note that this is still an active area of research and not yet widely available as a treatment option.

It's clear that while we have made significant strides in understanding common food allergies, there's still much to learn. Continued research is vital to advancing our knowledge and improving the lives of those living with food allergies.

How to Deal with Risk, Uncertainty, and Stigma in Food Allergies?

Dealing with the risk, uncertainty, and stigma associated with food allergies involves a multifaceted approach that includes education, strong support networks, and effective management strategies. Understanding your allergy and educating others about it can play a key role in managing the risks and uncertainties.

Educate Yourself and Others

Understanding your food allergy is the first step. Learn about the allergens that trigger your reactions and the potential risks of exposure. Use reliable sources like the Wyndly blog to get accurate and up-to-date information.

Share this knowledge with family, friends, and coworkers. This helps them understand the seriousness of your condition, which can reduce stigma and ensure they're prepared to assist during an allergic reaction.

Build a Support Network

Having a strong support network is crucial. This can include medical professionals, family, friends, and support groups. They can provide emotional support, practical advice, and help manage the uncertainty that comes with living with a food allergy.

Implement Management Strategies

Effective management strategies can greatly reduce the risks associated with food allergies. This includes reading food labels carefully, informing restaurant staff about your allergy when eating out, and always carrying necessary medication, such as epinephrine auto-injectors.

Dealing with the stigma, risk, and uncertainty of food allergies can be challenging, but with the right knowledge, support, and strategies, it can become a manageable aspect of daily life.

What Can You Do If You Have a Food Allergy?

If you have a food allergy, there are several actionable steps you can take. These include seeking medical advice, learning about your specific allergy, implementing dietary changes, and preparing for emergency situations.

Seek Medical Advice

Firstly, consult with a healthcare professional or an allergist. They can provide a definitive diagnosis and guide you on the necessary steps to take for managing your allergy. This may involve undergoing allergy tests and setting up a personalised treatment plan.

Learn About Your Allergy

Understanding your food allergy is crucial. Learn about the specific foods that trigger your symptoms and the potential risks of cross-contamination. Utilize reliable resources, such as the Wyndly blog, to stay informed about the latest research and recommendations.

Implement Dietary Changes

Adjusting your diet is key. It involves removing the allergenic food from your diet and finding suitable substitutes. Reading labels carefully and being aware of hidden allergens in processed food can help avoid accidental exposure.

Prepare for Emergencies

Always be prepared for potential allergic reactions. Carry necessary medication like antihistamines or epinephrine auto-injectors. Let people around you know about your allergy so they can assist during emergencies.

Remember, having a food allergy requires constant vigilance but with the right knowledge and strategies, it can be effectively managed.

Live Allergy-Free with Wyndly

If you want long-term relief from your allergies, Wyndly can help. Our doctors will help you identify your allergy triggers and create a personalized treatment plan to get you the lifelong relief you deserve. Start by taking our quick online allergy assessment today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top allergens in food?

The top food allergens are commonly referred to as "The Big Eight." These include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts), fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. These allergens account for approximately 90% of all food allergy reactions.

What are common reactions to food allergies?

Common reactions to food allergies include hives, swelling of lips, tongue, or face, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention. Reactions may occur immediately or within two hours of ingestion.

What are the most frequently reported food allergies by customers?

The most frequently reported food allergies by our customers include peanuts, tree nuts (like almonds, cashews, and walnuts), shellfish, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, and fish. These eight foods account for about 90% of all food allergies and are often referred to as "the big eight".

What is the discussion of food allergies?

Food allergies involve an abnormal immune response to certain foods, leading to symptoms like hives, swelling, digestive issues, or anaphylaxis in severe cases. The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy, but any food can potentially cause allergies.

What are the most common symptoms of food allergy?

The most common symptoms of food allergies include hives, skin rash, itching of the mouth, tongue, or throat, trouble breathing, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, food allergies can trigger anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that requires immediate medical attention.

How long after eating do you get allergic reactions?

Food allergy reactions typically occur within a few minutes to two hours after eating the offending food. However, this can vary depending on individual sensitivity. Symptoms can range from mild (such as a rash or hives) to severe (like anaphylaxis), requiring immediate medical attention.

What is the best medicine for food allergies?

The best medicine for a food allergy is epinephrine, usually administered through an auto-injector like EpiPen or Auvi-Q. This is for immediate treatment of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction. However, the most effective long-term strategy is strict avoidance of the allergenic food.

What is the most common treatment for food allergies?

The most common treatment for food allergies is strict avoidance of the allergenic food. In case of accidental ingestion, antihistamines can manage mild reactions, while severe reactions, like anaphylaxis, require immediate treatment with an epinephrine auto-injector, followed by emergency medical attention.

Is Benadryl or Zyrtec better for food allergies?

Both Benadryl and Zyrtec can be used to alleviate symptoms of food allergies. However, Benadryl works faster and is often used for severe reactions due to its immediate effect, while Zyrtec, with its longer-lasting relief, is typically used for milder, persistent symptoms. Always consult a doctor before usage.

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