Causes Of Food Allergy
Almost any food or food additive can cause an allergic reaction. The most common triggers vary by age group.
Infants and young children with food allergies tend to be allergic to the most common allergy triggers , such as those in the following:
To prevent such allergies from developing, many parents avoid exposing their young children to these foods. However, new evidence suggests that regularly feeding infants foods that contain peanuts may help prevent them from developing a peanut allergy. More study of this approach is needed.
For older children and adults, the most common triggers are allergens in
Being exposed to other allergens that are similar to those in foods may trigger the production of antibodies to substances in food, resulting in a food allergy. This process is called sensitization. For example, children with peanut allergy may have been sensitized to peanuts when topical creams containing peanut oil were used to treat rashes. Also, many people who are allergic to latex are also allergic to bananas, kiwis, avocados, or a combination. Latex and these fruits contain similar allergens.
Which Allergies Are Most Common
While weve talked about allergies to things like dander and pollen, these are not the most frequent adult-onset allergies. Per the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or ACAAI and data published in 2017 from their Annual Scientific Meeting, the most frequent adult-onset allergies are those to food. In fact, food comprised nearly 50 percent of these allergies!
Which foods triggered the most allergies? Peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts. The study discovered that Caucasian people were less likely to have peanut and shellfish allergies compared to Hispanic, Asian, and black people of adult age .
While, back in 2008, the rate of tree nut allergies among adults was only 0.5 percent, its jumped by 260 percent. As of 2017, when the study was published, that rate was now 1.8 percent.
In addition, in 2004, only 2.5 percent of adults were allergic to shellfish. Today, that number has seen a 44-percent spike, as 3.6 percent are affected by this seafood allergy in the United States alone.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology or AAAAI added that younger children aged one through three years old were also getting more food allergies. That said, they had fewer instances of shellfish allergies specifically.
See related: New Recommendations for Exposing Children to Peanuts
How Should I Offer The Common Food Allergens When I Try Them For The First Time
- Offer textures that are safe for your baby. At about 6 months you can offer foods with a semi-solid texture such as lumpy, tender-cooked and finely minced, pureed, or ground.
- Blend some of the common allergen into prepared infant cereal or fruit puree. See the recipes below for details.
- Offer your baby a small taste of the recipe .
- Wait about 10 to 15 minutes before offering more.
- During this time, watch your baby to see if they show symptoms of an allergic reaction. You can offer other foods to your baby while you wait.
- If after 10 to 15 minutes your baby hasn’t shown any symptoms of an allergic reaction, you can offer more of the common allergen along with other foods.
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Gupta, R.S., Warren, C.M., & Smith, B.M., et al. . Prevalence and severity of food allergies among U.S. adults. JAMA Network Open. 2019;2. Retrieved from
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Food Allergies Can Begin At Any Age
Suspect you have food allergies?
Youve always been able to eat a certain food, such as shrimp or strawberries, but suddenly you have a reaction to it. Do you have a food allergy?
Understanding the causes and signs of food allergies can help you discover whats going on and develop a plan to combat them.
What Are The Most Common Food Allergens
A child could be allergic to any food, but these eight common allergens account for 90% of all reactions in kids:
In general, most kids with food allergies outgrow them. Of those who are allergic to milk, about 80% will eventually outgrow the allergy. About two-thirds with allergies to eggs and about 80% with a wheat or soy allergy will outgrow those by the time they’re 5 years old. Other food allergies may be harder to outgrow.
What Causes A Person To Develop Allergies
Allergies can come in many shapes and sizes. While some people can enjoy beautiful weather, others avoid going outdoors at all costs. The same situation may occur for people watching others enjoy an endless variety of foods while they must be very selective. Those people who suffer from the incessant symptoms of food or environmental allergies may wonder, why?
Have you ever wondered what causes your stuffy nose and sneezing? Its not just a string of bad luck; whether your allergy symptoms occur in direct result to the local pollen count, different types of food or your neighbors cat, there are certain responses from our immune system that lead to our level of reaction.
In this article, well explain exactly what causes a person to develop allergies, when this can happen, and whether allergic symptoms are worse in adulthood or childhood.
What Causes Food Allergies To Develop In Adults
When IgE antibodies attached to mast cells snare pollen allergens, the mast cells release histamine, which causes allergy symptoms. B. Cross-reactivity occurs when the IgE antibodies on mast cells in the lips, mouth, and throat mistake food proteins for pollen allergens and trigger an allergic response.
Cracking The Common Types And Corresponding Causes Of Food Intolerance
Food intolerance may be hereditary and detected during childhood, but it can also emerge later in life. It is possible for your body to develop an aversion to certain foods as you age or after a change in diet. A sudden sensitivity to certain foods can also occur as a result of taking medications for a considerable time or due to a stressful life event like losing your job, going through a breakup or divorce, undergoing major surgery or battling a serious illness.
Below are the most common types of food intolerance and what causes each of them:
Diagnosis Of Food Allergy
Skin prick tests or an allergen-specific immunoglobulin test
An elimination diet
Doctors suspect a food allergy based primarily on the persons history. Usually in adults, the allergy is obvious. But diagnosing a food allergy in children may be difficult. Some food allergies may be difficult to distinguish from many other digestive problems, such as irritable bowel disease.
Skin prick tests with extracts from various foods may be done if a food allergy is suspected. A drop of each extract is placed on the persons skin, which is then pricked with a needle. A skin reaction to a food tested does not necessarily mean that a person is allergic to that food, but no skin reaction means that an allergy to that food is unlikely.
Alternatively, an allergen-specific immunoglobulin test may be done. The immune system produces a different type of IgE in response to each allergen. For example, the IgE that is produced after pollen is inhaled differs from the IgE that is produced when nuts are eaten. For the test, doctors withdraw a sample of blood and determine whether IgE in the person’s blood binds to a specific allergen used for the test, such as one for peanuts. If binding occurs, the person has an allergy to that allergen.
In an oral challenge test, the person is given another food in two batches: one with the suspected food in it and one without the suspected food in it. Then the doctor observes as the person eats the food:
Why Do Certain People Have Allergic Reactions
Food allergies appear to be on the rise. For instance, the say that among children, the prevalence of food allergies increased from 3.4% in 19971999 to 5.1% in 20092011.
Researchers are not sure why numbers are increasing, but there are some theories:
- Diet: Changes in eating habits in Western nations such as a lower consumption of animal fats and higher intake of vegetable fats may be the cause.
- Antioxidants: Most people eat smaller quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables than previous generations did. These foods are high in , which help protect against cell damage. Some
- hygiene hypothesis , this theory notes that many children are now growing up in sterile environments with much lower exposure to germs. Developed countries, in which people tend to have higher use of antibacterial products and less exposure to healthy bacteria in the environment, have significantly higher rates of food allergies.
However, all of the above are theories, with no compelling evidence to support them.
How To Handle Allergies
If you start to show symptoms of an allergy, it is important to consult your doctor. Blood and skin testing can confirm your diagnosis so that you can learn how to safely handle your allergies. Once your allergies are diagnosed, a change in diet, allergy shots or medications may help to alleviate symptoms.
So despite your age, be sure not to ignore any new reaction you might have to a food or substance. By paying close attention to this reaction, and determining its cause, you will be better prepared to eat safely and avoid further reactions.
Know Where To Go For Allergy Care: Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center
Allergies can begin in childhood, adulthood and anytime in between. If youre dealing with a new or persistent case of allergies, we encourage you to reach out to us at Carolina Asthma & Allergy. We serve patients throughout North and South Carolina and work with traditional allergy treatment methods as well as allergy shots and allergy drops.
Our board-certified doctors are experts in food allergies, asthma, insect bite allergies and other uncommon, yet often serious allergies that require specialized care. We even offer anaphylaxis prevention and treatment, immunotherapy care and treatments for the lungs, skin, throat, nose, ears, and eyes. To set up your appointment today, contact us today!
Can You Prevent A Food Allergy
The short answer is no. Vander Leek explains that for most people, eating shellfish or other common food allergens will often never cause any problems, but for others, an allergy may develop if a food is not eaten regularly. He says that its possible to have an allergic reaction to a food that you have not eaten in as little as four weeks.
The bottom line is that food allergies can happen to anyone, at any age, regardless of exposure. Some kids can outgrow a food allergy, but thats not likely to happen with adults. If what you have is an allergy, you may need an , which, in the event of a severe and life-threatening reaction, can save your life. The best way to stay safe is to avoid the food altogether and follow the advice of your health care provider.
Maja Begovic is a freelance writer with Healthing.ca.
Damage To The Intestinal Wall
Your small intestines have a lining that protects your body from letting in abnormal antigens. Antigens are any foreign body that can trigger an immune response, usually through the formation of antibodies.
If there is a sufficient change in your small intestines walls, you may start to absorb food proteins in high amounts.
This could make your body sensitive and thus lead to sudden egg intolerance.
What Is Food Allergy
Food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakes a specific protein in a food as harmful. Once a person has a food allergy, an allergic reaction occurs every time they eat that food.
About 7% of babies and young children have food allergy. Children can outgrow some food allergies.
The foods that cause food allergy most often are called common food allergens. They include:
- Tree nuts
Prevention Of Food Allergy
For many years, doctors have advised against feeding young infants foods that commonly trigger an allergic reaction as a way to prevent food allergies. However, new evidence suggests that regularly feeding infants foods that contain peanuts may help prevent them from developing a peanut allergy. More study of this approach is needed.
Parents should talk to their pediatrician about the best way to prevent peanut allergy in their child.
How Allergic Reactions Happen
Allergic reactions occur when your body comes in contact with something that it internally believes is harmful. This can be a food or any substance, such as pollen. As a reaction, the body produces immunoglobulin E or IgE, which are antibodies. These antibodies, in turn, attach themselves to cells which then release . Histamine causes reactions such as inflammation, redness in the eyes, along with tears and an itchy feeling. If the reaction is strong enough anaphylactic shock can result. The IgE antibodies typically serve to fight infections but sometimes they attack the allergens instead.
There is also a condition called oral allergy syndrome, which is a reaction to pollen, not to a particular food. In this case, the immune system recognizes the pollen and similar proteins in the food and then causes an allergic reaction to it. This is not a true food allergy but is often confused as one.
Why These Allergies Are Happening Now
Allergists dont yet know why some people are affected by constant exposure to a potential allergen while others arent. Its a biological false alarm. However, the rise of adult-onset allergies can be particularly vexing because sufferers had been fine for years. Or at least they appeared that way. When people move to a new place, it usually takes at least a couple of seasons to develop, says Dr. Chen.
Lets say youre a lifelong Angeleno who moves to New York, where birch trees are everywhere. When spring rolls around, your immune system may respond to the new factor in the air. It takes a week or two to develop all the antibodies specific to each pollen. By the time those antibodies make it through your whole body, the irritant could be gone and symptoms wont get a chance to show up, says Dr. Sokol. So youll have no idea youve been primed to launch an allergic response.
That same thing will happen the next year, only more quickly, although you still might not see symptoms. But you better believe that your bodys not going to forget about it in your third birch-pollen season, says Dr. Sokol. The next year, your allergy cells are primed for attack, and you are miserable from the first day of birch-pollen exposure to the last day.
This is also true for new exposures to pet dander, or foods that you eat on occasion. Once that immune response starts, it can be hard to stop, says Dr. Sokol.
How To Get Tested
A food allergy will usually cause some sort of reaction every time the trigger food is eaten. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and you may not always experience the same symptoms during every reaction. Allergic reactions to food can affect the skin, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and cardiovascular system. It is impossible to predict how severe the next reaction might be, and all patients with food allergies should be carefully counseled about the risk of anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal reaction that is treated with epinephrine .
While food allergies may develop at any age, most appear in early childhood. If you suspect a food allergy, see an allergist, who will take your family and medical history, decide which tests to perform and use this information to determine if a food allergy exists.
To make a diagnosis, allergists ask detailed questions about your medical history and your symptoms. Be prepared to answer questions about:
- What and how much you ate
- How long it took for symptoms to develop
- What symptoms you experienced and how long they lasted.
After taking your history, your allergist may order skin tests and/or blood tests, which indicate whether food-specific immunoglobulin E antibodies are present in your body:
Your will use the results of these tests in making a diagnosis. A positive result does not necessarily indicate that there is an allergy, though a negative result is useful in ruling one out.
It’s Not Just You Who’s Suddenly Having Seasonal Allergies
The World Allergy Organization reports that the prevalence of allergies has risen in industrialized countries over the past 50 years. In 2018 alone, more than 19 million adults in the U.S. were diagnosed with hay fever , according to the CDC. Meng Chen, M.D., an allergist at Stanford Universitys Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy and Asthma Research, says her office is seeing more cases each day. Its something I oftentimes hear from patientsIve never had allergies, and all of a sudden, I, an adult, have developed all of these allergies, she says. What the heck is going on?
For one thing, the world is warming up, and that leads to longer allergy seasons as much as 27 days longer, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Then theres all the moving around we dothe average 30-year-old will have already moved about six times in their life. If some resident in your building has cats, or your new bedroom faces a field of sagebrush, you may develop a reaction youve never experienced before.
You Can Develop A Food Allergy At Any Age
You have eaten pineapple for as long as you can remember, but this time you find your lips tingle as you take a bite. Or maybe you ate your favorite shrimp scampi dinner only to discover you are covered with hives. Perhaps you are relaxing on your front porch when suddenly your eyes start getting itchy and your experience bouts of sneezing.
Is it possible that even as an adult you can suddenly develop allergies, both food, and seasonal ones? The answer is an absolute yes. In fact, it is somewhat common to have allergies develop during adulthood, with no prior history. While it occurs in only about 2 percent of the adult population, it is currently a condition that is on the rise.
What Are Symptoms Of Adult
When it comes to allergies, symptoms tend to get worse over time, and some may even be life-threatening. A few common signs and symptoms you need to watch out for include:
- Runny nose or nasal congestion: May be triggered by an airborne allergen such as pollen, dust, or pet dander
- , swollen eyes: May be caused by allergens entering the eyes, such as pollen or ingredients in a new eye cream
- Red and white, raised : Also called , looks like and disappears after 20 minutes, and almost always a sign that you have had an reaction to something you have eaten
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, and face: Rarest but most dangerous kind of allergic reaction that can come on very quickly
- May be the result of eating a certain food , taking certain medication, or a wasp sting
- May quickly develop into an anaphylactic shock and be deadly, therefore requiring emergency medical attention
Food Allergies In Children
No parent wants to see their child suffer. Since fatal and near-fatal food allergy reactions can occur at school or other places outside the home, parents of a child with food allergies need to make sure that their childs school has a written emergency action plan. The plan should provide instructions on preventing, recognizing and managing food allergies and should be available in the school and during activities such as sporting events and field trips. If your child has been prescribed an , be sure that you and those responsible for supervising your child understand how to use it.
In November 2013, President Barack Obama signed into law the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act , which encourages states to adopt laws requiring schools to have epinephrine auto-injectors on hand. As of late 2014, dozens of states had passed laws that either require schools to have a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors for general use or allow school districts the option of providing a supply of epinephrine. Many of these laws are new, and it is uncertain how well they are being implemented. As a result, ACAAI still recommends that providers caring for food-allergic children in states with such laws maintain at least two units of epinephrine per allergic child attending the school.
Prevention Of Food Allergies
The development of food allergies cannot be prevented, but can often bedelayed in infants by following these recommendations:
If possible, breastfeed your infant for the first six months.
Do not give solid foods until your child is 6 months of age or older.
Avoid cow’s milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts, and fish during your child’s first year of life.
Why Are Food Allergies Increasing
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported a 50 percent increase in the number of children with food allergies since the late 1990s. Many theories have been suggested as to why the number of people with food allergies is growing, but scientific research has not yet found the cause.
Food Allergies In Older People Often Misdiagnosed
The most common allergen people develop as adults, according to the Northwestern Medicine study, is shellfish, affecting 7.2 million adults in the U.S. Other common adult-onset food allergies are to milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fin fish, eggs, wheat, soy and sesame.
Identifying a food allergy can be challenging in people 50 and older. The symptoms may not be as clear cut as when you’re younger and can involve the respiratory system, skin, nose, mouth, ears, gastrointestinal tract or even the heart.
It’s not uncommon for a health care professional to mistake food allergy symptoms in an older adult for problems with a medication, sleep issues, viruses, autoimmune diseases, general aging or gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome. The longer a person continues to eat the allergen, the more serious the reactions can be, a particular concern in people with other health issues. Patients themselves may never consider a food allergy to be the root of their health issues, which can add to the difficulty in diagnosis.
Rhonda Adkins, of Great Falls, Mont., was stunned by her shellfish allergy diagnosis at 53. “The daughter of a shellfish fisherman, I literally grew up from age twelve eating shellfish almost five days a week, she says. We ate bay scallops like popcorn! When my allergist gave me information about shellfish allergies, I was surprised that it happens suddenly and in adults, typically in their fifties.”