Food allergies range from the inconvenient to the potentially deadly. And if you (or your child) suffer from an extreme food allergy, you know how difficult, if not downright scary, navigating the world can be.
A handful of food allergies are so common that the law requires manufacturers to label foods that contain them. But there are almost 160 other food allergies that are less common.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that severe, life-threatening allergic reactions result in some 30,000 emergency room visits, 2,000 hospitalizations, and 150 deaths every year in the United States. In many cases, where the person’s allergy is known, these reactions are preventable.
The Big Eight
In 2004, the FDA passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, or FALCPA. It meant that manufacturers were required to label food packaging if their foods contained one of the eight most common food allergens.
The “Big Eight” are:
- tree nuts
But for people who are allergic to other, less common foods, identifying and avoiding them can be more difficult. Let’s look at some of the less common food allergies.
1. Red Meat
Being allergic to meats like beef, pork, and lamb is rare and can be difficult to identify. These allergies are usually attributed to a sugar found in meat called alpha-galactose.
If you are allergic to one type of meat, you might be allergic to others. Most children who are allergic to meat, specifically beef, tend to also be allergic to milk, according to research. The opposite is less common, however.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), symptoms may not occur until three to six hours after eating. Heating and cooking meat may reduce the risk of a reaction.
2. Sesame Seeds
Like allergies to nuts, people who are allergic to sesame seeds can experience severe reactions. These allergies are very rare, and only affect about 0.1 percent of people in the United States. It is a protein in the seed that triggers this allergic reaction.
While it may be easy to spot sesame seeds in your food, it can be harder to identify seed extracts and oils. Highly refined oils typically have the seed protein removed, but those with seed allergies should err on the side of caution.
Interestingly, avocado allergies are closely tied to latex allergies. This is because the proteins found in avocados are structurally similar to those found in natural rubber latex.
For this reason, people who are allergic to latex are cautioned of potential reactions to avocados. If you’re allergic to latex and have bad reactions to avocados, then you may also be allergic to papaya, bananas, or kiwis.
If you’re allergic to marshmallows, it’s probably the ingredient gelatin that is causing you problems. Gelatin is a protein formed when connective tissue is boiled, and a protein that some people are allergic to.
While somewhat uncommon, corn allergies can still be severe. If you’re allergic to corn, you’ll want to stay away from all of its forms, whether the corn is cooked, raw, or in flour.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), corn allergies are difficult to identify because reactions are similar to those of seed allergies.
Another interesting and relatively rare food allergy is mango. Like avocado allergy, an allergy to mangoes is often linked to latex allergy. People who have allergic reactions to mango are also likely to have severe reactions to poison ivy and poison oak. This is due to the presence of urushiol, a chemical found in all three plants.
7. Dried Fruit
The culprits behind dried fruit allergies are sulfites, such as sulphur dioxide, which are used to preserve a whole host of foods. In the European Union, manufacturers are required to label packaged foods that contain sulfites.
If you’re allergic or sensitive to sulfites, you could have reactions when consuming wine, vinegars, dried fruits and vegetables, as well as canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, and a variety of condiments.
8. Hot Dogs
Hot dogs are highly processed foods with numerous additives. An allergic reaction after eating hot dogs could be due to any number of these ingredients. Generally, however, the nitrates and a yellow dye known as tartrazine are to blame.
When to See a Doctor
Regardless of whether you’re allergic to one of the “Big Eight” or other, more common foods, you’ll experience similar symptoms during a reaction. Seek medical attention if you see any of the following symptoms, as anaphylaxis can be fatal:
- hives or rash
- tingly or itchy mouth
- swelling of the lip, tongue, or face
- vomiting and diarrhea
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of the throat
- loss of consciousness