Allergies : Food Allergies: Fact or Fiction?

When it comes to food allergies, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Here are a few areas that commonly cause confusion.

A food can be made less allergenic by cooking it.

Fiction. A food allergy is an immune response to a protein in a food. Since the protein remains in the food during heating, the food does not become less allergenic when it's cooked. However, there is an exception to this general rule: Some people with an egg or milk allergy are able to consume small amounts that have been extensively heated, such as in baked goods. Anyone with an allergy should talk to their doctor before trying this.

Adults can develop new food allergies.

Fact. Although most food allergies are developed in early childhood, they can arise at any age -- even in adulthood.

An allergic individual will always have the same reaction to an allergenic food.

Fiction. Allergic reactions are unpredictable and can be more or less severe than the previous reaction. Also, a person may not always experience the same symptoms of an allergic reaction. The nature of the reaction can depend on the person's severity of the allergy and how much of the food was ingested.

Lactose intolerance and a milk allergy are the same thing.

Fiction. People with lactose intolerance may experience uncomfortable symptoms like gas, pain, and bloating after ingesting milk or milk products, but it's usually not life threatening. A milk allergy, on the other hand, is a reaction by the immune system, and ingesting a small amount can be life threatening.

If you have a peanut allergy, smelling peanuts can cause an anaphylactic reaction.

Fiction. The protein in peanuts must be ingested to trigger an anaphylactic reaction. The smell of peanuts comes from a compound that does not cause an allergic reaction. However, if a person with a peanut allergy inhales airborne peanut particles, this can cause an allergic reaction.

It is possible to outgrow a food allergy.

Fact. Studies show that kids can outgrow food allergies. For example, up to 20 percent of peanut allergies are outgrown. Children commonly outgrow wheat allergies by age 3, and the majority of kids with a soy allergy outgrow it by age 10.