By Dr. Dave Hnida

DENVER (CBS4) -Although the number of children who suffer from peanut allergy has tripled over the past 15 years, the total number of Americans with food allergy has risen more slowly.  The percentage of people with food allergies is about 4 percent, with the majority affected being adult women.  That’s according to the latest research from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Any food can cause an allergy, but about 90 percent of all reactions are caused by eight particular food types:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts

Most reactions to food involved a skin rash or hives.  About 1 in 6 people, though, have a full blown anaphylactic reaction where their throat and airways close up.  In between, there are a variety of symptoms including nausea, stomach cramps, fainting, irregular heartbeat, or paleness to the skin.  The respiratory symptoms can range all the way from wheezing, shortness of breath, or a rapid-fire cough that won’t stop, trouble swallowing, and swelling of the tongue.

When you have a bad reaction, it usually starts pretty quickly, generally within minutes.  However, others can have a delay of 4-6 hours before having a reaction.  This is particularly true when it comes to hives and rashes.

peanuts e1431965174448 Do You Have Food Allergies? Here Are The Biggest Culprits

Peanuts. Courtesy Dr. Dave Hnida

Treatments range all the way from avoiding the foods are allergic to, to taking an antihistamine, all the way to having to getting a shot of adrenaline-commonly known as an EpiPen injection— when given outside of a hospital setting.

The good news is a sizable number of children outgrow their allergies, particularly to milk and eggs.  On the other hand peanut and tree nut allergies usually hang on well into adulthood. And it’s not unusual for an adult to develop an allergy to shellfish such as shrimp or lobster as they get older.  That’s why many experts recommend that allergy testing and treatment be done if foods can’t be avoided and reactions tend to be particularly severe.  Unfortunately, only about 20 percent of children and adults wind up ever getting allergy testing done.

And that is a problem particularly with the number of people suffering from food allergies, especially children, on the rise.

By the way, if your one of those people who gets an itchy, tingling mouth after eating certain foods particularly some fruits and vegetables, you may have something called “oral allergy syndrome.”  This is a weird syndrome where you don’t have a full blown allergic reaction to a particular food but yet you know something is wrong as soon as you take your first bite.

Interestingly, allergy testing is usually negative in the situations but yet you are truly sensitive, you should wind up checking things out with your physician if this is a problem for you.  If have this oral sensitivity, experts recommend avoiding that particular food, baking or cooking the food before eating it (that will break down the allergic protein), or sticking to canned fruits and vegetables.  That tip tends to be particularly helpful during certain times of the year when you have other allergies going on since that’s the time here immune system will be extra sensitive. It’s not all in your head (or mouth).

For more information:

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida


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