Common Food Allergies and How to Avoid Them

peanut-999921_1280Food allergies have become an increasing health concern in Canada over the years, with as many as 2.5 Canadians suffering from at least 1 common food allergy. The highest incidence of food allergies is found in children.

Below is a look at some of the most common food allergens according to Health Canada:

Peanuts:
The most common food allergy, especially in children, is a peanut allergy (affecting 2 in 100.) Peanut allergies have become so severe that some schools have banned peanuts or products containing peanuts all together, and is considered a “priority” allergen that must be listed on all ingredient labels if manufactured in a facility that also produces products containing nuts. As a result, more and more companies and begun introducing nut and/or peanut-free products that are specifically advertised towards school-aged children such as cookies, crackers and chocolate. Other nut allergens include tree nuts; these include hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, walnuts and pistachios.

Milk:
This includes all dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and ice-cream. Many products contain milk, even in powdered form. It can be found in baked goods, coffee, soup mix, and even tofu.

Seafood:
Clams, scallops, shrimp, and lobster are all common seafood allergies. However, it is important to note that individuals with a seafood allergy are often able to eat certain types of seafood, while having to avoid other types all together. Seafood reactions can be severe, as one does not necessarily need to eat it in order to react to it. The smell of fish is enough to trigger an allergic reaction in some individuals. Seafood can also commonly (but oftentimes unknowingly) be found in salad dressings and sauces.

Soy:
Soy is another common allergen, but one that is not always easy to detect without carefully reading labeling. It can be found in everything from certain foods such as tofu, to candy, chewing gum, and even baby formula.

Sulphites:
An additive that is commonly used to preserve the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, and certain packaged foods. While sulphites are usually safe, they can still trigger allergic reactions and asthma in sulphite-sensitive individuals. If you have a sulphite allergy or sensitivity, it is best to avoid packaged foods and ensure you thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption.

When we think of an allergic reaction, we often think of hives, swelling, or a rash. Anaphylaxis (usually resulting in trouble breathing or swallowing, or other respiratory distress sich as coughing, wheezing ad chest pain/tightness) is another common but serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening, requiring individuals to carry an Epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) with them at all times, something that is easily prescribed by family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary. Other signs of an allergy include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, dizziness and headache.

It is important to know that one does not need to ingest a large amount of an allergen in order to develop an allergic reaction, as it only takes a trace amount, so to avoid allergic reactions you should always ensure that you take special precautions. When buying food you should always read the ingredients on the packaging, and when dining out you should forewarn your server so that food can be prepared separate from any potential allergens. Proper hand washing and utensil cleaning is also of the utmost importance when it comes to avoiding food allergies and possible cross-contamination.

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