Millions of People Wrongly Believe They Have Food Allergies

Some 4.5 million U.S. adults are allergic to peanuts

Some 4.5 million U.S. adults are allergic to peanuts

While more 10 percent of adults in the USA are estimated to have a potentially life-threatening food allergy, almost twice as many simply mistake intolerance or "other food-related conditions" for allergies, according to researchers.

To be considered a "convincing" food allergy, a respondent had to list one or more of the following symptoms: hives, swelling, difficulty swallowing, throat tightening, chest tightening, trouble breathing, wheezing, vomiting, chest pain, rapid heart rate, fainting or feeling light-headed, and low blood pressure.

The study authors aren't suggesting that people intentionally misrepresented their symptoms; "food allergy" simply refers to a very specific condition that can easily be confused with other ailments.

A synopsis of the report, "Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among US Adults", can be found here. Reactions often happen when the immune system produces antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, but it is possible to have non-IgE mediated reactions.

The study said the findings did not consider food intolerance. But these symptoms are not necessarily indicative of a food allergy.

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When it comes to food allergies, Americans are more anxious than they need to be, a new study says. But according to a new study, about 11% of American adults actually do. "It's actually higher than what we even see in kids, which is about eight per cent". Shellfish, milk, peanut, tree nut, and fin fish were the most common allergies (2.9, 1.9, 1.8, 1.2, and 0.9 percent, respectively).

The study follows other recent research, also involving Gupta, which found that nearly eight percent of American children have food allergies, with one in five prone to allergic reactions severe enough to land them in the hospital.

"Our data show that shellfish is the top food allergen in adults, that shellfish allergy commonly begins in adulthood, and that this allergy is remarkably common across the lifespan", Gupta said. "More research is needed to understand why this is occurring and how we might prevent it".

Based on a nationally representative survey of more than 40,000 adults, the study found that only half of adults with food allergy symptoms had a physician-confirmed diagnosis, and less than 25 percent reported a current epinephrine prescription.

The bottom line, according to Gupta, is that suspected allergic reactions should always be checked out by a medical professional.

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