Could It Be an Allergy?
Telling the difference between an allergic reaction and something else can be tricky.
Mistaking Allergies: Easy to Do continued...
As in Fields' case, food allergy is one of the more regularly misrecognized
types of reactions among people trying to self-diagnose. "In general, it's more
common to experience food intolerance than an actual allergy," says allergy
specialist Alan Goldsobel, MD, FAAAAI. "For the majority of people who believe
they have one, when they get tested it's not a true food allergic reaction,"
says Goldsobel, who is a clinical professor at the University of California,
San Francisco, and adjunct associate professor at Stanford University Medical
Goldsobel points out that although nearly 20% of adults claim they have a
food allergy, studies show that only about 2% of adults have a true food
allergy based on test results. And whereas almost 30% of parents say they think
their child has a food allergy, the actual rates range from only 6% to 8% among
children under age 6.
Regardless of whether it's food or other types of allergy, specialists say
they rarely ever have to convince someone they have one. "It's always the other
way around. I'm usually trying to persuade patients that they aren't allergic
to something," Resnick tells WebMD.
How to Recognize an Allergy
Although you can't always tell the difference between an allergy and
something else for sure, here are some general tips to help distinguish an
Make a checklist of symptoms. Differentiating nasal allergy problems
from cold or viral conditions spells relief for most people because nasal
allergy symptoms (also known as allergic rhinitis) affects between 10% to 30%
of all adults, but treatment can reduce those symptoms in about 85% of those
sufferers. So if you're not sure if you have one or the other, inventory your
"If the list encompasses fever, greenish or yellow-colored mucus, or joint
and muscle pain, then it's more likely a cold," Resnick says. But if you've got
sneezing; itchy, red, or watery eyes; clear nasal discharge; or your nose,
throat or ears feel scratchy -- then he says you're probably dealing with an
Timing is everything. The duration and time of year the symptoms
occur can be strong clues to identifying their root cause. "Once you find that
the symptoms are lasting two or three weeks or even a few months, we say it's
probably not a routine cold," Goldsobel says.