More children in the US have food allergies than previously thought, says a new study from Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers found that 8 percent of children under 18 years of age, or about 5.9 million children in the US, have food allergies. 38.7 percent of these children had a history of severe reactions and 30.4 percent had multiple food allergies. Peanuts were the most common allergen (in 25.2 percent of the children — in one quarter of kids), followed by milk (21.1 percent) and shellfish (17.2 percent).
This means that 1 in 13 children have a food allergy and 2 out of 5 children have a severe food allergy, says lead author Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Science Daily. He and other researchers surveyed nearly 40,000 US households with children; they had to answer a “battery of questions for a randomized child in their household, including present or past food allergy, date of onset, method of diagnosis, and reaction history for each reported allergen.”
As Dr. Gupta points out, for those children with severe food allergies, “accidental ingestion of an allergenic food may lead to difficulty breathing, a sharp drop in blood pressure, and even death.” I still remember the tragic death of a family friend’s teenage daughter who was allergic to nutes years ago. She was working in a hotel kitchen and ate a piece of cake that, unbeknownst to her, contained nuts; she had a severe allergic reaction and died. I still remember how I could’t believe that just eating something, and something that is fine for most people to eat, could cause someone to die.
It’s somewhat possible to influence whether or not children will develop allergies to cats and dogs. The New York Times cites a recent study in the Clinical & Experimental Allergy which found that exposing young children — infants — to cats and dogs seems to lead to a lesser likelihood of them developing allergies to such pets later in life.
Being exposed to cats and dogs in later life did not, though, have the same result.
So. Read those food labels to find out if hidden allergens might be in the foods you’re getting for your family or yourself — but don’t hesitate to get a four-footed friend even if you’ve a little one of your own on the way.
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