The Most Common Food Allergies to Develop as an Adult

We're careful to keep our school classrooms nut-free, but what about the office? Here are the most common food allergies that can develop in adulthood.

We’re used to preparing allergy-friendly treats for the school bake sale or soccer practice, but what about your office happy hour? Most people develop food allergies as children, but those allergies can show up in adulthood, too. Even if you’ve enjoyed a certain food your entire life without a problem, you could start reacting to it at any age.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 in 25 adults has a food allergy. Most developed that allergy as children but not all. Fortunately, many kids outgrow their allergies; food allergies that start in adulthood tend to stick around, though. If you’re concerned that you have developed a new allergy, it’s best to check in with your primary doctor or allergist for testing and treatment. While occurrences rare, food allergies can cause difficulty breathing and require emergency treatment.

The Most Common Food Allergies Adults Can Develop


If you’ve packed a school lunch in the last few years, then you’re an expert at finding the tastiest nut-free snacks. Peanuts are one of the most common food allergies for kids and adults alike. Peanuts fall into the legume category and aren’t nuts at all. Having a peanut allergy could mean that you’d also react to other legumes like beans and soy, but it’s rare.

Tree Nuts

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, adults with peanut allergies are more likely to react to tree nuts as well. Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, pecans and cashews. Unfortunately, these crunchy snacks are often hidden in recipes and desserts. Become an expert at reading food labels and have fun in the kitchen making your own nut-free desserts to celebrate special occasions.

Fish & Shellfish

In addition to nuts, adults can start reacting to fish without warning. A fish allergy can sometimes be mistaken for food poisoning when it causes nausea and vomiting.

If you develop a fish allergy as an adult, it may be necessary to put away the seafood tools for shellfish, too. Many adults who react to fish have similar reactions to shellfish. The shellfish category includes both mollusks, like clams, scallops, oysters and mussels, and crustaceans, like shrimp, crab and lobster. If you’re attending your neighbor’s crawfish boil this year, bring your own dinner to be sure there’s no cross-contamination.

Eating out with an allergy can be a daunting task. Read about dishes and ingredients online before visiting the restaurant and always tell your server about your allergy. This will give you the peace of mind to relax and have fun.

Next up: Allergy-friendly treats for people of any age.

Popular Videos

Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.