Food allergies are a concern in the back of every parent’s mind when starting solids.
There are nine common food allergens that children can have. These common food allergens include milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and sesame.
Let’s dive into each one of these common food allergens and look into the scientific evidence that supports their allergenicity.
Milk: Cow's milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies in infants and young children, although the cases can be mild to severe depending on each child. It is estimated to impact 2-3% of infants in the United States. (1) The protein in cow's milk is the main culprit for allergic reactions.
Egg: Egg allergy is the second most common food allergy in children, with an estimated 1-2% of young children having an egg allergy. (2) The proteins in egg whites are the most common causes for allergic reactions.
Peanut: Peanut allergy is one of the most widespread food allergies in children. This allergy is estimated to affect 1-2% of children in the United States. (3) Peanut allergy is often severe, because, unlike other allergies on this list, it can be life-threatening.
Tree nuts: Tree nut allergy is less common than peanut allergy but should not be overlooked. The most common tree nuts that trigger allergic reactions include almonds, walnuts, and cashews.
Soy: Soy allergy is less common than some of the other food allergens on this list, but it is still a concern for some infants and children. The proteins in soybeans are what can cause allergic reactions.
Wheat: Wheat allergy is another less common food allergen, but it is still a threat to some children. The proteins in wheat are what causes the allergic reaction.
Fish: Parents of young children should know that fish allergies are more common in older children and adults than in infants and younger children. The proteins in fish are the main culprit.
Shellfish: Older children and adults are more likely to be allergic to Shellfish than young children. The proteins in shellfish are the root cause.
Sesame: Sesame is the newest allergen in 2021 by the FASTER Act. Note, it is sometimes listed as a spice in the ingredients. Sesame is not yet required to be listed on food labels as an allergen.
It's important to note that the introduction of potential allergens should be done under the guidance of a medical professional, such as a pediatrician or allergist. Early introduction of allergenic foods has been shown to decrease the risk of developing food allergies in some infants. (4)
The eight common food allergens that account for most food allergies in children include milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish and sesame. Understanding these allergens and their varying degrees of risks can help parents make informed decisions when introducing solid foods to their babies.