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Food Allergies

Statistics Prove Big Increase in Food Allergy

We often hear that there are more children with peanut and nut allergy today than in the past, but there has been scarce evidence to prove the point. Now, data presented in February at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology annual conference in New Orleans reveal that peanut and tree nut allergy in children has steadily increased in the United States since 1997, as shown by three surveys over those 11 years.

Researchers conducted a telephone survey in 2008 of more than 5,300 households and found that 3½ times more children have peanut allergy now than they did 11 years ago. In 1997, 0.4 per cent of children were reported to have peanut allergy, which doubled by 2002, to 0.8 per cent. In 2008, 1.4 per cent of children had peanut allergy.

The rate of tree nut allergy in children has similarly increased: from 0.2 per cent in 1997 to 0.5 per cent in 2002 and 1.1 per cent in 2008.

Dr. Robert Wood, chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, told the conference that the survey, conducted using random digit dialing, could slightly overestimate the numbers because, “people might think they have an allergy but really don’t.”

But since the same same methodology was used in all three surveys, Wood notes: “We’re pretty confident that the increase that was seen, now in an 11-year period from 0.4 to 1.4 [per cent of children having peanut allergy], has to be real.”

Dr. Hugh Sampson, chief of allergy and immunology in the pediatrics department of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and one of the study’s authors, pointed out that questions were also asked to determine if the patient truly did have food allergy, such as whether the person experienced hives.

Next: Canadian Statistics

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