Nine out of ten food allergy reactions are caused by one of eight foods: eggs, dairy, soy, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish. However, millions of people are allergic to other foods as well. In fact, about 175 different foods are documented to have caused an allergic reaction. While not nearly as common as the top eight food allergies, these allergies can nevertheless be just as severe, and warrant extra caution, especially because they are not required to be identified on food labels.
Although uncommon, meat allergies do occur. Meat allergies are usually due to a more common food allergy. For example, a small percentage of children allergic to eggs are allergic to chicken, while some children allergic to dairy are allergic to beef. These children happen to be allergic to a certain protein that’s found in both the meat and the animal product. Because of this, some doctors recommend that children with egg or dairy allergies exercise caution around certain meats.
There is one strange kind of meat allergy on the rise, and it affects both adults and children. Unlike most food allergies, this severe allergy typically causes an anaphylactic reaction to red meat that is delayed by up to six hours after exposure. After years of confusion, epidemiologists finally found the cause, a carbohydrate that attaches to red meat protein. Strangely, this meat allergy starts with a Lone Star tick bite, which sensitizes people to the red meat carbohydrate. Because the Lone Star tick only lives in Southeast regions of the U.S., this type of meat allergy typically only occurs in that region.
Every now and then, a child is diagnosed with an allergy to a certain spice. Garlic, onion, coriander and mustard have all caused allergic reactions. While relatively uncommon, allergies to spices can be very severe. Having an allergy to one of these spices is especially frustrating, as they can be hidden in many different foods, labeled only as “spices” or “flavoring.”
Another uncommon group of food allergies involves certain plant seeds including sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and poppy seeds. Sesame allergies in particular appear to be on the rise, affecting an estimated one in 1,000 Americans. Allergies to seeds are generally mild, but cases of anaphylactic reactions have been reported. Children with plant seed allergies need to avoid many baked goods such as buns, muffins and breads, as well as certain beauty products that may contain seed extracts. Highly refined seed oils, however, are generally considered safe with a doctor’s go-ahead.
Oral Allergy Syndrome
What appears to be an allergy to fruit, such as bananas, pineapple, apples and kiwi, as well as veggies such as celery and carrots, is actually a cross-reaction from seasonal pollen allergens, such as birch and ragweed. The proteins in certain fruits and veggies are structurally similar those found in many seasonal allergies, causing a mild allergic reaction in some people. Relatively common, this type of allergy is known as “oral allergy syndrome.” Generally, symptoms of oral allergy syndrome include itchiness in the mouth and throat or a runny nose. In very rare cases, this kind of cross-reactivity allergy can be severe. Like all allergies, avoidance is the only way to prevent a reaction.
Some uncommon food allergies are so rare that experts question their validity. Corn, coffee, chocolate and other foods have all been implicated in allergic reactions, but whether proteins in these foods or cross-reactivity from something else was the cause remains unknown.
Living with a rare food allergy isn’t easy. Lack of clear labeling can be scary and frustrating, and it often requires extra detective work to determine whether a food item is safe. Still, awareness for these types of food allergies is growing, and children with rare food allergies are gaining more support than ever. If you suspect an uncommon food allergy don’t delay—get your child checked by a doctor to confirm and receive an official diagnosis.