8 Dangerous Food Allergies

  • mother having breakfast with children
    8 Dangerous Food Allergies
    Allergic reactions might start with a mild symptom, such as tingling lips or flushed skin. But serious food allergies can eventually cause trouble breathing, loss of consciousness, and even death. These eight foods account for about 90% of all allergic reactions to foods—and are often to blame for life-threatening reactions in adults and kids.

  • close up of almonds
    1. Tree nuts
    Nut allergies are typically among the most severe food allergies, causing swift and dangerous reactions. You may be allergic to one or more hard-shelled nuts, including walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, and hazelnuts. Often, it's easier to steer clear of all of them rather than risk confusion about nut types.

  • peanuts
    2. Peanuts
    Peanuts are actually legumes, like beans and peas. But peanut allergies often go hand in hand with other nut allergies—and can be just as risky. Peanuts can appear in unlikely places, such as ground-up in candies. Read labels carefully, and ask questions when you eat out.

  • shrimp-and-avocado-salad
    3. Shellfish
    Crustaceans such as crab, lobster, and shrimp contain a compound called tropomyosin, which often triggers severe reactions. Shellfish allergies tend to develop in adulthood. Interestingly, some of these adults may have been exposed to cockroaches as children. Doctors suspect many people develop cross-reactivity to cockroaches and shellfish—when being allergic to one thing increases your risk for a reaction to another allergen.

  • salmon dish
    4. Fin Fish
    As more people worldwide add fish to their diets, the number of people with allergic reactions has increased. Fish with fins—including salmon, tuna and cod—contain allergens such as parvalbumin. In addition, fish that isn't refrigerated properly can cause an allergy-like reaction called histamine toxicity.

  • pitcher of milk pouring into glass on table
    5. Milk
    Milk protein is the most common food allergy in children. Cow, goat, and sheep milk can rarely cause severe allergic reactions in children. Some outgrow it, while others must avoid dairy their entire lives. To check your child's status, the pediatrician may give him or her an allergy test. If the allergy has subsided, your child can try small amounts of milk under a doctor's supervision.

  • Eggs
    6. Eggs
    If you have an egg allergy, a specific protein in egg whites sets off your immune system. But because yolks often contain bits of the whites, too, it's not safe to eat any egg products at all—including low-cholesterol egg substitutes. Ask your doctor about vaccines, some of which contain egg proteins. And watch for hidden egg ingredients, such as egg-based glaze on baked goods.

  • bread-with-wheat
    7. Wheat
    For people with a condition called celiac disease, eating foods containing gluten—a protein in wheat, rye, and barley—causes damage to the intestines. But wheat can cause immediate allergic reactions, too. Fortunately, wheat allergy is rare. And gluten-free foods abound, including other whole grains like corn, quinoa, and rice.

  • Soy Milk
    8. Soy
    Though less common than milk allergy, soy allergy often appears in infancy, too, when babies are fed soy formula. Soybeans contain several proteins that can set off severe allergic responses. You may be able to eat some processed foods that contain soy, since different preparation methods can alter these proteins. Ask your doctor or nutritionist.

8 Dangerous Food Allergies

About The Author

  1. Kattan JD, et al. Milk and Soy Allergy. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2011;58(2):407-26. 
  2. Lieberman PL. Recognition and First-Line Treatment of Anaphylaxis. Am J Med. 2014 Jan;127(1 Suppl):S6-S11. 
  3. Parvaneh H & Selamat J. A Contemporary Review of Seafood Allergy. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol. 2012; 42:365-85.
  4. Sicherer SH and Sampson HA. Food allergy: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis, and treatment. Dec 30, 2013. J Allergy Clin Immunol.
  5. Celiac Disease. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/celiac-disease/Pages/ov...
  6. Food Allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/food-allergy
  7. ANAPHYLAXIS: A Severe Allergic Reaction. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. http://www.aafa.org/page/anaphylaxis-severe-allergic-reaction.aspx
  8. Food Allergies: What You Need to Know. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm079311.htm
  9. Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/food/guidanceregulation/guidancedocumentsregulatoryinformation/allergens/ucm362510.htm
  10. Food Allergy Reactions. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Food-Allergy-Reactions.aspx
  11. Hidden Dangers: Food Allergies and Teens. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/nutrition/Pages/Hidden-Dangers-Food-Allergi...
  12. Anaphylaxis. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/injuries-emergencies/Pages/Anaphylaxis.aspx
  13. Common Food Allergies. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Common-Food-Allergies.aspx
  14. Food Allergy: An Overview. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodallergy/documents/foodallergy.pdf
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Last Review Date: 2018 May 28
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