Let’s Talk About The Big 8 Food Allergens
Over 170 food items have been reported to cause allergic reactions. But these eight food allergens—also called The Big 8—are responsible for about 90% of severe food allergy reactions in the US. It’s time to put the spotlight on The Big 8 and its impact on people.
An allergy to dairy is one of the most common early childhood allergies, as it affects two to three percent of infants and toddlers. Up to 90% of cases outgrow this allergy by age six. Dairy allergy is typically linked to an immune reaction against a specific protein present not only in cows but also in other mammals. So if your child has a dairy allergy, be mindful of substituting cow's milk with dairy products from other animals.
Like a dairy allergy, an egg allergy is also common in children. A large amount (up to 68%) of these children will outgrow this condition by the time they turn 16. People with egg allergies may also react to eggs from ducks and geese, but this doesn’t mean they are also allergic to poultry meat.
Peanut is one of the most potent allergenic food items, causing severe reactions that require emergency treatment. They affect around two percent of adults and one to three percent of kids. They’re also a leading cause of food allergen-related mortalities in children. Studies show that an estimated 20-25% of children experiencing a peanut allergy will outgrow it. This means a large proportion of individuals will need to learn to manage their peanut allergy condition throughout their lives.
People with tree nut allergies could have adverse reactions even if they only consumed trace amounts of the said food. They can also be allergic to any food products containing tree nuts in any form, such as nut butter or oil. Another tricky part with a tree nut allergy is that there are many types of tree nuts—from cashews and almonds to pistachios and walnuts. So it’s best to avoid all types of tree nuts, even if you know that you’re only allergic to one or two types.
Wheat allergy tends to affect children the most, but they usually outgrow it by age ten. Symptoms include digestive distress, swelling, hives, and in severe cases, anaphylaxis. This allergy is also often confused with celiac disease, a distinct reaction to gluten found in wheat.
While soy allergy is less common than other allergies, its symptoms are similar to peanut allergy, ranging from local and mild to debilitating and fatal. Keep in mind that soybean is present in many processed foods. So be wary of that if you or your child has a soy allergy. Soy can be called many other names such as: bean curd, edamame, miso, hydrolyzed soy protein, tofu, tempeh among others.
Fish allergies affect around seven percent of adults in the US, and they tend to be more common in coastal areas and other regions where fish consumption is high. Common symptoms include gastrointestinal and skin reactions that occur shortly after ingestion. Many people with fish allergies do not experience an allergic reaction until adulthood. People who manage fish allergies should always practice avoidance. This means steering clear of seafood restaurants and markets or any place where fish is being cooked.
Allergy to shellfish such as crab, lobster, and shrimp affects older children and adults. Symptoms range from mild reactions in the oral cavity to a life-threatening respiratory reaction. People who have a history of shellfish allergies in their families are at a higher risk and this allergy can develop at any point in life. As with any allergy, even trace amounts or the slightest cross-contamination can trigger a reaction. When shopping, cooking, and dining out it is important to keep raw or cooked shellfish away from food that people with shellfish allergies will consume.