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.
These days, it can seem like just about everybody has a food allergy.
This means that nearly half of all people with a reported food allergy are misinterpreting their symptoms, the researchers say. "For example, lactose intolerance is due to a lack of an enzyme to break down milk, but this is very different from a milk allergy which, in some patients, can be life threatening", he says.
When it comes to food allergies, Americans are more anxious than they need to be, a new study says.
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 USA adults. "It's actually higher than what we even see in kids, which is about eight per cent". "More research is needed to understand why this is occurring and how we might prevent it".
The study findings showed that 7.2 million adults have shellfish allergies, making it the biggest food allergen in the group.
"Our data show that shellfish is the top food allergen in adults, that shellfish allergy commonly begins in adulthood, and that this allergy is remarkably common across the lifespan", Gupta said.
This discrepancy suggests that quite a few adults are conflating allergies with less-severe food intolerances, which typically come with minimal digestion-related symptoms, the researchers write.
Also surprising was the discovery that less than half respondents with symptoms indicating a true food allergy had their condition confirmed by a doctor. Almost half of food-allergic adults had at least one adult-onset food allergy, and 38 percent reported at least one food-allergy-related emergency department visit in their lifetime.
The bottom line, according to Gupta, is that suspected allergic reactions should always be checked out by a medical professional.
"It is important to see a physician for appropriate testing and diagnosis before completely eliminating foods from the diet", Gupta said in a statement. "If food allergy is confirmed, understanding the management is also critical, including recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis and how and when to use epinephrine".