One in 10 American adults has food allergy

One in 10 American adults has food allergy

People not exhibiting convincing food allergies reported other symptoms like stomach cramps, a stuffy nose and nausea, which are not considered "convincing". Surveys were administered via the internet and telephone and were completed by 40,443 adults.

A cross-sectional study of 40,443 adults in the U.S., carried out via the internet and telephone over the course of a year has revealed that an estimated 10.8 percent of those interviewed were food allergic at the time of the survey, with almost 19 percent believing that they were food allergic. Volunteers were given a list of reactions that signify a true allergy, e.g., hives, lip/tongue swelling, chest tightening, and asked which they had experienced.

When is a food allergy not a food allergy? An intolerance involves the digestive system, so people who are intolerant have gastrointestinal issues, like gas or diarrhea, because they can't digest particular foods, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

Ruchi S. Gupta, M.D., M.P.H., from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional survey study involving US adults. But only about half, or 10.8%, actually have an intolerance, the study found.

"We were surprised to find that adult-onset food allergies were so common", Gupta said.

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The study follows other recent research, also involving Gupta, which found that nearly eight percent of American children have food allergies, with one in five prone to allergic reactions severe enough to land them in the hospital.

The study data indicate that the most prevalent food allergens among US adults are shellfish, affecting 7.2 million adults; milk, affecting 4.7 million; peanut, affecting 4.5 million; tree nut, affecting 3 million; fin fish, affecting 2.2 million; egg, affecting 2 million; wheat, affecting 2 million; soy, affecting 1.5 million; and sesame, affecting 0.5 million.

Also surprising was the discovery that less than half respondents with symptoms indicating a true food allergy had their condition confirmed by a doctor.

The bottom line, according to Gupta, is that suspected allergic reactions should always be checked out by a medical professional.

"If food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical", she continued, "including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine".

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