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8 Most Common Food Allergies for Children

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(JANUARY 2014) Up to 15 million Americans have a food allergy, including 1 in 13 children. (That’s about two in every classroom, folks.) President Obama announced in November that his daughter Malia is among that number, just after he signed legislature giving incentives to schools that have EpiPens on hand.

Food allergies are all too common, and so are the foods that cause them. In fact, just eight foods account for 90% of all food-related allergic reactions in the United States.

Milk

About 3% of infants have a milk allergy. It’s mainly to cow milk but could also include milk from sheep, goat or even soy. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include anything from wheezing and vomiting to hives and digestive problems. Rarely does a milk allergy ever result in anaphylaxis. Note that a milk allergy isn’t lactose intolerance, where you simply can’t digest the milk sugar in dairy products which usually isn’t dangerous.

Eggs

Egg allergies can cause hives in mild cases but have been known to put children into anaphylaxis, so keep an EpiPen Pouch on hand if your child has a severe egg allergy. Be sure to read the labels because some egg substitutes contain egg whites, which will still trigger an allergic reaction if ingested. Egg protein is also common in influenza vaccines, so if your child does have an egg allergy, talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot.

Peanuts

You hear mostly of the severe peanut allergies where even being the same room with peanuts could cause an anaphylaxis shock. Not all are that serious, though. While peanut allergies are lifelong, about 20% of peanut allergies can be outgrown. Luckily, food packaging has gotten better about labeling if a product contains traces of peanuts in recent years.

Tree nuts

While peanuts and tree nuts are different types of nuts, a tree nut allergy can be just as severe as a peanut allergy. Tree nuts are any nut that’s grown on trees, including almonds, cashews and walnuts. Just because you have a tree nut allergy doesn’t mean you’ll have a peanut allergy, but it’s still best to avoid them as tree nuts typically come in close contact with peanuts.

Fish

Salmon, tuna and halibut are the more common fish allergies, and if you’re allergenic to one, there’s a good chance you’re allergic to another, if not all other, fish. Test your child specifically for an allergy to fish as symptoms could be confused with a milk food poisoning called histamine fish poisoning (HFP).

Shellfish

Fish and shellfish contain different proteins, so like peanuts and tree nuts, being allergic to one does not mean you’ll be allergic to the other. Shellfish allergies come in two varieties: Crustacea includes shrimp, lobster and crab while mollusks include clams, oysters and mussels. Be sure to get your child tested specifically for each kind of shellfish as being allergic to one doesn’t rule your child out from eating the other.

Soy

You’ll notice if your child has a soy allergy early as most reactions first occur from soy-based formula. The good news is that most soy allergies can be outgrown. The problem is, while soybeans themselves aren’t common in our diets, soy is found in a lot of food, like cereal and chocolate. Most allergic reactions to soy are mild, like hives, and rarely do they ever result in anaphylaxis. 

Wheat

Second only to peanuts, wheat may be one of the hardest things to avoid in your child’s diet simply because it’s in most things we eat on a daily basis. Note that a wheat allergy isn’t celiac disease. With wheat allergies, you’re sensitive to all types of proteins in wheat; with celiac disease, you’re sensitive to just one type of protein (gluten) found in wheat. Additionally, a wheat allergy can be fatal, where celiac disease causes digestive problems.

Because so many food allergies have the potential to render someone unconscious, it’s particularly important for people with these allergies to wear medical ID bracelets in order to provide potentially life-saving insight to first responders.

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