8 Uncommon Food Allergies

Medically reviewed by Judith Marcin, MD on November 20, 2017Written by Anna Schaefer

Food allergies range from mild to life-threatening. If you or your child has 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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that severe, life-threatening allergic reactions to food result in 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

common food allergies

In 2004, the FDA passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). It meant that manufacturers were required to label food packaging if their foods contained one of the eight most common food allergens. These eight allergens are responsible for up to ninety percent of all allergic reactions related to food.

The “Big Eight” are:

  • milk
  • eggs
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • tree nuts
  • peanuts
  • wheat
  • soybeans

But for people who are allergic to other, less common foods, identifying and avoiding them can be more difficult. Here are eight 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 (alpha-gal). According to allergy experts, red meat allergy in the United States has been linked to a bite from a Lone Star tick.

If you’re allergic to one type of meat, you may be allergic to others such as pork and poultry. A small portion of children who are allergic to milk are also allergic to meat. Talk to your doctor to see if further testing of other foods is needed.

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), symptoms may not occur until three to six hours after eating.

2. Sesame seeds

Like allergies to nuts, people who are allergic to sesame seeds can experience severe reactions. These allergies are very rare, and estimated to only affect about 0.1 percent of people in the United States.

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 be cautious. According to experts, there are numerous cases of people who have allergic reactions to sesame oil.

3. Avocados

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 potatoes, tomatoes, chestnuts, papaya, bananas, or kiwis.

4. Marshmallows

If you’re allergic to marshmallows, the ingredient gelatin is most likely causing your problems. Gelatin is a protein formed when connective tissue from animals is boiled. Some people are allergic to this protein. Gelatin can also be found in gummy candies, chewy candies, and frosted cereals.

This is a rare allergy. Gelatin allergy is also tied to allergic reactions to some vaccines, such as the flu shot.

5. Corn

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, in syrup, 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, grain, and grass pollen allergies. A food elimination diet can help you determine if you’re allergic to corn.

6. Mango

Another interesting and relatively rare food allergy is mango. Like avocado allergy, an allergy to mangoes is often linked to latex allergy. There are also a wide variety of other allergens in mangoes that can cross-react with people allergic to apples, pears, celery, fennel, pistachios, and cashews, to name a few.

People who have allergic reactions to mango skin 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. These 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, processed meats, 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, it’s believed that nitrate and nitrite additives 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 immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms, as anaphylaxis can be fatal:

  • hives or rash
  • tingly or itchy mouth
  • swelling of the lip, tongue, throat, or face
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • cramping
  • coughing
  • difficulty breathing
  • dizziness
  • loss of consciousness
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