Common Misconceptions about Food Allergies

Posted 8.5.14 | Mallory West

There are many misconceptions about food allergies out there. In today’s post, we’ll summarize 3 of the most common misconceptions that we hear.

1 - Food intolerance equals food allergies

Food allergies and food intolerances are often confused with each other, but they are actually separate conditions with different underlying causes, symptoms, and treatment.

While we can consider all food allergies to be forms of food intolerance, not every food intolerance is a food allergy. Unfortunately, many people who have an intolerance to certain foods, such as lactose intolerance, refer to them incorrectly as "food allergies." This can make it that much harder for those of us with true food allergies to explain them to others, especially when the food allergies are severe. Read more about the differences between food allergies and intolerances here.

2 - There are simple tests for food allergies

Another common misconception about food allergies is the belief that testing can definitively confirm or rule out an allergy to a certain food. However, food allergy testing is not always 100% accurate. Sometimes allergy tests don’t identify a food allergy even though the patient appears to have an allergic reaction to that food (this is called a false negative). Other times an allergy test suggests a person is allergic to a food that they actually tolerate (this is called a false positive). There are also tests that are confusing an unhelpful that might be marketed directly to parents or to pediatricians, but that are not used by board-certified allergists.

Allergy tests can be helpful in giving your doctor clues about which foods may be causing problems. However, they are not always completely accurate so doctors use them in addition to their own observations and the reports of the patient or their caregiver when evaluating a patient for a food allergy. Tests for food allergies include blood tests and tests where a small amount of the allergen is placed on the skin. The gold standard in food allergy tests is a food challenge, in which the patient consumes some of the food and the doctor monitors for a reaction. You can read more about food allergy tests here

3 - All food allergies have the same symptoms

Many people assume that an allergic reaction to a food always occurs immediately after consuming it. However, some food allergies come with delayed reactions, that can occur several hours or even a day or two after eating the food. Someone who experiences delayed allergic reactions to a food may mistakenly believe that their symptoms are unrelated to the food, or that they are caused by the wrong food, since the symptoms don’t occur around the time when the food allergen is consumed.

It is important to recognize that delayed-type allergic reactions to foods can occur many hours after consumption. A diet journal and food allergy testing can help patients and their doctors to identify which food is causing problems. The Footsteps App has a diary that can help track foods consumed to help the doctor look for trends in diet and reactions.

Are you surprised by any of these misconceptions? What misconceptions about food allergies have you experienced?


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About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.