what are food allergies most common food allergies
Food Allergies

What are Food Allergies? Symptoms and Causes

It’s easy to assume everyone knows exactly what food allergies are. As I’ve recently learned, there’s always more room for awareness. I realized this when I tried to explain why my son can’t eat any of the sweet potato pie I was making, even if I “only put a little bit” of milk in it. No, please remember, he can’t even have a “little bit” because he is allergic to milk. Seriously, Please don’t give my baby milk.

So, even if you know what allergies are, here’s a quick guide to answer some questions and go over the details. At the end of this guide, as always, I will list resources so you can get some more in-depth information.

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What are food allergies?

“A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system sees a certain food as harmful and reacts by causing symptoms.”

Kids with Food Allergies

A food allergy is a reaction to the proteins in food. When you have an allergic reaction, your body begins attacking everything that gets in its way. It believes that the proteins in the food are poison or a foreign invader. Because your body doesn’t know that the protein is food and not dangerous, it can destroy some of your important cells too. The attackers are called histamines and they cause blood vessels to expand and trigger an allergic reaction.

What are the most common food allergies?

The 8 most common food allergies are called the “top 8”. However, more allergies exist and the list of common allergies is growing. This is leading to a shift, to adding more allergens to the top of the list. In recent years, sesame seeds have become a more common allergy. It would be helpful to add sesame seeds to the top of the list because, in some countries, the top allergies come with more regulations about listing them on warning labels.

Top 8

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans
what are food allergies top 8 allergens

Milk, eggs, and peanut allergies are the most common in children, while shellfish allergies are more common in adults. Something to remember if you are a parent is that food allergies are also more common in children with eczema. Because of this milk, eggs and peanuts are the allergies we focus most on here on the site. My son who has severe eczema also has food allergies.

What are some signs and symptoms that you may have a food allergy?

All reactions are different, some you may not notice right away. While other reactions, come quickly and are hard to miss. If you have had any of the below symptoms after you eat, you may want to consider visiting an allergist. If a symptom doesn’t occur right away, it can be hard to find out which food caused a reaction. In that case, it’s best to keep a food journal for you or your child, that way you can monitor when reactions occur. Take your journal to the doctor and let them know what kind of symptoms you are experiencing.

what are food allergies food journal

Symptoms of a food allergy

  • swelling of the lips or tongue
  • hives
  • rashes
  • itchiness
  • reddening of the skin
  • sweating
  • trouble breathing
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea

Remember this is a short list you can experience other symptoms. If you have a symptom that is not on the list above, talk to your doctor about what may be causing it. They can test you to find out what allergies you may have.

What is the best treatment for food allergies?

If you experience 2 or more symptoms and you have been prescribed an epinephrine injector (the infamous “epi-pen”) take it and get to the doctor. Don’t wait until it’s too late it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you don’t have an epinephrine injector, still get to the doctor, and take an antihistamine like Benadryl if you have it.

what are food allergies symptoms

Ask your doctor to give you a demonstration on how to use an injector if they haven’t already and you can read more about how to use the injector on the epi-pen website.

The best treatment for food allergies is avoidance. The only thing that will ensure you will not have a reaction to a specific food is not to eat or come in contact with it. Treatments for food allergies are still changing. As time progresses doctors have worked on promising techniques to get rid of an allergy. However, there is no guaranteed treatment to get rid of food allergies yet.

What is the difference between anaphylaxis and anaphylactic shock?


“impair[s] breathing and cause[s] a sudden drop in blood pressure”

American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology

Anaphylaxis is a reaction that can present itself in many ways. It causes the throat to close, hives or swelling. Whenever you experience these sorts of reactions you should use your epi-pen. When most people are talking about an allergic reaction they are usually talking about anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is not shock. Anaphylactic shock is just one of many signs that a person is having an allergic reaction. It refers specifically to the body going into shock as a result of anaphylaxis.

Anaphylactic shock

“occurs when there is inadequate blood flow to critical organs of the body during a life-threatening allergic reaction”

Epi Pen

Anaphylatic shock is sudden. It occurs when the body is not getting enough oxygen because of a drop in blood pressure. Multiple symptoms may have occurred and sent the body into shock. You must call a doctor if this occurs, food allergy reactions are life and death situations.

the top 8 food allergies what are food allergies

What is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?

A food allergy and food sensitivity are two different things. If you can eat something, but it causes you discomfort, you may have a sensitivity. Lactose intolerance is a common example of sensitivity. People ask, what is the difference between my son having an allergy to milk and lactose intolerance?

what are food allergies

The difference is, with lactose intolerance your body reacts to the lactose found in milk negatively. It causes some serious discomfort in your digestive system because your body can’t break it down.

When you have an allergy to milk, your body fights the proteins in the milk. As the milk proteins make their way into your bloodstream your body attacks it because it thinks it’s poison. This can result in your body having some nasty reactions because while fighting the milk proteins, your body attacks its own cells as well.

Sensitivities should be taken seriously as well. The pain a sensitivity or intolerance causes can be serious. It’s best not to judge someone else’s pain. Even though a sensitivity is not the same as an allergy, it should still be respected as an important dietary restriction.

Food Allergy Awareness

Often parents of children with allergies deal with other people downplaying the allergy. Parents have complained of others not believing their child has an allergy at all. Even referring to food allergy reactions or allergy safety plans as an “overreaction.” But why shouldn’t the danger of any reaction, from a serious one to a minor discomfort, be enough to try to accommodate someone’s diet?

A person with a sensitivity or allergy would rather not have it. They are not trying to hurt your feelings by refusing your food. They are trying to find a way to keep themselves functioning in a society that often cares very little for those with sensitivities and allergies.

cheers over food allergy dinner

People think of allergies as a choice to eat dinner with everyone else or not. In fact, it is a choice to attempt fate and lose their life over dinner or not. I think every person with a food allergy would happily eat your dinner every time rather than have a food allergy. But when there is no safe option offered, how can they? Food allergies are dangerous, someone can lose a child over carelessness and lack of sympathy. So, Why risk it?

For those without food allergies, it can be easy to forget how serious allergies are. The fact is sometimes allergies present themselves differently. Even if you’ve seen someone live through one attack that resulted in a stomach ache, next time the reaction could be more severe.


Finding out what you are allergic to and being conscious of your diet is important. This site often focuses on eczema, but diet is a pivotal part of clearing it. The connection between eczema and food allergies makes it so that you can not mention one without the other. Parents need to consider if what their child is eating has anything to do with their eczema flare-ups.

Your doctor will provide insight into how to be diagnosed with a food allergy. Read more about food allergies to find out about the special connection they share with eczema.

You can read more find out how I found out about Eli’s allergies and get a food allergy-friendly meal plan here on the site. Do you or someone you love have any allergies? Tell me how you cope and what your diet is like. Let me know in the comments below if you would like more information about allergies.

no milk no eggs no peanuts food allergy guide sign


https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergy https://www.epipen.com/what-is-anaphylaxis

Lydia Knox is a mother of two boys with eczema. After facing severe eczema for the first time she dedicated herself to tackling the problem. She now uses her knowledge to help parents navigate raising children with severe eczema and food allergies. Lydia found a way to combine motherhood and her love of marketing into her business, Lydia Knox Creates. There she is able to work with parents and small businesses creating educational and entertaining content. You can read more about parenting here on Eczema Mama and see more of her work on lydiaknox.com.

One Comment

  • Marna Altman

    Really great blog. I did not realize all those symptoms. Of my two children one has many allergies and sensitive.

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