Remember when we were allowed to bring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school? What happened? How did we get to the point where peanut allergies are such a threat that children in many schools are no longer allowed to pack a PB&J?
It’s alarming. The rate of childhood peanut allergies has more than tripled from 1997 to 2008, according to the results of a nationwide survey; the data was reported in the most recent issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Led by Scott H. Sicherer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, researchers surveyed a total of 5,300 households by telephone in 2008. The survey was previously conducted in 1997 and 2002. The prevalence of combined peanut or tree nut allergies in children was 2.1 percent in 2008, compared to 0.6 percent in 1997. The authors admit that there are limitations in the self-reported nature of a telephone survey, and identifying “true” allergy. However, the rate of childhood peanut allergy estimated in the current study is similar to results from studies using different methods in Canada, Australia and the UK.
“These results show that there is an alarming increase in peanut allergies, consistent with a general, although less dramatic, rise in food allergies among children in studies reported by the CDC,” said Dr. Sicherer. “The data underscore the need for more study of these dangerous allergies.” He continued, “Our research shows that more than three million Americans report peanut and/or tree nut allergies, representing a significant health burden. The data also emphasize the importance of developing better prevention and treatment strategies.”