Common Food Allergies

Food allergies are a common and potentially life-threatening condition that affects approximately 33 million Americans according to the Food Allergy Research and Education Organization. 

A food allergy is a medical condition in which exposure to a food triggers a harmful immune response. The immune response called an allergic reaction, occurs because the immune system attacks proteins in the food that are otherwise harmless. The proteins that trigger the reaction are called allergens. The symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can range from mild (itchy mouth, a few hives) to severe (throat tightening, difficulty breathing). 

A serious allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, that is sudden in onset and can cause death.

Food allergies can stem from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Individuals with a family history of allergies, including food allergies, are at higher risk of developing food allergies themselves. They can be triggered by ingesting, inhaling, or even touching certain foods or food particles. In some cases, even trace amounts of allergenic proteins can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. The severity of allergic reactions can vary widely, from mild symptoms like hives or itching to life-threatening anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention and treatment with epinephrine.

Most Common Food Allergies:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts (such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews)
  • Shellfish (including shrimp, crab, and lobster)
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Soy
  • Wheat

Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies:

  • Skin reactions such as hives, itching, or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, face, or throat
  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Digestive symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and potentially life-threatening symptoms

Treatment of Food Allergies:

  • Avoid known trigger foods: The primary treatment for food allergies is to avoid consuming the allergen.
  • Epinephrine auto-injector: Individuals with severe food allergies should carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as EpiPen) at all times to administer in case of an allergic reaction.
  • Antihistamines: These medications can help alleviate mild allergic symptoms such as itching and hives.
  • Emergency medical care: In the event of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions, administer epinephrine immediately and seek emergency medical assistance.

When to Seek Treatment for Food Allergy Reactions:

  • If experiencing symptoms of an allergic reaction after consuming a specific food.
  • If symptoms worsen rapidly or involve difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, or a drop in blood pressure.

Food allergies can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and require careful management to prevent allergic reactions. By recognizing the signs and symptoms of food allergies, understanding common triggers, and knowing how to treat allergic reactions, individuals with food allergies can take proactive steps to stay safe. If you or someone you know has a food allergy, it is essential to work closely with a health provider to develop a personalized management plan tailored to your specific needs.

If you or a loved one are experiencing food allergy symptoms, don’t wait for treatment—find an urgent care location near you.

Sources:, American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology,,,

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