Study says 1 in 13 US children have food allergy

Jun 20, 2011 By LINDSEY TANNER , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- Food allergies affect about one in 13 U.S. children, double the latest government estimate, a new study suggests.

The researchers say about 40 percent of them have severe reactions - a finding they hope will erase misconceptions that food allergies are just like and other seasonal allergies that are troublesome but not dangerous.

Overall, 8 percent of the studied had food allergies; peanuts and milk were the most common sources. That translates to nearly 6 million U.S. children.

The most recent government estimate, from the , was based on in-home interviews and found that about 3 million children were affected, or about 4 percent. Other estimates based on different methods have ranged from 2 percent to 8 percent.

The new study, funded by an advocacy group, is based on online interviews with parents of kids younger than age 18 and involved 40,104 children. Research firm Knowledge Networks conducted the survey. Families were recruited through random telephone dialing.

Results were released online Monday in Pediatrics.

The findings suggest that food allergies affect two kids per classroom, said lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician and researcher with Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital.

Dr. Calman Prussin, an investigator with the National Institute of Allergy and , said the study "confirms that is a substantial public health problem."

Prussin said differences in estimates are due to different survey methods and definitions of what constitutes a food allergy. He said the only way to know for sure how many kids are affected would be on scores of children, which isn't practical.

Because the new figure is within the range of previous estimates, he said the study doesn't mean prevalence has increased, although experts generally believe allergies including those to food are on the rise, Prussin noted.

He said some people mistake food intolerances for food allergies. For instance, many people are lactose intolerant, meaning they can't properly digest milk. That can cause bloating and digestive problems, but not an allergic reaction.

Typical signs of a true food allergy include skin rashes, wheezing, tightness in the throat or difficulty breathing.

The new survey asked parents whether their children had those symptoms - a big strength of the study, Prussin said.

Many children outgrow allergies to some foods, including eggs and wheat, but they're less likely to outgrow allergies to peanuts and other nuts.

The study was funded by the Food Allergy Initiative, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by parents of children with allergies.

Mary Jane Marchisotto, the group's executive director, said the study "paints a more comprehensive picture" of food allergies, and should help raise awareness.

The group, funded privately but without industry money, is working with the CDC on national guidelines on how to manage food allergies in schools, she said.

Explore further: Teen vaccinations up but HPV coverage remains low overall

More information:
Pediatrics: http://www.pediatrics.org

Food Allergy Initiative: http://www.faiusa.org

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Students with food allergies often not prepared

Aug 06, 2008

College students with food allergies aren't avoiding the foods they know they shouldn't eat. Students of all ages are not treated with potentially life-saving epinephrine as often as they should be. And instructors, ...

Allergies are increasing in Britain

Jul 24, 2006

A government review of allergy services in Britain finds that the number of people hospitalized for allergies has more than tripled in the past 10 years.

Recommended for you

Preterm children's brains can catch up years later

1 hour ago

There's some good news for parents of preterm babies – latest research from the University of Adelaide shows that by the time they become teenagers, the brains of many preterm children can perform almost as well as those ...

Mortality rates increase due to extreme heat and cold

1 hour ago

Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown that death rates rise in association with extremely hot weather. The heat wave in Western Europe in the summer of 2003, for example, resulted in about 22,000 extra deaths. A team ...

It takes more than practice to excel, psychologist reports

2 hours ago

Case Western Reserve University's new assistant professor of psychology Brooke N. Macnamara, PhD, and colleagues have overturned a 20-year-old theory that people who excel in their fields are those who practiced the most.

User comments : 0