More and more kids are being diagnosed with food allergies. A recent study released this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that food allergies have increased by almost 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. Over 13 million Americans have food allergies, including 1 out of every 13 U.S. kids.
Every three minutes, someone is sent to the Emergency Room because of an allergic reaction to food. More than 200,000 emergency room visits each year are due to food allergies! While researchers know the numbers are rising, they are unsure as to the cause and why food allergies seem to affect affluent countries so heavily.
A person’s reaction to a food allergy can range from irritation (a slight rash or an itchy throat) to a severe and potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is caused by a severe allergic reaction causing symptoms like a skin rash, difficulty breathing or swallowing, nausea or vomiting.
Food allergies are the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside of the hospital setting. And in children, who often do not know how to handle such extreme circumstances, allergic reactions can be both scary and dangerous.
According to the CDC, food allergies result in 300,000 ambulatory-care visits (which include pediatrician office visits) a year among children under the age of 18.
Food allergies can begin at any age and are not limited to any one ethnic or racial group. Children who have a parent with any type of allergic condition including asthma, eczema, food or environmental allergies, are at a higher risk for developing food allergies.
These kids also are two to four times more likely to suffer from a related allergic condition such as asthma or seasonal allergies, as compared to children who do not have food allergies.
Eight foods account for 90 percent of food allergies. They include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.
For many people who have food allergies, even trace amounts of the food can cause a reaction. And some have allergies so severe that the food cannot even be in their presence because the airborne particles can cause a reaction.
Fish and shellfish allergies affect 6.5 million Americans and 3 million people report allergies to nuts and tree nuts. Peanut allergies are on a dramatic rise in children with studies showing the number of kids living with peanut allergies has tripled from 1997 to 2008.
Some people are lucky enough to outgrow some food allergies as they age. Allergies to milk, soy, and wheat are examples of food allergies which can be outgrown over time. But peanut, tree nut, and fish and shellfish allergies are generally life-long conditions.
While there is no cure for food allergies, people affected by them can lessen their reactions by monitoring their own behaviors as well as that of those around them.
Recognizing the allergy early, managing the allergic reaction and strictly avoiding the offending food are three important ways to prevent food allergies from creating a serious health consequence.
Kidshealth.org. Web. 2 October 2013. “Nut Allergies”.
Foodallergy.org. Web. 2 October 2013. “Facts and statistics”.
Reviewed Oct 2, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith