Food Allergies Increasing in US Kids, Study Says
Federal study finds 1 in 26 kids have food allergies, a significant jump in the last 10 years
Food allergies in American children seem to be on the rise, now affecting about 3 million kids, according to the first federal study of the problem.
Experts said that might be because parents are more aware and quicker to have their kids checked out by a doctor.
About 1 in 26 children had food allergies last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday. That’s up from 1 in 30 kids in 1997.
The 18 percent increase is significant enough to be considered more than a statistical blip, said Amy Branum of the CDC, the study’s lead author.
Nobody knows for sure what’s driving the increase. A doubling in peanut allergies — noted in earlier studies — is one factor, some experts said. Also, children seems to be taking longer to outgrow milk and egg allergies than they did in decades past.
“A couple of decades ago, it was not uncommon to have kids sick all the time and we just said ‘They have a weak stomach’ or ‘They’re sickly,'” said Anne Munoz-Furlong, chief executive of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, a Virginia-based advocacy organization.
Parents today are quicker to take their kids to specialists to check out the possibility of food allergies, said Munoz-Furlong, who founded the nonprofit in 1991.
The CDC results came from an in-person, door-to-door survey in 2007 of the households of 9,500 U.S. children under age 18.
When asked if a child in the house had any kind of food allergy in the previous 12 months, about 4 percent said yes. The parents were not asked if a doctor had made the diagnosis, and no medical records were checked. Some parents may not know the difference between immune system-based food allergies and digestive disorders like lactose intolerance, so it’s possible the study’s findings are a bit off, Branum said.