(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the October/November 2018 issue.)
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Most food allergies develop in children around 6 years of age, says Clifford W. Bassett, MD, FACAAI, FAAAAI, a New York City doctor who specializes in the evaluation and management of allergic disorders affecting children and adults. As many as 7 percent of American children have some allergy to food or ingredients in food.
However, most outgrow these food allergies. Only about 2 percent of American adults suffer from food allergies, with the most common allergies in adults caused by eating peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Skin and blood tests can help determine if someone has a food allergy. If a child is tested and it reveals a food allergy is present, the child should be tested again after a few years. There is a 60 percent chance that the allergy has been lost.
What Causes a Food Allergy?
According to Dr. Bassett, food allergies are caused by allergen-antibody interactions. Simply put, this means that a food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system views a specific food or food ingredient as harmful and reacts by causing symptoms. These reactions may be mild to severe—even deadly—and can include any of the following: