Half of Food Allergies Do Not Appear Until Adulthood

Approximately half of adults with food allergies developed their allergy in adulthood, according to a recent study.

The findings were presented at the 2017 American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston, MA.

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In the study, 40,447 adults in the US completed cross-sectional surveys between October 2015 and September 2016. The researchers adjusted for sampling design and used stringent criteria developed with a panel of food allergy experts to differentiate respondents with food allergies from those with similar conditions. In addition, they estimated food allergy prevalence using weighted proportions.

Overall, an allergy to shellfish was prevalent in 3.9% of participants and was the most commonly reported allergy, followed by peanut (2.4%), tree nut (1.9%), and fin fish (1.1%).

Among those who reported a tree nut allergy, 1.1% were allergic to walnuts, 1% were allergic to almonds, 1% were allergic to hazelnut, 0.8% were allergic to pecan, and 0.8% were allergic to cashew.

Additionally, the researchers found that 51.17% of adults who reported at least 1 food allergy developed it after 18 years of age.

“Because many adults believe food allergies mostly affect children, they may not think to get tested. It is important to see an allergist for testing and diagnosis if you are having a reaction to a food and suspect a food allergy,” the researchers concluded.2

—Melissa Weiss


1) Warren C, Gupta R, Blumenstock J, Mittal K, Kotowska J, Smith B. The Prevalence of Nut and Seafood Allergies Among Adults in the United States. Presented at: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting October 26-30, 2017; Boston, MA.

2) Almost half of food allergies in adults appear in adulthood [press release]. Boston, MA: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; October 27, 2017.