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Over 10 Percent Of US Adults Have Food Allergies, But Nearly Twice As Many Think They Do

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Over 10 percent of U.S. adults are dealing with food allergies. The most common allergy among them is shellfish allergy, followed by milk, peanut, and tree nut.  ( Shen Xin | Pixabay )

A recent survey finds that one in 10 adults actually have food allergies, but nearly twice as many believe that they do. Among those who don’t really have food allergies, their reported symptoms are inconsistent with the symptoms of true allergy, which can be life-threatening.

Food Allergy In US Adults

Researchers surveyed 40,443 individuals via the internet or telephone regarding their food allergies and found that one in 10 or 10.8 percent of U.S. adults actually have food allergies. This means that over 26 million U.S. adults have them, the most prevalent allergy being shellfish, followed by milk, peanut, tree nut, and fin fish.

Interestingly, however, nearly 19 percent believe that they do have food allergies, suggesting that almost half of those who say they have allergies actually don’t. According to researchers, almost twice as many adults think they have food allergies when in fact their symptoms suggest food intolerance or other food-related conditions instead.

Furthermore, 48 percent of those with food allergies say that they developed the allergy in adulthood, but only 24 percent of them have a prescription for the life-threatening drug epinephrine. More women also had convincing food allergy at a 13.8 percent prevalence rate compared to 7.5 percent in men.

Food Allergy

Food allergy is a potentially life-threatening condition that can adversely affect a person’s health and well-being. For instance, a person with a shellfish allergy may experience hives, vomiting, and throat tightening. In fact, the survey also revealed that 51.1 percent of the food allergic adults have had a severe allergic reaction, while 38.3 percent reported at least one food allergy-related emergency department visit.

The results of the study show how important it is for people who suspect themselves to have food allergies to receive the appropriate confirmatory testing to make sure that they are not just unnecessarily avoiding certain types of food and thereby unduly impairing their quality of life.

Furthermore, researchers note the importance of also studying adult-onset food allergies to understand why it is happening, and how it can be prevented.

The research is published in JAMA Network Open.

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