BOSTON (CBS) — Christine Collins carries her EpiPen wherever she goes. After eating seafood her entire life, the 42-year-old developed a life-threatening food allergy to shellfish in her 20s.

“It felt like my throat was closing up like, started with wheezing and just got tighter and tighter,” she said. “By the time we were in front of the ER, I couldn’t breathe so that’s how fast it happened.”

An EpiPen and a medical alert bracelet (WBZ-TV)

New research shows an estimated 26 million adults have a food allergy in the U.S. — that is one in 10 adults. Nearly half developed at least one of their allergies in adulthood like Christine.

Dr. Wayne Shreffler, the director of the Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, said, “It certainly points to this being a very prevalent issue and likely more prevalent than we previously recognized, particularly the adult-onset disease.”

Dr. Wayne Shreffler, the director of the Food Allergy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital (WBZ-TV)

A study in JAMA Network Open surveyed over 40,000 adults and found shellfish was the most common food allergy in adults, followed by milk, peanuts, tree nuts, other fish, egg, wheat, soy, and sesame.

Researchers also found many adults believe they are allergic to foods when they’re likely suffering from food intolerance or another health condition.

“Patients need to get a proper diagnosis so that if they are at risk of severe reactions they are prepared to deal with them. It’s also important because it can be misdiagnosed or people can think they are allergic to the wrong things and avoid foods unnecessarily.”

Collins knows how important the right diagnosis is. “Get checked out by an allergist. Get a blood test and be sure because you don’t want to find out the hard way.”

In addition to carrying an EpiPen, She now wears a medical alert bracelet to stay safe.

Dr. Mallika Marshall


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