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Food Allergies Are Confusing to Doctors, Too

Doctors have a hard time differentiating food allergies from intolerances.

Food allergies can be just as mystifying to doctors as to the common person, according to a new report.

Doctors appointed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report stating that the differences between food allergies and food intolerances – such as lactose intolerance or gluten – are so difficult to distinguish that it's difficult to determine how many people actually have allergies, according to The Huffington Post.

It's difficult to diagnose allergies in the first place because not all are detected in the same way. Some can be found using a skin test while others require an oral test, The Huffington Post noted. Additionally, similar symptoms often accompany food allergies and intolerances, which makes it difficult to know which diagnosis is right for every individual, the source noted.

The authors of the report estimate that 12 to 15 million people in the U.S. have a food allergy, according to Science News. Despite these estimates, it's hard to know exactly how many people have allergies at any given moment because children can outgrow them and adults can develop allergies, The Huffington Post explained.

Researchers conducted the study to better understand allergies and the insecurities those living with them face on a day-to-day basis.

"We heard about the anxiety they feel in restaurants, schools, airplanes and other settings where they are fearful of unintentional exposure to a food that can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction," researchers wrote in the study.

For parents who are concerned about their children acquiring allergies, some research recommends exposing children to food containing common food allergens such as gluten, peanuts, milk or eggs at a young age – which one study from the Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology showed lowered the risk of developing that allergy later on – but overall research on allergy prevention is inconclusive, Science News reported.

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