20 Percent of Adults Claim Food Allergies But Only 10 Percent Have Actually Have Them

If you look at any restaurant menu, these days, you might find a lot of small abbreviations indicating food allergy warnings or dietary restrictions.  While health regulation several years ago started to require calorie content on menus (or, at least, on hand) in restaurants all over the United States, dietary notifications are more voluntary than anything, aimed at encouraging diners to feel more safe when eating out. 

And, yes, it seems that food allergies are on the rise: they now affect about 1 in 10 American adults.  However, twice as many people claim they have a food allergy than actually do.  In other words, while 10 percent of the population have a legitimate food allergy, roughly 20 percent of the population thinks they do. 

Now, that is not to say that we should discount this other 10 percent of the population.  Perhaps their food allergies are undiagnosed.  Still, a 2015-2016 survey of more than 40,000 people found that nearly 11 percent have reported symptoms that suggest a convincing food allergy.  These symptoms include things like skin irritation, hives, swelling, chest tightening/shortness of breath, vomiting, and lightheadedness. 

It should be noted that common symptoms of food intolerance—digestion issues, oral allergy syndrome (itchy mouth)—have not been included in the data.

The data found, not surprisingly, shellfish is the most common food allergy in adults, coming in at around 7 million.  It is also not surprising that milk and then peanuts followed close behind.  Also, the data found that roughly 50 percent of all food-allergic adults reported their first symptoms appeared in adulthood and nearly 40 percent have been to the emergency room due to a severe reaction.  

Also, the data showed that women are more likely to suffer food allergies, as are people in their 30s and people of a non-white heritage.  Also, hay fever and asthma were found to increase risk for a more severe allergic reaction.  What may be surprising, however, is that fewer than 25 percent of Americans who have a food allergy had an injectable epinephrine prescription. These are necessary interventions in the event of the life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.  Health experts advise that everyone with a food allergy should carry one of these devices (ie Epipen) should carry one at all times because the severity of food-related allergic reactions can be very unpredictable