Most parents are aware of the possibility that there children may end up having some sort of food allergy, but researchers are now saying that there are more children ending up with a food allergy than previously thought and that there are also much more severe allergic reactions than they thought.
A very extensive study was recently conducted which shows the magnitude of food allergies among children. Nearly 6 million children throughout the country have some degree of food allergy. This number is much higher than shown in statistics in the past according to lead researcher Ruchi Gupta who is also a pediatrician at the Children’s Memorial Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The findings of the study revealed that two out of every five children, or 38.7% of children involved in the study are found to have severe reactions to some type of food. Reactions so severe that they could potentially lead to death.
Estimates from the Center for Disease Control showed that in 2007, 3 million children that were younger than 18 had a food allergy that was reported.
The study was funded partially by an organization called the Food Allergy Initiative and is part of a movement toward finding cures for food allergies. Executive director of The Food Allergy Initiative, Mary Marchisotto, noted that the number of children affected by food allergies is increasing in a disturbing manner. These findings come from surveys that were conducted on nearly 40,000 households across the country.
People do not fully realize the extent to which a simply sounding food allergy can impact their lives. According to Marchisotto, each day families report having physical, emotional, and economic struggles because of food allergies. Such reports are what motivate the Food Allergy Initiative to stay committed to speed up the process of clinical trials that could potentially lead to new methods or even a cure for food allergies.
The surveys that were conducted involved questions about food allergies of the past and present, the types of reactions that were experienced, when the food allergy seemed to begin, and the manner in which the food allergy was diagnosed. Researchers found that almost 30% of children with food allergies have more than one which is another trend which is seen to be increasing as well.
The surveys also revealed interesting information regarding food allergies among African American and Asian children who were much less likely to have received a professional diagnosis of the allergy.
According to Dr. Gupta, this particular study remains unique because of the large number of households that were involved, but more importantly, because of the pertinent information that was collected about reported food allergies. With the data that was collected from the surveys, researchers are better able to differentiate between convincing and perceived allergies to foods while having a better understanding of economic and racial differences among food allergies. The survey also allows researchers to know which testing and diagnosis techniques are most common.
The study also revealed interesting information which suggests that children with food allergies are also more likely to have respiratory allergies, asthma, and eczema.
The response of the immune system for those sensitive to certain foods can cause difficulty breathing which can lead to anaphylaxis as well as lowered blood pressure.
The food allergies that were found to be the most common among children were to milk, peanuts, and shellfish. Children between the ages of 14 and 17 were shown to be more likely to have a food allergy than newborns up to age 2.
According to Gupta, having a better understanding of how serious and wide spread the problem truly is will help researchers to take necessary steps to further research and try to develop a more effective way to keep children safe from dangerous allergic reactions.
If you believe your child may have a food allergy, which is not the same as food intolerance, speak with your doctor about possible treatment options and ways to keep your child safe. Symptoms of food allergies include itching inside the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and hives. Early symptoms may involve mild to moderate tingling within the mouth and throat, but if it is left untreated and allowed to progress, these symptoms can lead to death.
These recent findings concluded that 38.7% of the total number of children surveyed has severe allergies to food that have symptoms that require emergency intervention with either epinephrine injections of antihistamines. This large study showed that in total, food allergies affect about 8% of all children, or 5.9 million children under the age of 18. The study also suggested that African American and Asian children are not as likely to receive a proper diagnosis.
Pediatrics 2011. DOI: 10.1542/peds. 2011-0204.
The Prevalence, Severity, and Distribution of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States.
Gupta, R. et al.
Blanchard, K. 2011. Two out of five kids with potentially fatal food allergy.