HealthDay News — Nearly 11% of US adults are estimated to be food-allergic, but 19 percent believe they have a food allergy, according to a study published online January 4 in JAMA Network Open.

Ruchi S. Gupta, MD, MPH, from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional survey study involving US adults. Surveys were administered via the internet and telephone and were completed by 40,443 adults.

The researchers found that among US adults, the estimated convincing food allergy prevalence was 10.8%, while food allergy was self-reported by 19%. Shellfish, milk, peanut, tree nut, and fin fish were the most common allergies (2.9, 1.9, 1.8, 1.2, and 0.9%, respectively). Overall, 51.1% of food-allergic adults had experienced a severe food allergy reaction, and allergies to multiple foods were seen for 45.3%. Forty-eight percent of food-allergic adults developed allergies as an adult. About one in four (24%) reported a current epinephrine prescription, and 38.3% reported at least one emergency department visit related to food allergy. 

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“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.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the biopharmaceutical industry.

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