Editor’s note: Any medical advice presented here is expressly the views of the writer and Red Tricycle cannot verify any claims made. Please consult with your healthcare provider about what works best for you.

More than 1 in 10 adults suffer from a food allergy today and food allergies are even more common in children. With food allergies on the rise, it’s hard to find someone who isn’t directly or indirectly affected by food allergies. So what do you need to know about this trend?

Although more than 170 foods have been identified as triggers of food allergy, the FDA classifies 8 foods/food groups as the major food allergens in the US: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, wheat, and soy. Sesame is becoming an emerging concern and the FDA is considering including it as the 9th major food allergen in the US (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the EU already list sesame as a major food allergen).

Not only do these represent the most common childhood food allergies, but studies indicate that with early introduction, there can be a significant reduction in the development of an allergy to these foods.

Milk

  • Milk allergy is the most common food allergy in infants and young children

  • Affects 2-3% of children younger than 3 years old

  • In school-age children, milk is the most common cause of reactions at school

  • Milk allergy usually presents in the 1st year of life

  • Most children “outgrow” (or become tolerant to) their milk allergy; however, outgrowing a childhood allergy may occur as late as the teenage years

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Peanut

  • Affects up to 2% of children

  • Peanut allergy is more likely to be lifelong; only 20% outgrow a peanut allergy

  • Although peanut is the allergen most often associated with severe or fatal reactions, any food allergen has the potential to cause anaphylaxis.

Egg

  • Affects 2% of children

  • Egg allergy usually presents in the 1st year of life

  • Most children “outgrow” (or become tolerant to) their egg allergy

    • However, outgrowing a childhood allergy may occur as late as the teenage years

Tree Nuts

  • Affects 1% of the general population

  • Includes brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans (as well as foods made with these nuts)

  • Many people with tree nut allergies are only allergic to 1 or 2 types of tree nuts. Therefore, it’s worth working with an allergist to determine if they can safely eat other types of tree nuts.

Shellfish

  • Affects 1-1.5% of children

  • Includes shrimp, prawns, lobster, squid, crab, scallops

  • Often caused by a protein called tropomyosin

  • Even the steam from cooking can trigger an allergy

Fish

  • Affects 0.5% of children

  • Up to 40% of fish allergies don’t develop until adulthood

  • May be allergic to finned fish and not shellfish or vice versa

Wheat

  • Affects 0.4% of children

  • Often outgrown by 10 years of age

  • Often confused with celiac disease, but an allergy to wheat is different because it causes an allergic immune response to a protein found in wheat (celiac disease is in response to gluten) — people with a wheat allergy can often have other grains that are not wheat

  • Wheat is sometimes found in cosmetic products, too, so people with wheat allergies should avoid using these products on their lips.

Soy

  • Affects 0.4% of kids, normally under the age of 3; Affects 0.3% of the general population

  • 70% outgrow it by age 10

  • Found in many food products, so it’s important to read the labels

The Economic Impact of Food Allergies: Parents of food allergic children can face costs of up to $4200 every year per child according to a 2013 study, accounting for direct medical care; out of pocket cost for special foods; lost labor productivity and opportunity costs (reduced labor productivity of caregivers).

The Impact on A Child’s Quality of Life

  • Social Exclusion & Activity Avoidance – Children with food allergies, particularly milk and egg, can find many social events (e.g. birthday parties) difficult and isolating.
  • Bullying – About 1 in 3 children with food allergies has been bullied at least once, according to a 2014 study. With roughly a third of those children reported being bullied at least twice a month.  

A Recent Breakthrough in Food Allergy Prevention

Thankfully, recent landmark studies (LEAP, EAT, PETIT) have proven that exposing babies to food allergens early and often can significantly reduce their risk. In addition, new medical guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) have been published supporting early and sustained allergen introduction.  

Along with a team of leading allergy experts and parents, I helped develop Ready, Set, Food!, a gentle, guided system based on these medical guidelines. After over a year of research and development, we’re proud to offer Ready, Set, Food! to families like yours, making it as easy and safe as possible to introduce babies to peanut, egg, and milk in the amounts used in the landmark clinical studies, which showed the potential to reduce babies’ risk of developing an allergy to these foods by up to 80%.