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What To Know About Adult Food Allergies

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Since childhood, you’ve always loved shrimp and grits, a hearty and delicious Lowcountry staple. But now, something feels off. You notice your favorite snack not only tickles your taste buds…but now also your throat and tongue. Surely, it couldn’t be a new allergy, not at this age…could it? While it’s most common for food allergies and sensitivities to develop in adolescence, it’s not unusual for these adverse reactions to appear in adulthood.

What causes food allergies to develop?

Like all other allergies, food allergies occur when an individual’s immune system reacts negatively to a specific substance or allergen. In most people, the trigger substance would be harmless, but because the individual’s immune system labels the substance as a threat, antibodies are created as a defensive response – this is what causes allergic reactions.

New or previously dormant allergies most commonly develop in adulthood due to lifestyle changes, such as a recent move, trying a new food or getting a new pet. In a study conducted by the JAMA Network, findings revealed that, of the 40,443 U.S. adults surveyed, about 11% were found to have at least one food allergy and, of that 11%, about half noticed symptoms that started in adulthood.

What are the common food allergies?

While there are reported allergies to more than 170 foods, it is actually a very select group responsible for most allergic reactions. This sect has been labeled by the FDA as “The Big 8” and is responsible for about 90% of all food allergies in the U.S, according to FARE.

Foods in The Big 8 include:

  • Milk 
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustacean / Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybean

Due to their prevalence, these specific food allergens are required to be marked on all foods. The Big 8 can affect people of all ages, however, the most common food allergy that develops in adulthood is shellfish. In addition to the Big 8, sesame is the ninth biggest food allergen and is in review to be added to this group by Jan. 1, 2023, under the FASTER Act of 2021. Until then, this allergen’s listing is not required on major labels.

How can I recognize food allergy symptoms? 

Food allergy symptoms can vary in severity, and the time it takes for them to appear, ranging from minutes to hours after ingestion. If you notice adverse reactions to specific foods, immediately halt further consumption of the suspected allergen and contact your board-certified allergist. Together, you can identify the cause of these symptoms via an allergy test, educate yourself on your allergies and develop a personalized plan to treat and potentially overcome them through immunotherapy and other proven treatments.

Common symptoms of food-related allergies include:

  • Hives or rash
  • Swelling of the face, tongue or lips
  • Itching or tingling of the mouth
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anaphylaxis
  • And more

Charleston Allergy and Asthma is here for you!

If you or a loved one are experiencing food allergy symptoms, our Charleston Allergy and Asthma board-certified allergists are here for you! Contact us today at one of our three Lowcountry locations to begin your journey toward allergy relief.

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