Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Think you have food allergies? Think again

Los Angeles Times: "Allergies were far from Christie Littauer's mind when she fed creamed spinach to her son Jack for the first time. The 6-month-old had already eaten peas and green beans. Why not try something more exciting?
"A few bites into it, he started wheezing," says Littauer, of Henderson, Nev. "He got bright red. Something was obviously wrong."
After a scary ambulance ride, Littauer later discovered that her little boy was allergic to dairy in the spinach, making him one of a growing number of people with known food allergies.
Follow-up tests pointed to a bunch of other allergies too, putting Jack in another large category: those who think (or whose parents think) they're allergic or intolerant to foods they can handle just fine.
For 2 1/2 years, Jack was shielded from a wide array of foods, until more accurate testing proved he could eat quite a few of them, including wheat and fish. That opened a menu of possibilities for Jack -- bread, pasta, even chicken nuggets.
With a glut of nonspecialist doctors now offering allergy testing to patients, results that can be difficult to interpret, symptoms that can be wide-ranging and people's insatiable need to find explanations for whatever ails them, foods are frequently blamed for crimes they did not commit.
Though allergies or intolerances (and recognition of them) do appear to be on the rise, there are far more people who erroneously think they have problems with specific foods.
"Every study has shown that the perception of having a food allergy is more often wrong than right," says Robert Wood, a pediatric allergist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "Only about 25% of people who think they have a food allergy will actually have one.""

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