Nearly half of food allergies develop when you’re an adult

A revealing new study has found that almost half of adults with food allergies developed one or more of these allergies during adulthood.

A revealing new study has found that almost half of adults with food allergies developed one or more of these allergies during adulthood. Since allergies are typically associated with children, this is an unexpected discovery.

“Food allergies are often seen as a condition that begins in childhood, so the idea that 45 percent of adults with food allergies develop them in adulthood is surprising,” said lead author Ruchi Gupta. “We also saw that, as with children, the incidence of food allergies in adults is rising across all ethnic groups.”

Shellfish is the most common allergy among adults, affecting around 3.6 percent of adults in the United States. This estimate is 44 percent higher than the 2.5 percent rate which was determined in a 2004 study. The findings of the current analysis demonstrate that tree nut allergies are also on the rise in American adults, increasing by 260 percent since 2008.

“Our research also found that, among black, Asian and Hispanic adults, the risk of developing a food allergy to certain foods is higher than for whites, specifically for shellfish and peanuts,” said co-author Christopher Warren. “For example, Asian adults were 2.1 times more likely to report a shellfish allergy than white adults, and Hispanic adults reported a peanut allergy at 2.3 times the frequency of white adults.”

Adults most likely consider an adverse reaction to food as simply a food intolerance, potentially causing a food allergy to go undiagnosed. Allergists are trained to perform allergy testing and can customize a personal treatment plan upon diagnosis.

“Because many adults believe food allergies mostly affect children, they may not think to get tested,” said Warren. “It is important to see an allergist for testing and diagnosis if you are having a reaction to a food and suspect a food allergy.”

The research is being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting which takes place this month in Boston, Massachusetts. To find an allergist in your area, use the ACAAI allergist locator.

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer