More kids have food allergies today than 10 years ago, and a large number are landing in hospital because of them, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Three million U.S. children, or 4 per cent, now have food allergies, an 18 per cent jump in a decade.
The condition affects boys and girls equally, with those under the age of 5 considerably more likely to have food allergies than older children, say the researchers, who collected data on 9,500 kids.
In addition to more children having allergies, more are being admitted to hospital because of them. From 2004 to 2006, 9,500 children a year were given a hospital bed due to food allergy reactions, compared to 2,600 from 1998 to 2000.
“Those numbers tell us that food allergy reactions can be severe and that more people are having severe reactions,” says Anne Muñoz-Furlong, the founder and CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. “In today’s medical environment, where you have to be really sick to get yourself admitted, we’re seeing a trend where more people are being hospitalized. We need to have better ways to manage these allergies so people don’t have to have severe reactions that cause hospitalizations.”
The report also highlighted the strong link between food allergies and other allergic diseases: 29 per cent of kids with food allergies had asthma, 27 per cent had eczema, and 30 per cent had environmental allergies.
Some media reports about the study attributed the rise in food allergies to better awareness. But Muñoz-Furlong says there’s more to it, and that the numbers are in keeping with other scientific studies.
She is encouraged that the U.S. government performed the study. “We hope we see more government involvement. We’d like to see more education, more money for research to find why kids are becoming more allergic and equally importantly, how to stop that.”
First published in Allergic Living magazine, Winter 2009 edition.
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