How common are food allergies?

Although up to 15% of people in the United States believe they have food allergies, only 7% of children have them. Only about 3% to 4% of adults actually do.1

Many people mistake food intolerances for food allergies because often both conditions have the same symptoms. For example, when people with lactose intolerance ingest dairy products, they have stomach pain, gas, and diarrhea, symptoms similar to those of some food allergies.

About 85% of children outgrow allergies to milk, wheat, eggs, and soy between the ages of 3 and 5.2 But while 20% of kids outgrow an allergy to peanuts, they rarely outgrow an allergy to tree nuts (like walnuts or almonds) or seafood.3 Adults rarely lose food allergies. And adults with food allergies usually have had them since childhood.3

Food allergies often occur in people who have a family history of asthma, atopic dermatitis, or allergies to pollen, mold, or other substances.

Citations

  1. Burks AW (2006). Food allergies. In DC Dale, DD Federman, eds., ACP Medicine, section 6, chap. 16. New York: WebMD.
  2. Sicherer SH (2002). Food allergy. Lancet, 360(9334): 701–710.
  3. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (2006). Food allergy: A practice parameter. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 96(Suppl 1): S1–S68. Available online: http://www.aaaai.org/professionals/resources/pdf/food_allergy_2006.pdf.

Last Updated: March 9, 2009

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