The Big 8: The Most Common Food Allergies in America

Food allergies send about a million Americans to emergency rooms per year.

People can have allergic reactions to countless foods, but medical professionals warn that “the big eight” are the most common food allergies. Here, in all their unpleasant glory, are those eight most food groups most hated by allergy sufferers.

1. Crustacean Shellfish

if you’re allergic to shrimp, crab or lobster, you’re probably allergic to all crustacean shellfish. You’re also likely allergic to molluscan shellfish too, like snails, mussels, oysters (pretty much all bivalves) and even cephalopods like octopi and squid. Shellfish allergy often causes anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, where the body floods itself with chemicals in an over-blown attempt to nullify the proteins and other nutrients you’ve ingested. Skin rash and hives, swelling of the tongue and airways, vomiting and low blood pressure are common symptoms. The allergy can be fatal, so possible victims should seek immediate medical attention.

2. Eggs

Those born allergic to eggs often outgrow it by the time they’re six. But that isn’t always the case. Yolk proteins sometimes cause the reaction but the culprits are usually the proteins. Eggs are particularly difficult to avoid as they’re used in many processed foods like pasta, mayonnaise and baked goods. Skin and digestive reactions are most common but in extreme cases egg allergies can cause potentially fatal anaphylaxis.

3. Fish

If you’re allergic to one fish, say, salmon, you’re most likely allergic to all types of fish. Fish can be sneaky, showing up unannounced in processed foods like salad dressings and soups, so it’s often difficult to avoid and can easily be unknowingly ingested. Most common reactions are seen on the skin and gastrointestinal tract, but extreme systemic reactions like anaphylactic shock have been known to occur.

4. Milk

Milk allergies are one of the world’s most prevalent allergies. It’s common among infants and outgrown by the time the child reaches six years old 90 percent of the time. Gastrointestinal and skin reactions are the most common symptoms of this allergy, and those with it must check the ingredients in foods diligently as it is often an ingredient in instant soups, chocolate, salad dressings and countless other processed foods.

5. Peanuts

People with peanut allergies live in a hostile world. Peanuts are in everything. From chocolate bars to breakfast cereals, they’re a pervasive ingredient, particularly in Asian cuisines. The prevalent allergy tends to cause severe reactions, with 63 percent of food allergen deaths attributed to peanuts. Mild allergy symptoms include itchiness and swelling of the mouth. But for people with severe peanut allergies, even ingesting a very small amount or just breathing in peanut particles can trigger an anaphylactic reaction.

6. Soybean

Along with peanuts, soybeans are a member of the legume family, which make up 25 percent of the world’s crops. A soy allergy can also be tricky to avoid triggering. Soy’s not only found in many processed foods like breadcrumbs, meat products that rely on fillers and anything emulsified that requires stabilization, but also in nutritional supplements.

7. Tree Nuts

Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and other tree nuts trigger autoimmune reactions in only 1.1 percent of humans but account for 31 percent of all food allergen-related deaths. Just like peanuts, simply inhaling tree nut particles can trigger a reaction. Luckily the most common reaction is seen on the skin in the form of hives or a rash.

8. Wheat

Wheat can be problematic for many, including people who love it enough to make it their profession: Inhaling wheat dust leads to a condition called Baker’s Asthma. A gluten intolerance usually manifests in skin and gastrointestinal discomfort, but this is not as severe as Celiac Disease. Those who suffer from it lose the ability to absorb nutrients. There’s no cure and the only remedy is avoiding gluten products.