Types of Food Allergy
On this page you will find information about the different types of food allergy, including peanut allergy, egg allergy and milk allergy. We have Factsheets available on many types of food allergy, with overview snippets on this page. You can find all of our downloadable Factsheets at the bottom.
Food Allergy Factsheets available to download are:
- Asprin Intolerance and Salicylates (which covers Salicylates that occur naturally in certain foods) - Click here to access it
- Egg Allergy - Click here to access it
- Fish and Shellfish Allergy (which covers allergy to crustaceans and molluscs) - Click here to access it
- Peanut Allergy (which also covers allergy to lupin) - Click here to access it
- Milk Allergy - Click here to access it
- Mustard Allergy - Click here to access it
- Oral Allergy Syndrome - Click here to access it
- Reactions to Wheat (which covers allergy to cereals containing gluten) - Click here to access it
- Sesame and Other Seeds (which covers sesame allergy) - Click here to access it
- Soya Allergy - Click here to access it
- Sulphites and Airway Symptoms (which covers sulphite allergy) - Click here to access it
- Tree nut allergy - Click here to access it
What are the top 14 food allergens?
There are 14 major food allergens which need to be mentioned (either on a label or through provided information such as menus) when they are used as ingredients in a food product or meal. However you can be allergic to any food substance.
The top 14 food allergens are:
Celery; Cereals containing gluten; Crustaceans; Eggs; Fish; Lupin; Milk; Molluscs; Mustard; Tree Nuts; Peanuts; Sesame seeds; Soya and Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites)
Below, we have given a brief overview of some of the most common of the top 14 food allergies. More detailed information can be downloaded at the bottom of the page.
Peanuts are a common cause of food allergy, caused when the immune system reacts to the protein found in peanuts. Peanut allergy affects around 2% (1 in 50) of children in the UK and has been increasing in recent decades. It usually develops in early childhood but, occasionally, can appear in later life.
It is important to know that peanuts are a legume and from a different family of plants to tree nuts. A peanut allergy does not automatically mean an allergy to tree nuts although it is not uncommon to be allergic to both peanuts and some tree nuts.
One member of the legume family that can affect people with peanut allergy is lupin as these seeds share similar proteins with peanuts. Lupin flour and seeds can be used in bread, pastry and pasta. It is often used in wheat and gluten-free food. Lupin is more commonly used in other European countries, Brazil and the Middle East.
Sesame allergy may affect up to a quarter of those with peanut allergy. It is very important to be aware of this and seek medical advice from an allergy specialist if you or your child has ever had a severe reaction to peanut as allergy testing to these other foods may also be needed.
Symptoms of peanut allergy usually occur within minutes of contact with peanuts, but can also occur up to one hour later. Most allergic reactions are mild but they can also be moderate or severe. Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction which can be life threatening.
In the case of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) adrenaline is the medication needed to treat allergic symptoms and should be given as soon as possible after symptoms of anaphylaxis are recognised. Adrenaline auto–injectors (AAIs), also known as adrenaline pens, are devices that contain the emergency medicine ‘adrenaline’ that can be given in the case of a severe (anaphylactic) reaction to peanut.
Cow’s milk (protein) allergy (CMA or CMPA) is one of the most common food allergies to affect babies and young children. Most children will have outgrown their allergy to milk by the time they reach school age (around 5 years of age). In a small number of people who do not outgrow their allergy to cow’s milk it will persist into adulthood. Where this happens people are more likely to experience more severe allergic reactions. Adult onset cow’s milk allergy is very rare and as a result there has been little research carried out about it adult-onset food allergies and why they might happen.
There are two main types of cow’s milk allergy depending on how the immune system reacts. Symptoms that are ‘immediate’ (quick to appear) are caused by the immunoglobulin E antibody (called IgE). Typically these allergic symptoms happen within minutes of consuming cow’s milk or up to two hours afterwards. This type of reaction is described as IgE mediated food allergy.
The other type of milk allergy happens when symptoms are ‘delayed’ (slow to appear) and are caused by a different part of the immune system reacting in a different way. This type of reaction is described as Non-IgE mediated food allergy and is the most common type. The symptoms typically develop from two hours after consumption but can take up to 72 hours. If cow’s milk continues to be consumed in the diet, the immune system will continue to produce such symptoms over days or even weeks.
Signs and symptoms of cow’s milk allergy usually occur within minutes of contact with cow’s milk, but can also occur up to one hour later. Most allergic reactions are mild but they can also be moderate or severe.
We have further information about milk allergy available at the bottom of this page. Our Factsheet talks about topics such as living with cow’s milk allergy, a cow’s milk free diet and replacing key vitamins and minerals
Egg allergy is much more common in young children than in adults. Most children with egg allergy will outgrow it. This is just one important reason why a child with a food allergy should be seen by an Allergy Specialist. Having an egg allergy can mean being allergic to all forms of egg (well-cooked, loosely cooked and raw) or only to loosely cooked and raw egg. You only need to avoid the forms of egg that you react to.
Examples of these different forms can be found on our Factsheet below.
Do please check ingredients to ensure that you are:
- Not excluding foods unnecessarily
- Not eating foods that contain egg by mistake
It is easy to avoid eggs that are served on their own when they look like an egg; however they are often hidden in prepared and manufactured foods so beware.
We have further information about egg allergy available at the bottom of this page. Our Factsheet talks about topics such as classification of egg containing foods, egg replacers and egg allergy and vaccinations.