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Most People With Food Allergies Don't Really Have Them

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There’s a new report that suggests most people who think they have food allergies, don’t really have them. There are new estimates that suggest nearly 19 percent of adults think they have food allergies, but less than 11 percent actually do. Even thoughfood allergies are common among adults, and many mistakenly believe they have one. So does this mean that we’ve been imagining things all these years? Maybe. Here’s what you need to know.

According to Popular Science, researchers actually have very little data on allergies in adults since many of them never get diagnosed by a physician.But here’s the thing: health experts say the discrepancy likely comes from misuse of terminology. Researchers from Northwestern University (via the JAMA Network Open Journal) surveyed more than 40,000 adults from across the United States. Participants were asked if they had food allergies and for a description of their symptoms. They were also asked if they'd ever received a formal test and diagnosis of a food allergy by a doctor. Although one in five people surveyed reported having an allergy, only about one in 10 actually does.

People with true allergies have an immune system reaction against proteins in a particular food. But people with food intolerances, like lactose intolerance, only get digestive symptoms. There’s also a possibility that a lot of people have what is called an oral allergy syndrome. That occurs when someone with a pollen allergy has a reaction to a food with proteins similar to pollen, usually a raw fruit or vegetable. In other words, you get symptoms by either touching the food or being in close proximity. The symptoms include itchiness in the mouth or throat or swelling around the lips.

For the most part, the cause of food allergies is unknown. Symptoms of a reaction can include digestive problems, hives, or swollen airways. Severe reactions can be life-threatening. More often than not, antihistamine drugs treat mild reactions. Yet, a severe reaction needs an injection of the drug epinephrine and emergency room care.

In some cases, allergies experienced during childhood may resolve in adulthood.If you have any additional questions or concerns, definitely call your doctor or speak to a trusted health professional.

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