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Abstract

Background  Food allergy (FA) represents a common and worldwide disorder but in publications referring to FA the reported diagnosis is rarely confirmed. Consequently, the subjectively assessed FA may negatively affect the quality of life of patients and their families.

Objective  We have conducted this internet survey in order to estimate the self-reported perception of FA in Greece.

Methods  A standard anonymous questionnaire was posted for a 3-month period on http://www.in.gr, a Greek popular Internet portal. Each individual could participate only once. Participants were screened for the presence or history of FA by a key question and were then asked to provide information on symptoms, course and management.

Results  A total of 3673 adult subjects (mean age 34.2 years, range 18–74, females 61.3%), reporting FA were included in analysis. Most reported reactions were related to fruits (14.9%), seafood (10.7%) and nuts (9.2%). The first episode occurred principally during the second (29.2%) and third (30.9%) decade within 3 h from consumption (82.2%). Predominant symptoms were urticaria and oral allergy syndrome (almost 25% each one). Nearly half of the participants sought no medical advice, while 31.4% asked for an allergist’s consultation. Almost 21% of reactors were hospitalized; nuts, severity of symptoms (lower respiratory and/or cardiovascular), onset in lower age, previous exercise and concomitant alcohol and/or aspirin intake were positively associated with hospitalization.

Conclusion  Although FA causes severe anaphylactic episodes, almost 50% of individuals who experience symptoms perceived as FA do not seek medical advice. Awareness programmes must be carried out in order to increase consciousness about this potentially fatal medical condition.