Food allergies affect one in twelve US children

A study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that one in twelve children in the United States may have a food allergy, and that more than a third of those have a severe food allergy. The study, led by Dr Ruchi Gupta from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago also shows that allergies are more prevalent in children from ethnic minorities.

Gupta and her colleagues designed a study that was more representative than previous studies, one which aimed to better estimate the prevalence of childhood food allergy in the United States. They surveyed almost 40,000 adults who lived with a child under 18 years of age. The adults filled out a questionnaire about allergies based on a single child in their household. The results showed that severe reactions were more common in older children, perhaps because parents monitor younger children more carefully. Black and Asian children have a higher risk of food allergy that white children, but that they were less likely to have their allergy diagnosed by a doctor.

One of the biggest findings was that more children are having serious reactions to food than previously thought. Of the 38,480 who filled in the questionnaire, 8% had food allergy, 38.7% of which had a history of severe reactions and 30.4% had multiple food allergies. The odds of having a food allergy were associated with age, race, income and geographic region.

Gupta concludes that allergies are on the rise, but she is not sure why, and that the next question to be addressed is whether there is something in the environment that is driving the increase.

Source: Pediatrics

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First Published in June 2011

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