From infants to the elderly, Hospitality Health ER has treated many patients dealing with complications from a wide range of allergies. More than 50 million Americans have allergies, which are often food-related. We’ve seen a wide range of symptoms including hives, cramping, swelling, shortness of breath, and anaphylaxis. The most frequent culprits of food allergies are fruit, nuts, and seafood.
Common Food Allergies by Category
It’s rare that you hear that someone is allergic to apples or peaches. That’s because certain fruits and foods contain certain “hyper” allergenic proteins and enzymes that tend to cause reactions for many people. To break it down even further, here are the most common fruits, nuts, and seafoods that cause allergic reactions.
Food Allergies: Fruits
Strawberries: Strawberry allergens are very similar to allergens found in birch pollen. If you are allergic to strawberries, you may experience swelling of the mouth, throat, gums, tongue, palate, and inside the cheeks. Allergic reactions can happen even if strawberries are cooked, so if you know you’re allergic, it’s best to avoid them in all forms, including strawberry jam and even candles.
Kiwi: Kiwi fruit also contains a similar allergen to birch pollen. Symptoms of a kiwi allergy are typically mild in adults, but can be more severe in children. Mild symptoms include itching and tingling of the mouth, lips, and tongue after eating the fruit. More severe symptoms include difficulty breathing or asthma symptoms, swelling of the mouth and throat, numbness of lips and throat, severe abdominal pain, dizziness and loss of consciousness, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, or drop in blood pressure (anaphylactic shock).
Tomatoes: If you are allergic to tomatoes, there’s a good chance it’s because you are unable to tolerate the IgE protein in a raw tomato. But on a positive note, there’s also a chance you may be able to tolerate cooked tomatoes — but check with an allergist to be certain. Symptoms of tomato allergies include a red, itchy rash or tingling of the lips or inside of the mouth. People who are allergic to tomatoes may also be allergic to other nightshade vegetables like potatoes, peppers, and eggplant because of certain substances they share: calcitriol and alkaloids.
Bananas, Avocados and Citrus Fruits: Allergic reactions resulting from bananas, avocado, and citrus fruit allergies are far less common than strawberries and kiwi, but they do happen. A protein called chitinase is what causes an allergic reaction to bananas and avocados, and can also explain some kiwi allergies. Citrus fruit allergies can cause symptoms that include ulcers in the mouth and the appearance of a rash.
Food Allergies: Nuts
Peanuts: Peanut allergies are one of the most common food allergies and appear to be on the rise in children. Peanuts can cause anaphylaxis, a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction, so once a peanut allergy is identified, doctors recommend completely avoiding all peanut products and being vigilant that you and your child’s food is prepared completely separate from any peanut products.
Tree nuts: Allergies to tree nuts like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans are common. Tree nut allergy symptoms can be mild to severe — from abdominal pain, nausea, cramps, and itchiness to difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, and anaphylaxis. Because tree nuts are often used as garnishes and ingredients in a wide range of foods like desserts, baked goods, and salads, it’s best to always double check with the person who prepared the dish.
Food Allergies: Seafood
Fish: Salmon, tuna, catfish, and cod are the fish that most commonly cause allergic reactions. However, just because you are allergic to one fish does not mean you’re allergic to all types of fish. If you know you are allergic to one specific fish but would like to try incorporating other varieties of fish in your diet, speak to your allergist about testing for those varieties.
Shellfish: Although allergic reactions to different types of shellfish are common, shrimp and other members of the crustacean group like lobster and crab cause the greatest number of allergic reactions. Allergies from mollusks like scallops, oysters, clams, and mussels are much less common. Shellfish allergy symptoms include vomiting, stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, hives all over the body, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, tightness in throat, trouble swallowing, swelling of the tongue and/or lips, weak pulse, pale or blue coloring of the skin, dizziness, or confusion.
If you know you are allergic to certain foods, be particularly careful when eating out. If you have a severe reaction, administer your Epipen or allergy medications, and then go to the Emergency Room as soon as possible.