Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Food Allergies: Just the Facts
Many of the things we think we know about food allergy are really just myths--stories that are commonly known but aren't based on science. This handout will help you learn the facts about food allergies.
Myth Number 1: Food allergy is very common.
Fact: Although 25% of people think they're allergic to certain foods, studies show that about only 6% of children and 1% to 2% of adults have a food allergy.
Myth Number 2: Most people with food allergies are allergic to strawberries and tomatoes.
Fact: Babies and young children are most often allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, soybean products and peanuts. Older children and adults are most often allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (like walnuts, almonds and cashews), fish and shellfish.
Myth Number 3: Some people are allergic to sugar.
Fact: A condition is called a food allergy when the immune system (the part of the body that fights infections) thinks a certain protein in a food is a "foreign" agent and fights against it. This doesn't happen with sugars and fats.
Myth Number 4: Milk allergy is very common and causes diarrhea in adults.
Fact: Many adults have trouble digesting the sugar in milk. This is called "lactose intolerance." It isn't a true allergy.

Myth Number 5: People with food allergies are allergic to many foods.
Fact: Most people with food allergies are allergic to fewer than 4 foods.
Myth Number 6: Food allergy makes people hyperactive.
Fact: The most common "sudden" symptoms of food allergy are hives (large "bumps" on the skin), swelling, itchy skin, itchiness or tingling in the mouth, or a metallic taste, coughing, trouble breathing or wheezing, throat tightness, diarrhea and vomiting. There may also be a feeling of "impending doom"--a feeling that something bad is going to happen, pale skin because of low blood pressure, or loss of consciousness (fainting). The most common chronic illnesses associated with food allergies are eczema and asthma.
Myth Number 7: Allergy to food dye is common.
Fact: Bad reactions to food dyes are rare. They may occur in fewer than 1 of 100 children and in fewer than 1 of 500 adults.
Myth Number 8: Food allergy is lifelong--or is always outgrown.
Fact: Children usually "outgrow" allergies to milk, eggs, soybean products and wheat. However, people rarely outgrow allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.
Myth Number 9: Food allergy is not dangerous.
Fact: Food allergy can be fatal if it causes a reaction called anaphylaxis (say: "anna-phil-ax-iss"). This reaction makes it hard for a person to breathe. Fast treatment with a medicine called epinephrine (say: "epp-in-eff-rin") can save your life. If you have a severe allergy, your doctor might give you a prescription for epinephrine in small, pre-filled syringes. Your doctor can show you how to use them and tell you when to use them. If your doctor thinks you might need to use this medicine, you'll need to carry a syringe with you at all times.
A person having an allergic reaction should be taken by ambulance to a hospital emergency room, because the symptoms might start again even after epinephrine is given. They might start again hours later.
Once a true food allergy is diagnosed, you should avoid the food that caused it. If you have an allergy, you must read the labels on all the prepared foods you eat. Your doctor can help you learn how to avoid eating the wrong foods. If your child has food allergies, give the school and other caretakers instructions that list the foods to be avoided and tell what to do if the food is eaten accidentally.
The Food Allergy Network: http://www.foodallergy.org.