Virtually any food can cause allergy. However, only a small number of foods account for 90% of all cases. The foods most likely to cause a food allergy in children include milk, egg, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. In adults, common food allergens can include peanuts, tree nuts, shell fish and fish.

Signs and symptoms of allergic reaction:

Mouth: itching & swelling of the lips, tongue or inside of mouth

Throat: itching or a sense of tightness in the throat, hoarseness and a hacking cough

Skin: hives, itchy rash or swelling of the face and extremities

GI system: nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting or diarrhoea

Lung: shortness of breath, repeated coughing or wheezing

Heart: thready pulse, anaphylaxis, hypotension


Once the food allergy is  indicated and confirmed with definitive lab tests, treatment  is elimination of the identified foods. However, identification of the offending food source itself is the most difficult part of the treatment.  It is advisable to try an elimination diet, excluding suspected foods for two weeks till cause is detected. A diet consisting of organic and untreated foods, fruits, veggies, vegetable oils, chicken, lamb, rice is advisable. Infants who are suspected of being allergic to foods in mother’s diet may benefit by the mother trying a 2-week elimination diet free of milk, eggs, peanuts and soy to see if symptoms in their child improve.

Total avoidance of a food allergen is the only proven treatment for food allergy. While adults needing to eliminate multiple foods need to speak with dietician to find alternative foods. It’s also important to read all labels including packaged/ processed foods, medicine and topical lotion. Here’s the list of food items containing allergens which are commonly consumed  and also, foods which carry them in hidden or combined form.

Allergic Food

Common Food Items to be avoided

Less common Food which may contain allergens


Rawa, maida, wheat flakes, gluten, wheat bran, bread ( white/ brown), wheat germ, pasta, noodles, wheat protein beverage

Gelatinized starch, hydrolysed vegetable protein, starch, vegetable gum, vegetable starch, natural flavouring


Groundnut powder, chopped nuts, mixed nuts, cold pressed (unrefined) / refined groundnut oil, peanut butter, roasted peanuts, nut chocolates,

High protein supplements, hydrolysed plant protein, hydrolysed vegetable protein, baked products, ice-cream


Soy flour, fermented soy/paste, soy supplements, soy sauce, soybean milk, soybean milk/curd, tempeh, tofu

Soy protein isolates, textured vegetable protein, hydrolysed vegetable protein, vegetable starch, veggie burgers, natural flavourings,


Butter, cheese, flavoured milk, custard, paneer, milk powder, ghee, ice-cream, cream, all types milk, condensed milk, Curd

Whey protein isolate/ concentrate, casein, lactalbumin, lactose, milk protein, protein hydrolysate, baked products, milk bread