According to the Mayo Clinic, a food allergy is defined as is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Seems pretty straight-forward, right?
Despite the popularity of "allergy friendly" foods, commmon food allergies affect an estimated 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3 and up to 3 percent of adults. It is not uncommon however to confuse the term "food intolerance" with the term "food allergy." The main differentiator is that a food intolerance does not involve the immune system. You may find yourself experiencing one of the following symptoms with a food intolerance: belching, diarrhea, indigestion, nausea, passing excessive amounts of gas, vomiting, or flatulence. While neither an allergy nor an intolerance are pleasant experiences, allergies can result in the body having a life-threating response. So, to give you some peace of mind, I am going to clear up seven allergy related myths to help you better understand this often confused condition.
Myth #1: Allergies last forever.
Children tend to outgrow certain allergies, like dairy, egg, wheat, and soy, by the time they're around 16. Other allergies, however -- like peanuts, shellfish, and tree nuts -- tend to last forever.
Myth #2: Food additives and chemicals are a common cause of allergies
While certain additives might cause uncomfortable symptoms, a real food allergy is almost always caused by one of the top eight food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy. Even small amounts of these foods can trigger an anaphylactic reaction.
Myth #3: A blood test will tell me what I'm allergic to.
Blood tests are unreliable and really don't give you a lot of information. While they may signal the presence of an allergy, they don't tell whether the patient will actually have an allergic reaction or how severe (if at all) it will be. Blood tests should not be used as a diagnostic tool; at best, they can be used to confirm a suspected diagnosis, but more testing, and perhaps a food challenge, should be done.
Myth #4: If I accidentally eat a food I'm allergic to and don't have any symptoms, I'm fine.
Anaphylaxis doesn't always start immediately; it can take hours to present. If you eat something you know you're allergic to, alert your friends or family members, keep an eye on symptoms, and be prepared to take whatever steps you and your doctor have planned in case of an exposure.
Myth #5: Allergic reactions will get worse with each subsequent exposure.
Subsequent exposures to allergens are completely unpredictable: they might be the same, they might be worse, or they might be less severe. Symptoms might also differ with different exposures.
Myth #6: Adults can't develop food allergies.
Most food allergies develop in childhood, but it's still possible to develop a new food allergy in adulthood -- even to foods that you've never had an allergic reaction with.
Myth #7: If you have one food allergy, you'll probably have many more.
In fact, most people with food allergies are actually allergic to fewer than four foods.