A lot of commonly held beliefs about food allergies aren't true at all. Some of them cause people to restrict their diets unnecessarily, and some of them are downright harmful. How's your food allergy knowledge? Read on for 10 common food allergy beliefs, and see which of the myths you can spot.
This is a myth. Twenty percent or more of Americans believe they have a food allergy; in adults, the true number is between one and three percent (most sources estimate the number at about 2.5%).
Why is it important to know whether a food sensitivity is really an allergy? First, knowing what's going on with your body will let you give your doctors accurate information. Second, if you do have a true allergy, you should know about your risk of anaphylaxis. And finally, some perceived reactions are actually caused by other items in the food. You may find that you can add foods you've excluded back to your diet.
Bottom line: If you believe that you have allergies but you've not been tested, talk to your doctor.
This is another myth. Dairy allergies are actually the most common among children. Peanut allergies, however, tend to require more accommodations in school settings because of the possibility of inhalation or contact reactions.
This is another myth, although it is true that allergies to certain foods are only rarely outgrown. Among common allergies, milk, egg, and soy allergies are among the likeliest to resolve with age, while tree nut and shellfish allergies usually persist into adulthood. The concentration of IgE antibodies (the antibodies that respond to allergens) in the blood of children with allergies has also been shown to be predictive of whether they will outgrow food allergies.
This is a fact. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is generally held to cover severe food allergies. Under this law, children with severe food allergies may be entitled to a 504 Plan, a legally enforceable plan that will cover all aspects of their school experience and help keep them safe.
This is a myth. Most of the time, allergies are not associated with vomiting. This is more often a symptom of an intolerance. However, if you notice persistent symptoms whenever you eat a food, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor, as there is formal testing available for some intolerances and since gastrointestinal symptoms are infrequently symptoms of allergies.
6. Most People with Allergies Can't Eat Even a Little of What They're Allergic To.
This is a fact. While some people with food intolerances (for example, many people with lactose intolerance) can eat small servings of problem foods with no ill effect, virtually all people with allergies must practice strict avoidance of any foods they're allergic to.
This is a myth. Hives are a common food allergy symptom, but they can also be a sign of a drug reaction or a reaction to an insect bite, among other causes. In fact, hives can even be caused by heat, cold, or viral infections, without an allergic reaction being involved.
8. It's Possible for True Allergies to Develop After Adolescence.
This is a fact. Most of the time, food allergy symptoms first show up during childhood, but they can develop at any time after the first exposure to a food. Shellfish allergies are among the most likely to show up for the first time in adults.
9. Lamb and Rice Are Hypoallergenic, Meaning They Cannot Cause Allergic Reactions.
This is a myth. Lamb and rice are considered relatively less allergenic foods -- that is, foods that are less likely than most to cause allergic reactions -- but there are recorded cases of both. Virtually any food can cause an allergic reaction.
This is both a fact and a myth. Current food allergy labeling laws cover the eight most common food allergens. This affects the vast majority of consumers with food allergies --- about 90%. However, at least 10% of food allergic consumers are not protected by these labeling laws (the number is almost certainly higher, as some consumers with the eight most common food allergies may also have other, less common food allergies). These include food allergies like yeast, sulfites, citrus, tomatoes and corn.