About half of adult food allergy claims aren't even true, study says

Henrietta Strickland
January 7, 2019

Leaving the house without an epinephrine auto-injector is as unthinkable as leaving behind house keys, a wallet or phone.

However, researchers found that 19 percent of adults think they now have a food allergy, although their reported symptoms are inconsistent with a true food allergy. In their survey of more than 40,000 American adults, which was published Friday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, researchers found that while 11 per cent of people suffer from food allergies, almost twice as many (19 per cent) think they do.

Shellfish is the most common food allergy in adults, affecting over seven million Americans, followed closely by milk (4.7 million) and peanuts (4.5 million).

"There are so many adults out there who have a negative reaction to a food".

"Consequently, these findings suggest that it is crucial that adults with suspected food allergy receive appropriate confirmatory testing and counseling to ensure food is not unnecessarily avoided and quality of life is not unduly impaired", the study's authors wrote.

The most common food allergies among USA adults are shellfish (affecting 7.2 million 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), and sesame (0.5 million).

"Our data show 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", she added. Tree nuts (e.g. walnuts), finfish (e.g. salmon), eggs, wheat, sesame and soy also represented prevalent allergens.

Among those with allergies, only around half of participants said their diagnosis was confirmed by a physician, and less than a quarter said they had a prescription for an EpiPen. Gupta told The Guardian.

The team were surprised to find that almost half of allergic respondents developed at least one of their food allergies as an adult. "And this study is telling us there is a very significant burden of food-allergic disease in adults and we ought to be directing more attention and resources towards diagnosing and treating those adults". The study also encourages people who believe they have an allergy to have that diagnosis made by a doctor, who could prescribe lifesaving epinephrine.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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