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The “Big 8” Food Allergens (Part 1)

Written by Courteney

Posted on May 9, 2016 at 1:02 am

Nearly 15 million Americans have food allergies. People can be allergic to nearly any type of food substance however, 8 foods in particular comprise 90% of all food allergies, earning them the moniker “The Big 8”. These allergens are responsible for up to 30,000 anaphylactic reactions annually. Due to the prevalence of the Big 8, companies are required to list these ingredients on labels. Unfortunately not all other allergy foods contain such warnings. The Big 8 include:

  1. Peanuts – peanuts are one of the most notorious and prevalent food allergies. They are also the most common cause of food induced anaphylaxis because those who are highly reactive to peanuts can have life-threatening reactions not only through ingestion, but also through cross contamination or inhalation. Many parents give their babies their first taste of peanut butter early under supervised circumstances, as some studies suggest early exposure may lower risks of developing the allergy, or in the least will catch it right away before a potentially deadly chance encounter can occur.
  2. Tree nuts – Unlike most of the others listed here, a tree nut allergy is one of the Big 8 that is rarely outgrown. Some of the most well known tree nuts are almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts and pine nuts. Tree nuts allergies range from mild to severe, but are often serious enough for the sufferer to carry an EpiPen. Many people hear “nut allergies” and assume those allergic to tree nuts definitely share an allergy peanuts, but that isn’t necessarily true. Peanuts are actually legumes not nuts, so just because you are allergic to tree nuts doesn’t mean you are automatically allergic to peanuts and vice versa.
  1. Milk – Cow’s milk is the most common food allergy in young children. Approximately 5% of children under 3 years of age are allergic to milk. Milk allergies should not be confused with lactose intolerance. People with milk allergies have an immune overreaction to milk, causing hives or rashes to life-threatening anaphylactic reactions, whereas people with lactose intolerance are missing the enzyme that breaks down lactose, so their system cannot process dairy regularly, resulting in gastrointestinal symptoms. Children allergic to milk most often carry EpiPens in case their symptoms advance. Many children grow out of dairy allergies.
  2. Eggs – Are caused by an intolerance to a specific protein found in hen’s eggs. It is most common in children under 5 and is commonly outgrown. It usually causes digestive symptoms such as swelling, bloating, nausea and vomiting but can also cause hives, nasal symptoms or in rare cases more severe symptoms. If you have an egg allergy, look out for: “egg white”, “dried egg” or “albumin” listed in ingredients.

Thanks for reading, please keep an eye out for #’s 5-8 of The Big 8 in our next post! Thanks for visiting DocChat!

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