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What you don’t know about food allergies might surprise you

A young man shops in a grocery store.
Blog Health Information

/ by UK HealthCare

A food allergy is a serious and even life-threatening medical condition that affects around 15 million Americans and one in every 13 children.

Yet, misconceptions still arise on the subject.

A food allergy occurs when your immune system, which is supposed to identify and destroy germs, overreacts to a harmless food protein – an allergen.

Let’s break down what you need to know about food allergies.

Myth: Food allergies aren’t that serious.

Fact: An allergic reaction is more than just a rash or a stomachache. Other symptoms include hives, a stuffy nose, vomiting, difficulty breathing and sometimes loss of consciousness. Some reactions can be life-threatening.

Myth: You’re born with food allergies.

Fact: You can actually develop a food allergy at any point in your life. Even if you’ve eaten the food before, you could become allergic to it later.

Myth: If you have a food allergy as a child, you’re stuck with it.

Fact: Some people actually outgrow an allergy. This is most common with milk, egg, soy and wheat allergies.

Myth: All allergy-inducing ingredients are listed on the nutrition label.

Fact:  Food labels highlight the eight most common allergens: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

However, people are allergic to foods other than those eight ingredients, and sometimes those allergens might not even be listed on the label.

You should also pay attention to the “May contain” warning on food labels. Some labels also include information about other foods that are produced in the same location.

Myth: Not every allergic reaction warrants the use of an EpiPen.

Fact: It’s better to be safe than sorry. The benefits of epinephrine outweigh the risk that a dose is unnecessary.

Always keep an EpiPen on hand, and pay close attention to its expiration date so that you can get a new one before your previous one expires.

Myth: Food allergies are the same as food intolerances.

Fact: Food intolerances do not involve the immune system, which is why food allergies are more dangerous. While food intolerances might cause a lot of discomfort, they’re not life-threatening like food allergies can be.

Myth: Peanuts are the most severe allergy.

Fact: No allergy is more dangerous than another. While peanuts are a common allergy, any food can cause an allergic reaction, so all allergies should be taken seriously.

Myth: Eating just a little won’t hurt.

Fact: Even just a trace of a food allergen can cause a severe allergic reaction. Removing the food completely from your diet is the best way to stay safe.

You should also be aware of cross-contact between the food you eat and the food allergen. If you’re eating at a friend’s house or at a restaurant, double-check to make sure that your food doesn’t touch food that you are allergic to.

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