More Common Food Allergy Myths

By: Katie Tanner, FNP-C

Katie Tanner, FNP-C

Food allergies are surrounded by various myths and misconceptions. It’s important to separate fact from fiction to better manage food allergies. Here are some common myths about food allergies:

Myth: Food allergies and food intolerances are the same.

food allergy

Fact: Food allergies and food intolerances are two distinct conditions. Food allergies result from the immune system’s response to specific proteins in food whereas food intolerances are typically the body’s inability to digest certain substances. Food allergies can be life threatening while food intolerances are typically not severe.

Myth: Food allergies are caused by GMOs in foods.

Fact: The first GMO foods were introduced in the United States’ food system in 1994. However, the identification of food allergies via skin testing has been around since 1912 when first discovered by Oscar Mendelson Schloss, a pediatrician. Currently, there is no definitive research to suggest GMOs are directly correlated to the sudden rise in food allergies in the 1990s.

Myth: Only children have food allergies.

Fact: Although most commonly identified in children, food allergies may start in adulthood to foods that were previously tolerated. One common adult-onset food allergy trigger is shellfish. Unfortunately, the underlying mechanism is still unknown so evaluation by an allergist is key if a food allergy is suspected.

Myth: With a food allergy, you can tolerate a little bit of the allergenic food.

Fact: For individuals diagnosed with food allergies, even trace amounts can trigger severe reactions. Strict avoidance of the food is essential. We do offer oral immunotherapy which can gradually desensitize a patient to their food allergen. However, this should only be done under the close supervision of a medical provider.

Myth: Allergy testing, whether by skin prick testing or lab work, is 100% accurate.

Fact: Both skin testing and lab work can produce false-positives or false-negatives. A false-positive is when testing is positive, but an allergy is not actually present. A false negative is when testing is negative, but a food allergy is present. It is important to have an experienced eye to interpret these results accurately.

Myth: Food allergies are a fad.

Fact: Food allergies diagnosed by a medical provider are very real and come with potentially life-threatening consequences. It is important to take these seriously in order to ensure the safety of those who have them. It’s crucial to rely on accurate information when dealing with food allergies. Make sure you consult with an allergist as misconceptions can lead to dangerous situations.

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