HomeWellnessDietMost food allergies in adults are self-diagnosed

Most food allergies in adults are self-diagnosed

The prevalence of food allergies has thoroughly been researched in children. A recent survey investigated the commonness and severity of food allergies in adults.

Many studies have previously investigated the prevalence amongst children, but little is known about the prevalence and severity of food allergies in adults. Some children with food allergies can develop tolerance as they age, while others will carry this condition with them into adulthood.

Food allergies are different from food intolerances, in that they induce a specific reaction by the immune system, triggering a cascade of events that cause allergic symptoms.

Gupta and colleagues wanted to provide a national representation of the approximate adult American population that have food allergies. They conducted a cross-sectional survey over the internet and telephone between October 2015 and September 2016, results were published in JAMA Network Open.

Their survey demonstrated that most reported allergies were self-diagnosed. The survey only considered these reports as definitive if the symptoms each participant described IgE-mediated reactions. These symptoms include reactions like tingling or itching sensations in the mouth, skin reactions such as hives, swelling in the mouth or face, or trouble breathing.

The study found that there are over 26 million American adults that have food allergies, making up about 10.8% of the population. On the other hand, 19% of the adult population think they have an allergy. They also found that almost half of the adults with food allergies had at least one of these beginning in adulthood.

The study concluded that these types of allergies are common and severe, and can often start in adulthood. Gupta and colleagues suggest that it is important for adults who believe they have an allergy to receive appropriate diagnostic tests and treatment instead of self-diagnosing so that they do not end up avoiding food unnecessarily and impairing their quality of life without reason. 

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Written by Unaisa Bhayat, BMedSc

Reference: Gupta R. S., Warren C. M., Smith B. M., Jiang J., Blumenstock J. A., Davis M. M., Schleimer R. P., Nadeau K. C. Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among US Adults. JAMA Network Open. 2019; 2(1): e185630.

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