Food Allergies On The Rise

The number of children found to have food allergies has grown by a whopping 18% over the past ten years. Three million children, representing some 4% of kids under the age of 18, were reported as having food allergies in the year 2007, according to a report released in October 2008 by the National Center for Health Statistics, a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC study, some 9,500 kids per year had to be hospitalized for food allergies between the years 2004-2006—over three and a half times the number of similar incidents during the years 1998-2000.

The most common culprits behind allergic reactions to food are eggs, milk, fish, nuts, soy, and wheat, said the study. The allergic reactions manifest in wheezing and other respiratory problems, rash, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Real Increase

A. Wesley Burks, co-author on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2008 recommendations on food allergies, commented that there is a tendency to attribute an increase in the statistic to a rise in allergy testing or greater public awareness of the issue. Be that as it may, Burks says that there have now been a great number of studies documenting this rise in allergic reactions. That means that doctors believe the increase is real rather than the result of a more informed public.

The AAP is urging moms to breastfeed their infants for at least 4 months in order to cut down the number of food allergies. The academy feels that there is no supportive proof that avoiding specific foods after the age of 6 months protects babies from food allergies. Furthermore, the academy states that there's just no proof that avoiding certain foods during pregnancy and lactation prevents food allergies in infants.

First Clue

The data shows that food allergies are often the first clue that a person will have allergy issues throughout his life. According to the CDC report, kids who have food allergies have a 2-4% increased risk of developing related ailments like asthma and other allergies, as compared to those children who are free of food allergies.

Kids who have food allergies are going to show signs of the allergies within the first 6 months, according to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study which appeared in the October issue of Pediatrics. The FDA study surveyed 2,441 moms and found that some 6% of all babies have food allergies by the age of one year.

Scott Sicherer of New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine says that babies tend to "grow out of" food allergies as they get older. However, the same kids often go on to develop hay fever and asthma. The FDA study showed that while 21% of the children in their study had food-related health issues, only 8% of them had been examined by a physician. The FDA urges parents to discuss possible food allergies with their children's health care provider.