New study estimates Six Million U.S. Kids Have Food Allergies

June 21, 2011

New study estimates Six Million U.S. Kids Have Food Allergies

A study conducted by the Northwestern University Fienberg School of Medicine suggests that food allergies affect about one in 13 U.S. children, double the latest government estimate.
The study reports that peanuts, milk and shellfish were the top three allergens followed by tree nuts, eggs, finned fish, strawberries, wheat and soy.
Researchers surveyed parents of over 38,000 children about whether their child had been diagnosed with a food allergy and had one or more of a number of symptoms, including swelling of the lips, eyes or face and skin rashes.
Dr. Calman Prussin, an investigator with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the study “confirms that food allergy 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 lab tests 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.
The study was funded by the Food Allergy Initiative, a non-profit 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.
Results were released in the online journal Pediatrics.

Publisher: Salient News

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