Food Allergy

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideThe Most Common Food Allergies for Kids and Adults

The Most Common Food Allergies for Kids and Adults

What are the most common food allergies?

According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, eight foods are responsible for most food allergies:

  • Cow's milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soy
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat

In adults, the most common foods that cause allergic reactions are shellfish, such as shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and crab; nuts from trees, such as walnuts; fish; eggs; and peanuts, a legume that is one of the chief foods that cause serious anaphylactic reactions. In highly allergic people, even minuscule amounts of a food allergen (for example, 1/44,000 of a peanut kernel) can evoke an allergic reaction. Less sensitive people, however, may be able to tolerate small amounts of a food to which they are allergic.

In children, the pattern is somewhat different from adults, and the most common foods that cause allergic reactions are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, soy, fish, and fruits, particularly tomatoes and strawberries. Children sometimes outgrow their allergies, but adults usually do not lose theirs. Also, children are more likely to outgrow allergies to cow's milk or soy formula than allergies to peanuts, fish, or shrimp. Adults and children tend to react to those foods they eat more often. For example, in Japan, allergy to rice, and in Scandinavia, allergy to codfish, is more common than elsewhere.

What is cross-reactivity?

Cross-reactivity is the occurrence of allergic reactions to foods that are chemically or otherwise related to foods known to cause allergy in an individual. If someone has a life-threatening reaction to a certain food, the doctor will counsel that patient to avoid related foods, which also might induce the same reaction. For example, if a person has a history of a severe allergy to shrimp, he or she can also possibly be allergic to crab, lobster, and crayfish.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/24/2017

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