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The Milk and Egg Section

Prevalence of Milk and Egg Allergies

Milk and egg allergy are both common in children. In the United States, 2.5 per cent of children under the age of 3 have a milk allergy. Egg allergy affects 1.5 to 3.2 per cent of children. Many children will have both milk and egg allergy.

It used to be common for children to outgrow milk and egg allergies before elementary school, two large studies from the Johns Hopkins University show that these allergies are now more persistent and more severe. The studies, published in the November and December 2007 issues of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, tracked 800 children with milk allergy and 900 with egg allergy over 13 years.

While previous research indicated most milk-allergic toddlers outgrew milk allergy by the time they were 3 years old, the Johns Hopkins team found that only one-fifth of children outgrew this allergy by age 4, and only 42 per cent outgrew it by age 8. The better news is that a majority was free of dairy allergy by age 16.

With the egg allergy, the trend was similar in the Johns Hopkins’ research. Only 4 per cent outgrew their allergy by 4 years old, and 68 per cent were free of the allergy by age 16.

“The bad news is that the prognosis for a child with a milk or egg allergy appears to be worse than it was 20 years ago,” Dr. Robert Wood, the studies’ lead investigator, told The JHU Gazette in 2008. “Not only do more kids have allergies, but fewer of them outgrow their allergies, and those who do, do so later than before,” said Wood, who is the head of the division of allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Overall Food Allergy Statistics

In general, food allergy is on the rise in North America and other developed countries. In Canada, an estimated 7.5 per cent of people have food allergies, representing more than 2.5 million people. In the United States it’s estimated that 12 million Americans (or just under 4 per cent of the population) have food allergies.

A major study in the United States recently found that cases of peanut allergy in children more than tripled in a decade, and that more than 3 million Americans now have a peanut or nut allergy.

Here are the rates of some of the major allergens in Canada and the U.S.

CANADA

  Children Adults All
Peanut 1.68 % 0.71 % 0.93 %
Tree Nut 1.59 % 1 % 1.14 %
Shellfish 0.5 % 1.69 % 1.42 %
Fish 0.18 % 0.56 % 0.48 %
Sesame 0.23 % 0.05 % 0.09

Source: Surveying Canadians to Assess the Prevalence of Common Food Allergies and Attitudes towards Food Labelling and Risk (SCAAALAR) study. Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, June 2010.

UNITED STATES

  Children
Peanut 1.4%
Tree Nut 1.1%
Sesame 0.1%

Peanut, Tree Nut or both:
Children -  2.1 %
Adults – 1.3 %

Source: US prevalence of self-reported peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergy: 11-year follow-up. Published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, June 2010.

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Allergic Living acknowledges the assistance of the OMDC Magazine Fund, an initative of the Ontario Media Development Cooperation.