There are many myths out there about food allergies, from the belief that parents overreact about food allergies and they don't exist, to that kids are allergic to everything.
Food allergies are common; but not as common as some parents believe.
That leads us to one of the first myths about food allergies:
1) Any symptom that you have after eating a food is a food allergy.
Food allergies do occur in up to 6 to 8% of children, but many more parents think that their children have reactions to foods that aren't really caused by allergic reactions. Instead, these children may have a lactose intolerance, food aversion, or other symptoms that have nothing to do with allergies, such as gas and hyperactivity.
Unlike food intolerances, true food allergies occur when a food triggers an immune system mediated reaction. This reaction involves the antibody IgE (immunoglobulin E), which causes certain immune system cells to release histamine, leading to most of the symptoms of a food allergy.
2) Only certain foods can cause food allergies.
It is true that only certain foods are most likely to cause food allergies, but children can be allergic to almost any food, including many fruits and vegetables (oral allergy syndrome). The foods that are most likely to cause food allergies, so called allergy foods, include eggs, milk, peanuts, nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
3) Kids won't outgrow their food allergies.
It depends on what they are allergic to, but kids actually can outgrow many food allergies if they completely avoid them (elimination diet) for two or three years. For example, more than 85% of children outgrow allergies to milk, but fewer outgrow allergies to peanuts, tree nuts or seafood.
Still, about 20% of children may outgrow their allergy to peanuts.
4) Peanuts are the most common food allergy in children.
Peanut allergies may be the most likely to cause life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), but a cow's milk allergy is the most common food allergy in young children.
5) A positive antibody level on a blood allergy test means you are allergic to one or more foods.
This is not necessarily true. Some of the newer allergy tests that have become popular, including the RAST and Immunocap RAST, don't give a simple "yes or no" answer about your child's allergies. Instead, they give an antibody level, which can range from negative or low to very high. Children with negative or low antibody levels and even moderate levels may not actually be allergic to those foods, so those test results must be interpreted based on the symptoms the child's has when he eats those foods.
For example, if RAST testing indications low levels of antibodies for egg whites, but your child eats eggs every day and never has symptoms of a food allergy, then he likely isn't allergic to eggs.
Interpreting these allergy tests incorrectly is one reason that some kids get diagnosed with multiple food allergies or are told that they are "allergic to everything."