Common food allergies include dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts, among others. You may be more likely to outgrow certain allergies than others.

A food allergy is a condition in which certain foods trigger an abnormal immune response.

It’s estimated that 33 million people and 1 in 13 children in the United States have a food allergy, according to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE).

Although any food can cause an allergy, the Food and Drug Administration suggests that nine foods account for 90% of allergic reactions.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for the nine most common food allergies.

Food allergies happen when your immune system reacts to a food protein because it perceives it as threatening. It does this by creating antibodies, which are a type of blood protein used to recognize and fight infection.

There are two types of allergic reactions to food.

  • Immunoglobulin E (IgE) mediated: This is the most common type of allergic reaction. It happens when IgE antibodies release chemicals like histamine to fight off the perceived invader. Histamine causes typical allergy symptoms and may lead to anaphylaxis, which could be life threatening.
  • Non-IgE mediated: In this type of reaction, other parts of the immune system respond against the perceived threat. A non-IgE-mediated allergic reaction often involves skin or digestive symptoms, such as heartburn and eczema.

Non-IgE allergies may be difficult to diagnose because symptoms can suggest a food intolerance and there’s no blood test for it.

Food allergy symptoms may occur anywhere from a few minutes after exposure to hours or even days later.

Symptoms may include:

  • swelling of the tongue, mouth, or face
  • difficulty breathing
  • low blood pressure
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • hives
  • itchy rash

In severe cases, a food allergy can cause anaphylaxis. This can be a life threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Is my allergic reaction an emergency?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life threatening reaction to an allergen. It’s critical to get immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms after eating food:

  • sudden swelling of the mouth, lips, throat, or tongue
  • sudden rash
  • shortness of breath, wheezing, or gasping for air
  • very fast, rapid breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • sudden dizziness
  • skin, tongue, or lips becoming blue or pale
  • unresponsiveness, such as difficulty raising your head
  • fainting
  • unconsciousness
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An allergy to cow’s milk is one of the most common childhood allergies, affecting 2–3% of babies and toddlers.

Around 90% of children will outgrow the condition by the time they’re 3 years old, making it much less common in adults.

Allergic reactions to cow’s milk may occur within minutes of consuming milk or up to several hours later.

The only treatment for a cow’s milk allergy is to avoid it altogether. This includes foods and drinks that contain cow’s milk, such as:

  • milk
  • milk powder
  • cheese
  • butter
  • margarine
  • yogurt
  • cream
  • ice cream

People who are breastfeeding babies with an allergy may also have to remove cow’s milk from their diets. For babies not breastfeeding, a healthcare professional may recommend a suitable alternative to a cow’s milk-based formula.

An egg allergy is the second most common cause of food allergy in children. However, 68% of children allergic to eggs outgrow their allergy by the age of 16 years.

It’s possible to be allergic to egg whites but not the yolks, and vice versa. This is because the proteins in egg whites and egg yolks differ slightly.

Yet, most of the proteins that trigger an allergy are found in egg whites, so an egg white allergy is more common.

Like other allergies, the treatment for an egg allergy is an egg-free diet. However, you may not have to avoid all egg-related foods.

A 2019 study found that nearly 67% of children with an egg allergy could tolerate eating muffins containing a cooked egg component.

Heating eggs may change the shape of the allergy-causing proteins, which could stop your body from seeing them as harmful.

Research also suggests that introducing baked goods to children with an egg allergy can shorten the time it takes for them to outgrow the condition. However, the results are conflicting, and more data is needed to confirm this.

Speak with a healthcare professional before eating egg-containing foods if you’re allergic to eggs, as the consequences of ingesting eggs when you’re allergic to them can be severe.

A tree nut allergy is an allergy to some of the nuts and seeds that come from trees. It’s a common food allergy that may affect up to 3% of people worldwide.

Some examples of tree nuts include:

  • Brazil nuts
  • almonds
  • cashews
  • macadamia nuts
  • pistachios
  • pine nuts
  • walnuts

If you’re allergic to any type of tree nut, it’s best to avoid all tree nuts and food products made with these nuts, such as nut butters and oils. Being allergic to one type of tree nut increases your risk of developing an allergy to other types of tree nuts.

However, a 2021 study suggests that many people allergic to one type of nut may also tolerate other types. As such, the authors suggest other strategies for managing nut allergies, such as oral immunotherapy.

A tree nut allergy is usually a lifelong condition and less than 10% of people outgrow it.

A 2010 review suggests that it’s also responsible for 1 in 2 anaphylaxis-related deaths.

As such, it’s strongly advised to carry an epinephrine auto-injector like EpiPen with you at all times if you have a tree nut allergy. This is a potentially life-saving device that allows you to inject a shot of adrenaline if you begin to have a severe allergic reaction.

Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, may reverse the effects of the allergy and potentially save your life.

Like a tree nut allergy, peanut allergies are very common and can cause severe and potentially fatal allergic reactions.

The two conditions are considered distinct because peanut is a legume. However, up to 40% of people with peanut allergies are also allergic to at least one tree nut.

It’s estimated that over 6.1 million people in the United States have a peanut allergy, according to FARE. It’s the most common allergy in people ages 18 years and younger. However, 20% of children who develop a peanut allergy may find it resolves as they move into their teenage years.

The root cause of peanut allergies is unknown. However, people with a family history of peanut allergies may be more at risk.

Because of this, it was previously thought that introducing peanuts through a breastfeeding person’s diet or during weaning may trigger a peanut allergy.

However, research suggests that introducing peanuts early may be protective.

Like other allergies, treatment includes avoiding all peanuts and peanut-containing products.

However, the FDA has approved the oral immunotherapy medication called Palforzia for the treatment of peanut allergies in people ages 4–17 years.

A shellfish allergy is caused by your body attacking proteins from the crustacean and mollusk families of fish, which are known as shellfish.

Examples of shellfish include:

  • shrimp
  • prawns
  • crayfish
  • lobster
  • squid
  • scallops

The most common triggers of seafood allergies are the proteins tropomyosin, arginine kinase, and parvalbumin.

Symptoms of a shellfish allergy usually come on quickly.

Sometimes, a seafood allergy is hard to distinguish from an adverse reaction to a contaminant of seafood, such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

This is because the symptoms can be similar, as both can cause digestive issues like vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

A shellfish allergy doesn’t tend to resolve over time, so it’s best to exclude all shellfish from your diet to avoid having an allergic reaction.

Inhaling the vapors from cooking shellfish may also trigger an allergic reaction in those who are allergic. As such, you may be advised to avoid being around seafood when it’s being cooked.

A wheat allergy is an allergic response to one of the proteins found in wheat.

It’s more common in children, but they’ll often outgrow it by age 10 years.

Wheat allergies may cause symptoms similar to celiac disease and food intolerances like non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

However, a wheat allergy causes an immune-mediated response to one of the hundreds of proteins found in wheat.

Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are caused by an abnormal reaction to gluten, which is one specific protein that also happens to be found in wheat.

Allergic reactions to protein can be severe and sometimes even fatal. Celiac disease may also be fatal if left undiagnosed, though this is rare as most can successfully avoid gluten.

People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity have to avoid wheat and other grains that contain the protein gluten.

Those with a wheat allergy only need to avoid wheat and can tolerate gluten from grains that do not contain wheat.

Soy allergies are triggered by a protein in soybeans or soybean-containing products.

They affect up to 0.5% of children and are most commonly seen in infants and children under 3 years old. Around 70% of children eventually outgrow the allergy.

A small number of babies who are allergic to cow’s milk are also allergic to soy.

Symptoms can range from an itchy, tingly mouth and runny nose to a rash and asthma or breathing difficulties. In rare cases, a soy allergy can also cause anaphylaxis.

Common food triggers of soy allergy include soybeans and soy products like soy milk or soy sauce. Since soy is found in many foods, it’s important to read food labels.

Like other allergies, the only treatment for soy allergy is the avoidance of soy.

Unlike other allergies that are usually present in childhood, up to 40% of people with fish allergies report not experiencing symptoms until adulthood.

A fish allergy can cause a serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction. The main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, but, in rare cases, anaphylaxis can also occur.

A fish allergy is sometimes confused with a reaction to a contaminant in fish, such as bacteria, viruses, or toxins.

Nevertheless, you’ll usually be given an epinephrine auto-injector to carry in case you accidentally eat fish.

Interestingly, shellfish and fish with fins don’t carry the same proteins, so people who are allergic to shellfish may not be allergic to fish.

That said, many people with a fish allergy are allergic to one or more types of fish.

In 2021, the FDA declared sesame as the ninth major allergen.

Research suggests that sesame allergies may occur in up to 17% of children who also have IgE-mediated allergic reactions to peanuts and tree nuts.

Sesame can be found in a wide range of foods, such as Asian cuisine, baked goods, and dipping sauces, among others.

As of January 2023, sesame must be labeled on all foods containing sesame in them.

However, this means that products shelved before this date may contain sesame but not have it on the label. As such, it’s important to check packaging dates.

The 9 food allergies outlined above are the most common ones.

However, approximately 170 foods have so far been reported to cause allergic reactions. Some of these include:

  • linseed
  • sesame seed
  • peach
  • banana
  • avocado
  • kiwi fruit
  • passion fruit
  • celery
  • garlic
  • mustard seeds
  • aniseed
  • chamomile

Less common food allergies may cause an array of symptoms, ranging from mild itching of the lips and mouth to life threatening anaphylaxis.

A healthcare professional will start with a medical history and physical examination. Then, they’ll likely order several diagnostic tests, such as:

  • skin prick test
  • intradermal test
  • blood tests
  • patch test
  • oral food challenges
  • elimination diet

If you’re allergic to a food, a healthcare professional will advise you on how to manage it. They may also refer you to a registered dietitian to help with managing your diet.

There is currently no cure for food allergies.

However, researchers are continuing to investigate new ways to help people manage food allergies.

Whether you have an IgE-mediated or non-IgE-mediated food allergy, the best way to avoid an allergic reaction is to avoid any foods that contain the allergens you’re allergic to.

Depending on the severity of your food allergy, a healthcare professional may also prescribe medications, such as:

  • epinephrine auto-injectors to help reverse symptoms of anaphylaxis
  • antihistamines to help reduce symptoms from less severe allergic reactions
  • corticosteroids to help reduce swelling from more severe allergic reactions

Several home remedies may also help you manage your food allergy symptoms, such as probiotics, saline nasal sprays, and vitamin C supplements.

However, it’s important to note that limited research supports these remedies.

What are the 9 most common food allergies?

The most common food allergies include cow’s milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, and sesame.

What are the 3 signs and symptoms of a food allergy?

There are more than three symptoms of food allergies, including symptoms that affect your skin, digestive system, and immune system. It’s vital to get immediate medical attention if you or someone you’re with experience anaphylaxis symptoms, which may include shortness of breath, wheezing, and hyperventilating, among others.

How do you flush out food allergies?

There isn’t a method to flush out food allergies from your system. If you experience a sudden onset of symptoms, an epinephrine auto-injector could potentially reverse the reaction and save your life.

Nine foods are responsible for 90% of food allergies.

Food allergies are caused by your immune system incorrectly identifying some of the proteins in food as harmful. This may cause potentially life threatening reactions.

If you suspect you have a food allergy, speak with a doctor about it.