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Foods affect seasonal allergies. / Kathryn Kleinman/Getty Images

Milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shellfish, wheat and soy: About 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, and these eight are responsible for the majority of reactions.

Eating the tiniest bit can cause hives, itching or digestive problems in some people. For others, the response is more severe: difficulty breathing or loss of consciousness ó symptoms of a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.

Most food allergies start in childhood, but adults may become allergic to foods they once ate with no problem. Surprised? Here are three more things you may not know about food allergies:

Theyíre not the same as a food intolerance. A food allergy triggers the immune system to release chemicals into your bloodstream, which can cause an immediate and sometimes severe response. Food intolerance reactions donít involve the immune system; symptoms tend to come on gradually, are generally less serious and usually are limited to problems with digestion.

Many people canít tell a tree nut from a peanut. In a recent study, researchers found that adults and children correctly identified less than half of the assorted nuts in a display. Knowing the difference matters: An estimated 1.8 million Americans have an allergy to tree nuts, which are among the leading causes of fatal and near-fatal allergic reactions.

Some fruits and veggies can aggravate your allergies. Thatís because some produce has proteins that are similar to those found in certain pollens. If youíre allergic to ragweed, for example, eating melons, bananas or cucumber can make your mouth or throat itch. If youíre allergic to grasses, you may react to tomatoes, celery and peaches.

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