New study looked into the siblings of children living with food allergies. Researchers found 53 percent had food sensitivity and only 13 percent had definite food allergy.

The study involved 1,120 children whose siblings were diagnosed with food allergy. Skin prick tests, specific blood tests and reviewing clinical history of food reactions were used to determine if the participants have food allergy. Researchers found that only 13 percent actually have definite food allergy.

"More than half the kids in the study had a sensitivity to a food, but they weren't truly allergic. Kids who have a food sensitivity shouldn't be labeled as having a food allergy," said lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, who is also a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). The study was presented at the ACAAI Annual Scientific Meeting in San Antonio Texas.

Co-author and allergist Matthew Greenhawt added that the perceived risk of food allergy in a sibling prompts most parents to screen their children for potential food allergens before the introduction of several "high-risk allergens." However, Greenhawt stressed this is not recommended since food allergy tests are not effective in predicting potential risks in a person who had never taken a certain food. Food allergy testing should not be used to predict potential risks in order to make a diagnosis; rather, it should help confirm a diagnosis.

In the United States, statistics reveal approximately 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), one in every 13 children in the country is allergic to certain foods. Almost 90 percent of all food allergy cases can be traced to eight foods which include eggs, peanuts, fish, cow's milk, shellfish, wheat, soy and tree nuts such as walnuts and cashews.

Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms may include stomach cramps, rashes, swelling or bloating, watery and irritated eyes, runny and stuffy nose, sneezing and diarrhea. Severe cases of food allergy incidents can manifest in the form of nausea, dizziness, hives, inflammation of the throat, tongue and lips and wheezing or difficulty in breathing.

Mild cases of food allergy can go away by itself or treated with antihistamine that can be bought over-the-counter. Severe cases require prescription of steroid drugs, which should be taken as prescribed by the doctor due to potential side effects.

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