food allergies

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


Food allergies are a potentially fatal condition that can affect the quality of life many patients. Many studies have previously investigated the prevalence of food allergies amongst children, but little is known about the prevalence and severity in American adults. Some children with food allergies can develop tolerance as they age, while others will carry this condition with them into adulthood.

Gupta and colleagues wanted to provide a national representation of the approximate adult American population that suffer from food allergies. They conducted a cross-sectional survey over the internet and telephone between October 2015 and September 2016 and looked at the demographic and factors associated with the allergies. They published their results in JAMA Network Open.

Their survey demonstrated that most reported food allergies were self-diagnosed. The survey only considered these reports as definitive if the symptoms each participant described were that of 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.

About 11% of American adults have food allergies, while 19% think they do

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 a food allergy. They also found that almost half of the adults with food allergies had at least one of these allergies beginning in adulthood.

The study concluded that adult food 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 a food 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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