McFarland Clinic

True or False: Food Allergies

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May 15, 2012


Test your knowledge of food allergies with our True or False article with Allergist Dr. John Wheeler. Click on the statements featured in this article to learn if they are true or false.


True or False:Allergies change every seven years.

False “While the old wives tale that allergies change every seven years is false, the incidence of food allergies appears to be rising,” says McFarland Clinic Allergist John Wheeler, MD.

Though the cause of presumed rise is unknown, genetic factors alone cannot be the cause because the increase has occurred over too short a period.


True or False:Food allergies and food intolerances are the same.

FalseThere is a difference between food allergies and food intolerances,” says Dr. Wheeler. For example, people who are lactose intolerant can experience some of the same symptoms as food allergies but it does not cause a dangerous, allergic reaction.

Food allergies are defined as an abnormal response by the immune system to food protein. Reactions can include swelling, hives, wheezing, cough, nausea/vomiting or anaphylaxis.

True or False:Food allergies are more common in developed countries.

True Environmental factors – including a modern lifestyle – could very likely be a main cause of the increase,” says Dr. Wheeler. “Research has shown that immigrants seem to acquire incident risk of food allergy of the adopted country.”

True or False:What you are exposed to in your environment determines allergies.

True Modified environmental risk factors like hygiene, changes in the immune system, infant feeding and vitamin D deficiencies are all being researched to determine a link between these and food allergies.

Another interesting finding is the further you move from the equator, the more common food allergies are.

True or False:Food allergies are more common in children than adults.

True “90% of food allergies in children are caused by eight foods: cow’s milk, soybean, hen’s egg, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish,” says Dr. Wheeler. “The good news is that milk, egg, wheat and soy allergies often resolve during childhood.”

Peanut, tree nut, fish and shellfish allergies can resolve but often persist. Peanut allergy prevalence has increased in recent decades and now affects 1-2% of young children.

“The highest risk category is teens with a food allergy. Because they can often be embarrassed or frustrated with dietary restrictions, they may not realize the seriousness of their condition. This places them at higher risk of an exposure to a food that could cause a reaction,” says Dr. Wheeler.

True or False:Pollen allergies can influence food allergies.

True “Adults and some children can experience cross-reactivity between certain aeroallergens and certain foods,” says Dr. Wheeler. “If someone is allergic to ragweed they could also lean towards a watermelon allergy.”

If you suspect that you or your child has a food allergy the best way to diagnosis this is by keeping a detailed history of the reaction to each incriminated food and to work closely with an allergist.

Children less than five years with moderate to severe eczema should be considered for food allergy evaluation,” says Dr. Wheeler. “A medically supervised food challenge is considered the most specific test for food allergy.”


Learn more about the McFarland Clinic Allergy and Immunology Department located at the 1215 Duff Avenue office.

Dr. Wheeler is offering a free allergy and asthma screening in Ames at the Lincoln Center Hy-Vee on May 21 from 1-4pm. For more information, visit the events calendar.

To learn more about food allergies, check out the following articles on our online health library:



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