Food allergies are far less prevalent than customers claim, study finds

Food allergies are far less prevalent than customers claim, study finds

Food allergies are far less prevalent than customers claim, study finds

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. Surveys were administered via the internet and telephone and were completed by 40,443 adults.

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.

When is a food allergy not a food allergy? But these symptoms are not necessarily indicative of a food allergy. But only about half, or 10.8%, actually have an intolerance, the study found.

The new estimates were based on survey responses from nearly 40,500 American adults who were asked if they had any diagnosed allergies, symptoms or hospitalizations. "It's actually higher than what we even see in kids, which is about eight per cent". Almost half the respondents (48%) who were adjudged to have a true food allergy did not develop the intolerance until adulthood. In short, only half of USA adults who think they have a food allergy have actually been diagnosed by a doctor, and less than a quarter have a prescription for epinephrine (a common treatment for allergies).

Study data indicate the most prevalent food allergens among US adults are shellfish (affecting 7.2 million people), milk (4.7 million), peanut (4.5 million), tree nut (3 million), fin fish (2.2 million), egg (2 million), wheat (2 million), soy (1.5 million), and sesame (0.5 million). Instead, researchers believe this group could have food intolerances, since many experience stomach cramps or nausea after eating a trigger item.

The researchers found that among US adults, the estimated convincing food allergy prevalence was 10.8 percent, while food allergy was self-reported by 19 percent.

The bottom line, according to Gupta, is that suspected allergic reactions should always be checked out by a medical professional. "It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet".

"If food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical", she continued, "including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine".

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