Public misconceptions of food allergies and intolerances

By Sheryl Kay • Published: March 11th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

With so much attention given to deadly allergies, it’s pretty certain that if asked to list the worst offenders, nuts, strawberries and shellfish would top everyone’s list.

What many of us don’t realize is that in addition to those reactions, many people suffer from food intolerances. Food intolerances are very real conditions that also produce adverse reactions when certain foods are consumed. And according to new research, there are also misconceptions about symptoms of a food intolerance… and how best to treat it.

The study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, involved analyzing the responses from more than two-thousand adults who completed the Chicago Food Allergy Research Survey for the General Public.

Researchers found that the public was most aware of food allergy symptoms and severity, with nearly ninety-five percent recognizing the real potential for fatalities. However, many misconceptions were found, including the erroneous beliefs that a cure exists for food allergies, and that a daily medicine can be taken to prevent a food allergy reaction. Respondents also tended to overlook the necessity of strict allergen avoidance, pointing to their own misconceptions of what a safe intake of the allergen might be. More than forty percent mistakenly claimed that other methods exist to prevent life-threatening reactions.

The study concluded by noting that increased public awareness is critical because one in six children have some form of food allergy, and seventy-six percent of the fatalities related to food allergies occur outside the home. A better informed public, they say, will lead to better prevention.