Think You Have a Food Allergy? You May Be Wrong

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While about 19 percent of U.S. adults think they have a food allergy, only around 11 percent have documented food allergies, according to survey results published in JAMA Network Open. Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and other institutions in Chicago analyzed data from a survey of over 40,000 adults across the United States.

Survey results suggest that more than 26 million American adults have food allergies but about half of those who think they have one experience symptoms that are consistent with food intolerance rather than true allergy, which can be life-threatening. Other findings include:

  • About half of adults with food allergies have a physician-confirmed diagnosis.
  • Less than 25 percent of adults with food allergies have a current epinephrine prescription (to prevent life-threatening anaphylaxis from accidental exposure to a food allergen).
  • Nearly 50 percent of those with food allergies developed at least one allergy as an adult.

According to the survey, the most common food allergens for adults are:

  • Shellfish (7.2 million U.S. adults)
  • Milk (4.7 million)
  • Peanuts (4.5 million)
  • Tree nuts (3 million)
  • Fish (2.2 million)
  • Eggs (2 million)
  • Wheat (2 million)
  • Soy (1.5 million)
  • Sesame (0.5 million)

If you suspect you have a food allergy, see your health care provider for allergy testing,

Sourced from: JAMA Network Open