Top 8 Allergens to Avoid

Allergies have always been known as unwelcome guest who tends to overstay their tenure. An allergic reaction1 has no specific time and place and can occur anywhere.

But certain triggering elements induce such reactions and can be avoided. This article discusses those elements, better known as the top 8 allergens.

What Is An Allergy?

We all have heard people complaining about having allergies to certain things. But what exactly is an allergy?

An allergy is an uncontrolled reaction given by your immune system when a foreign particle enters the body and the immune system fails to recognize the particle. It can also be described as something that bothers solely your immune system and not anyone else’s.

People who have allergies are very commonly known to be sensitive to other things as well.

Histamine – a chemical found in the body as well as in many food items, is also responsible for a lot of allergic reactions. People having high histamine in the body or consuming high-histamine foods2 are said to have a very large scale of sensitivity.

Mechanism of Allergy

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Image From: Shutterstock

Our immune system has been designed in such a way that it does not react to any environment or substance that is not infection-causing. But, as soon as it detects something infectious, it starts to fight back, triggering a series of reactions.

Most of the allergies are mediated by a type of antibody found in the body known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE)3. It is produced as soon as the body is exposed to a foreign particle that is unacceptable to the body.

The immunoglobulin E binds to the foreign invader or allergen. This causes a trigger reaction and leads to the release of certain chemicals in the body like histamine.

There are 4 types of allergic reactions :
1) Type I
2) Type II
3) Type III
4) Type IV

Each type corresponds to the severity of the reaction.

What Are Allergens?

Sure, we are reading about the top 8 allergens but what exactly are allergens?

Allergens are those agents that cause an allergic reaction in a body. The foreign invaders are known as allergens. Not everyone is affected by the same allergen.

Allergens affect different people differently. People may show different symptoms to the same allergens or may not have an allergic reaction at all.

There are so many items on this planet that can trigger an allergic response in the body. People can have food allergies, medication allergies, and even seasonal allergies.

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

The most common symptoms are:

  • Swelling around eyes
  • Swelling around mouth and lips
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of limbs
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Stomach pain
  • Irritable Bowel syndrome

An anaphylactic shock4 is a very severe allergic reaction that needs immediate medical treatment as it causes obstruction to the airway and can prove fatal.

Remember that it may be possible that two people may show different symptoms with the same allergen.

Top 8 Allergens

Now that we have seen the symptoms, let us have a look at the top 8 allergens that are likely to cause such reactions to our body.

1) Eggs

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Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Eggs are known to commonly cause allergies in children. The reaction starts after a few minutes to a few hours of consumption.

The reaction does not occur on eating only eggs but also due to foods that have eggs as an ingredient in them.

In the case of an egg allergy, the most common symptom to be seen is inflammation of the skin or hives. Hives are rashes on the skin that develop rapidly.

People also undergo nasal congestion or runny nose after consumption of eggs.

Sometimes, it so happens that the proteins found in the eggs are not digested and cause digestive problems like diarrhea and excessive watery stool along with cramps and flatulence. In rare cases, people may also undergo vomiting and nausea.

The symptoms may range from mild, to moderate to severe and can be treated easily.

2) Pollen

pollens
Photo by S N Pattenden on Unsplash

Pollen allergies come under seasonal allergies. Pollen allergy is also known as allergic rhinitis or Hay fever5.

Pollen or dander, are small grains released by plants to go through the process of aerial fertilization. The most common reasons for pollen allergies are – Spring, summer, and fall.

Most of the allergic pollen comes from various trees, grasses, and weeds. Allergic pollen released by grasses is the most common cause of hay fever. Grasses like tumbleweed, ragweed, pigweed, sagebrush, and lamb’s quarter are the most common types of grasses whose pollen grains are known to cause allergy.

Trees like cedar, birch, and oak also produce highly allergic pollen grains.

A person suffering from hay fever shows symptoms of runny nose, stuffed nose, postnasal drip, sneezing, wheezing, and red and watery eyes. There may also be swelling around the eyes at times.

3) Shellfish

seafoods
Photo by Ting Tian on Unsplash

Shellfish allergies are caused due to consumption of seafood known as shellfish. The symptoms can show up minutes after consumption or may take hours to surface.

There are two types of shellfish – Crustacean Shellfish and Mollusks. Prawns, crabs, and lobsters all come under crustacean shellfish while oysters and clams come under mollusks.

Symptoms of shellfish allergy vary greatly and include – indigestion, vomiting, hives, wheezing, hoarseness of voice, pale skin, or confusion.

4) Milk

People tend to get allergic to milk and milk products. This kind of allergy is known as a dairy allergy or even lactose intolerance6.

What happens is the body fails to digest a protein called lactose that is majorly found in dairy products. Due to this, an allergic reaction takes place and makes the body intolerant to lactose.

People are also allergic to milk eggs together. Symptoms of milk allergy include – Abdominal cramps, flatulence, loose stools, a colic disease in babies, vomiting, or constipation.

Avoiding the consumption of dairy products can help combat this allergy.

5) Peanut

peanut
Photo by Isai Dzib on Unsplash

Peanut Allergy is very common among people worldwide. It is known to cause a severe allergic reaction that can be life-threatening.

Any food product that includes peanuts in it can be a trigger to this allergy.

Peanuts or groundnuts, if consumed even minutely in any form – be it oil or paste, can cause a severe allergic reaction. Peanuts are grown underground and are hence considered legumes.

Anaphylaxis is the major symptom of a peanut allergy. People undergo anaphylactic shock with swelling around the eyes, lips, tongue, and glottis. This obstructs breathing.

The situation can turn into a severe emergency condition if proper care is not taken.

6) Tree Nuts

too many nuts
Image by Bob from Pixabay

Tree nut allergies affect a large population of the United States. Tree nuts that cause allergies include – brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pistachios.

These nuts are widely used in making various oils and kinds of butter and are used as flavoring ingredients as well. Avoiding consumption of such food products can be a useful form of precaution.

Symptoms of tree nut allergies are difficulty in swallowing, wheezing, nausea, and shortness of breath.

7) Wheat

Wheat allergy is caused due to consumption of wheat or wheat products and can occur minutes or hours after ingestion.

Wheat allergy is most often confused with celiac disease. But celiac disease is basically gluten allergy, where the body produces antibodies against just the protein gluten that is found in wheat.

Celiac disease causes iron deficiency anemia, pale skin coloration, and severe stomach cramps. Consuming gluten-free food is the key.

Wheat allergy is caused due to the body’s inability to process a certain protein found in wheat.

Wheat allergy symptoms are hives and rashes on the skin with swelling and irritation to the mouth and throat. People may also feel fatigued and tired and have a headache.

8) Fish

fishfood
Photo by Mike Bergmann on Unsplash

Fish allergy is mainly observed in babies and children. Being allergic to fish does not mean you are also allergic to shellfish.

Finned fish that constitute allergens include – tuna, salmon, and halibut.

It has been seen that people are mostly allergic to a specific type of fish rather than being allergic to all finned fish.

Symptoms of a fish allergy include – indigestion, stomach cramps, vomiting, and nausea. Sometimes people develop skin rashes as well.

Very rarely this allergy causes respiratory problems but sometimes it can cause nasal congestion.

How to Avoid Having Allergic Reactions?

Even though allergic reactions can be very annoying, there are ways to completely avoid them.

  • Check for food labels that prompt allergy-friendly labels or any sort of food allergen labelling while buying food products.
  • Get yourself checked for allergies by medical professionals.
  • check for cross-contamination of foods
  • In case of an allergic reaction, make sure to rush to the hospital immediately.
  • Keep antiallergic medications handy at all times.
  • Avoid triggering foods completely.
  • Treatment options for allergies are available in abundance. You can even be given symptomatic treatment drugs like antacids and antihistamines.
  • Avoid eating histamine-rich foods as histamine is known to increase levels of allergic reactions.
  • Consult a dietician in case you feel that you need a proper diet chart.

Given all these points, you need not let these petty allergies come in the way of your happy life. Keeping in mind the top 8 allergens and avoiding them, you can successfully live a happy and allergy-free life.

  1. Niggemann, B., and K. Beyer. “Factors augmenting allergic reactions.” Allergy 69.12 (2014): 1582-1587. ↩︎
  2. Sánchez-Pérez, Sònia, et al. “Low-histamine diets: is the exclusion of foods justified by their histamine content?.” Nutrients 13.5 (2021): 1395. ↩︎
  3. Bazaral, Michael, and Robert N. Hamburger. “Standardization and stability of immunoglobulin E (IgE).” Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 49.3 (1972): 189-191. ↩︎
  4. Brown, A. F. “Anaphylactic shock: mechanisms and treatment.” Emergency Medicine Journal 12.2 (1995): 89-100. ↩︎
  5. Hemminki, Kari, et al. “Risk of cancer in patients with medically diagnosed hay fever or allergic rhinitis.” International journal of cancer 135.10 (2014): 2397-2403. ↩︎
  6. Swagerty Jr, Daniel L., Anne D. Walling, and Robert M. Klein. “Lactose intolerance.” American family physician 65.9 (2002): 1845-1851. ↩︎

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Author

Ayushi Mahajan

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