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Many consumers found to overestimate whether or not they have a food allergy

Researchers found that nearly 20 percent of adults believe they have a food allergy while only 10 percent actually do

Photo (c) jarun011 - Getty Images
Food allergies can be troublesome for many people, as experiencing a reaction can potentially be fatal. But despite the potential danger, a recent study found that many adults across the country mistakenly believe they have food allergies.

“While we found that one in 10 adults have [a] food allergy, nearly twice as many adults think that they are allergic to foods, while their symptoms may suggest food intolerance or other food-related conditions,” said lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta.

Getting a confirmed diagnosis

The researchers utilized responses from over 40,000 adults in a nationally representative survey and came away with several important findings.

Based on survey responses, shellfish is the most common allergy among U.S. adults, affecting over seven million people. Milk is second on the list, followed by peanuts, tree nuts, fin fish, eggs, wheat, soy, and sesame.

“Our data shows 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,” Dr. Gupta said. “We need more studies to clarify why shellfish allergy appears to be so common and persistent among U.S. adults.”

The researchers found that just about half of all food allergies don’t manifest until adulthood. However, the survey also revealed that only half of adults nationwide have had their food allergies confirmed by a doctor.

Dr. Gupta and his team encourage anyone who suspects they may have an allergy to see their physician and have the allergy confirmed, as a proper course of treatment is necessary with any diagnosed allergy.

“It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet,” said Dr. Gupta. “If food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical, including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine.”

Children’s allergies

For many parents, navigating their children’s food allergies can be more concerning than their own. A recent study found that children with food allergies are at a greater risk of developing other conditions, including eczema, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.

The researchers found that children with allergies to peanuts, milk, or eggs are at the greatest risk of of developing these other medical conditions, and they are hopeful that these findings can help prevent and treat these conditions moving forward.

“Eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis are among the most common childhood medical conditions in the U.S.,” said Dr. David M. Hill. “Disease rates for these conditions seem to be changing, prompting a need for more information and surveillance.”

Researchers have also worked to develop the Viaskin patch -- a wearable patch designed to help children with peanut allergies.

The patch delivers small increments of peanut proteins into the skin to help the body build up a tolerance to peanuts in a way that’s safe for children. It was found to be effective for almost 50 percent of participants in a clinical trial.

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