Your self-diagnosed food allergy may not really be an allergy, according to a study of 40,000 adults, published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
More than 26 million adults, or 10 percent of adults in the United States, suffer from an actual food allergy, but nearly twice as many believe they have an allergy even though their symptoms suggest they do not. Often these people describe conditions that suggest a less severe food intolerance or other food-related difficulty, Ruchi Gupta, the lead researcher, said in a statement.
The researchers also discovered that only half of adults with symptoms compatible with a food allergy had a diagnosis from a physician. Fewer than 25 percent had a current prescription for epinephrine, a medication used in emergencies to treat serious allergic reactions, which can prove fatal.
Gupta emphasized the importance of an accurate diagnosis for people who think they have a food allergy. Otherwise, people may unnecessarily avoid certain foods, impairing their quality of life. And for those who truly suffer from an allergy, knowing how to treat it is vital.
“It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet. If food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical, including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine,” he said.
According to the study, shellfish is the most prevalent food allergy among adults in the United States, followed by allergies to milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fin fish, eggs, wheat, soy, and sesame. —J.B.