The Grapevine

Most Common Food Allergies: Many People Misreading Symptoms, Study Says

Just how common are food allergies in the United States? According to estimates from a new study, a little over 10 percent of adults are affected. However, nearly twice as many people claim that they have a food allergy.

Self-diagnosis is the root cause of the discrepancy here. In other words, many people have simply assumed that they have a food allergy without actually having it diagnosed by a medical professional.

"What I think is so important about that huge number — that one in five adults — is that adults are having an adverse reaction, and they’re labeling it as a food allergy, which makes sense," lead author Ruchi Gupta told Inverse.

Gupta, who is a professor at Northwestern University, explained that a bad reaction is not necessarily an allergy. In certain cases, it could signal some other food-related condition such as intolerance or a digestive problem, which are more treatable than a full-blown allergy.

1. Shellfish

Ranking first, this category includes the likes of shrimp, lobster, and crab. The findings estimated that 7.2 million adults may have a shellfish allergy. Healthline notes that this is caused by the body attacking proteins from the crustacean and mollusk families of fish. 

2. Milk

At second place, an estimated 4.7 million adults are believed to suffer from a milk allergy. Though typically prevalent in babies and toddlers, most of us outgrow the allergy by the time we are three years old.

  3. Nuts

Peanut and tree nut allergies may affect up to 4.5 million and 3 million people respectively. While there is no cure yet, a method of treatment known as "oral immunotherapy" recently showed promising results in desensitizing peanut allergies.

4. Fin fish

Affecting an estimated 2.2 million people, this allergy typically involves adverse reactions to finned fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut. If diagnosed, you will likely be advised to avoid all kinds of fish and stay away from seafood restaurants due to the risk of cross-contamination.

5. Egg

In most cases, this would refer to an egg white allergy. But it is possible for a person to be allergic to egg yolks instead. An estimated 2 million people in the country are believed to suffer from one or the other.

It is important to consult a doctor or an allergist if you experience these symptoms anywhere between a few minutes to two hours after consuming a particular food — tingling and itching in the mouth, fainting, swelling on parts of the face or the rest of the body, breathing problems, hives, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.

"If a food allergy is suspected, an appointment with an allergist is essential for further testing, including a skin prick test and often oral food challenge testing to establish a diagnosis," Gupta advised.