24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
(800)421-8825

Medical Disorders
Resources
Basic InformationLookupsLatest News
Hot Water Soak May Help Ease Poor Leg CirculationHealth Tip: Understanding RosaceaHealth Tip: Causes of Swollen Lymph NodesAHA News: Study Provides Rare Look at Stroke Risk, Survival Among American IndiansCDC Opens Emergency Operations Center for Congo Ebola OutbreakScared Safe: Pics of Sun's Damage to Face Boost Sunscreen UseNo Needle Prick: Laser-Based Test Hunts Stray Melanoma Cells in BloodBats Are Biggest Rabies Danger, CDC SaysEmgality Receives First FDA Approval for Treating Cluster HeadacheZerbaxa Approved for Hospital-Acquired Bacterial PneumoniaBlood From Previously Pregnant Women Is Safe for Donation: StudyStudy Refutes Notion That People on Warfarin Shouldn't Eat Leafy GreensCancer Survivors Predicted to Top 22 Million by 2030Your Guide to a Healthier Home for Better Asthma ControlHigh Blood Pressure at Doctor's Office May Be More Dangerous Than SuspectedAHA News: 3 Simple Steps Could Save 94 Million Lives WorldwideHealth Tip: Dealing With Motion SicknessHealth Tip: Symptoms of MeningitisRace Affects Life Expectancy in Major U.S. CitiesVitamin D Supplements Don't Prevent Type 2 Diabetes: StudyChickenpox Vaccine Shields Kids From Shingles, TooWhooping Cough Vaccine Effectiveness Fades With Time: StudyOpioids Put Alzheimer's Patients at Risk of Pneumonia: StudyHealth Tip: Early Signs of Lyme DiseaseHealth Tip: Hiccup Home RemediesSheep Study Shows a Stuffy Side Effect of VapingShould Air Quality Checks Be Part of Your Travel Planning?Health Tip: Preventing Swimmer's EarHeartburn Drugs Again Tied to Fatal RisksHealth Tip: Nasal Spray SafetyFDA Approves First Drug to Help Tame Cluster HeadachesMany Dietary Supplements Dangerous for TeensAverage American Ingests 70,000 Bits of Microplastic Each YearFalls Are Increasingly Lethal for Older AmericansChicken No Better Than Beef for Your Cholesterol?Another Use for Beta Blockers? Curbing A-fibCaffeine, Nicotine Withdrawal Can Cause Problems in the ICU: StudyYounger Gout Patients Have Higher Odds for Blood ClotsFDA Approves First Test for Zika in Human BloodCDC Warns Again of Salmonella From Pet HedgehogsWhy Some Kids With Eczema Are at Higher Allergy RiskMany Heart Failure Patients Might Safely Reduce Use of DiureticsU.S. Measles Cases for 2019 Already Exceed All Annual Totals Since 1992: CDCForget Fasting Before That Cholesterol TestU.S. Cancer Cases, Deaths Continue to Fall'Controlled Burns' Better for Kids' Health Than Wildfires: StudyHighly Processed Diets Tied to Heart Disease, Earlier DeathHealth Tip: Signs of Irritable Bowel SyndromeA Less Invasive Fix Works Well for Abdominal AneurysmFace Transplants Improve Lives Years Later
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Diabetes

1 in 10 Adults Have Food Allergies, But Twice as Many Think They Do

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jan 4th 2019

new article illustration

FRIDAY, Jan. 4, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- More than 10 percent of U.S. adults have a food allergy -- and nearly double that believe they do, a new study estimates.

Researchers found that 19 percent of those surveyed thought they had a food allergy. But when the investigators dug into people's symptoms, they found that only 10.8 percent reported "convincing" signs of a true allergy.

Experts said the findings highlight two important facts: Food allergies are common among U.S. adults, and many mistakenly believe they have one.

"There are many misconceptions around reactions to food," said lead researcher Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University, in Chicago.

According to Gupta, it can be easy for people to assume food-related symptoms signal an allergy. But other conditions can be the real culprit, she said.

People with true allergies have an immune system reaction against proteins in a particular food. Those reactions, Gupta explained, can sometimes be severe -- including life-threatening breathing difficulties or drops in blood pressure.

So it's critical to get an accurate diagnosis, she noted.

Dr. Wayne Shreffler, a medical advisor to the non-profit Food Allergy Research & Education, agreed.

"Sometimes people think, 'What difference does it make? If the food makes me feel bad, I'll avoid it,'" Shreffler said.

But people with a true allergy need to completely eliminate the offending food from their diet -- and they should get professional guidance on how to do that, he suggested.

They should also get a prescription for epinephrine, Shreffler said. The drug, given by auto-injector, treats severe allergic reactions in an emergency.

On the flip side, food avoidance can be very challenging -- so people without an allergy should not do it unnecessarily, he added.

What other conditions can cause food-related woes? One possibility, Gupta said, is a food intolerance -- such as difficulty digesting lactose, a sugar in milk.

Unlike allergies, food intolerances do not involve the immune system. They arise from an issue in the digestive system -- like an enzyme deficiency -- that makes it hard to break down a particular food.

In other cases, Gupta said, people have an oral allergy syndrome. That occurs when someone with a pollen allergy has a reaction to a food with proteins similar to pollen -- usually a raw fruit or vegetable. The symptoms include itchiness in the mouth or throat, or swelling around the lips.

That type of reaction is not life-threatening, and people may be able to avert it by simply cooking the offending produce, Gupta said.

The study, published online Jan. 4 in JAMA Network Open, included more than 40,400 U.S. adults.

Overall, 19 percent reported food allergies. However, only 10.8 percent had ever suffered "convincing" symptoms -- such as hives, throat constriction, lip or tongue swelling, vomiting, difficulty breathing or rapid heartbeat.

Certain other symptoms -- like cramps or diarrhea -- were not considered convincing, because they are more likely to indicate a food intolerance.

Among people with true allergies, shellfish was the most common culprit: An estimated 3 percent of adults were allergic to shellfish. Milk allergy (1.9 percent) and peanut allergy (1.8 percent) were next in line. Many people had more than one food allergy, the findings showed.

And surprisingly, allergies often developed in adulthood, rather than childhood. Almost half of participants with convincing symptoms developed at least one of their allergies as an adult, according to the report.

It has long been known that adults can develop new food allergies. But Gupta was "really surprised" by how often that was reported in the study.

Shreffler agreed, calling the finding "striking."

It's not fully clear why food allergies arise in adults, according to Shreffler. But in some cases, he said, it may be a matter of exposure. Many kids turn their noses up at shellfish, for example -- so an allergy might not become apparent until later in life.

Gupta's team also found that only half of study participants with convincing food allergy symptoms had ever received a formal diagnosis.

Some may self-diagnose and skip the doctor visit, both Gupta and Shreffler said. But it's also possible for doctors to miss the diagnosis.

"I think that finding is a bit of a wake-up call to the medical community," Shreffler said.

More information

Food Allergy Research & Education has more on food allergy diagnosis.