1 in 13 Kids Has Food Allergies, Study Finds

New research published in the journal Pediatrics indicates that far more children in the U.S. suffer from food allergies than suspected, with 8 percent of children under age 18 (nearly 6 million) having at least one food allergy. These numbers are more than double what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in 2007.

Forty thousand households across the country participated in online interviews for the study and, according to the lead study author and assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, “Based on our data, about one in 13 children has a food allergy,” with two of every five affected by severe food allergies, “which could lead to difficulty breathing, sharp drops in blood pressure and even death.”

According to the CDC there are eight major types of food allergies that cause 90 percent of reactions amongst children: Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Some experts believe that allergies like these are inherited traits from parents, but there are key findings that suggest a correlation between certain factors in the environment (pollution, cigarettes) that can trigger the immune system to respond as if it were being attacked. Emotional factors such as stress may also play a role in the development of certain allergies. The study did not provide any clarity as to whether or not genetically modified ingredients, pesticides or food additives were contributing factors.

Food intolerances such as lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity often do not affect people in the same way as allergies, with the main issue among intolerances often being digestive disturbances. Typical allergic reactions include: Swelling of lips and face, hives, itching, flushing or eczema flare, with more severe symptoms, like the life-threatening anaphylaxis, which includes wheezing, trouble breathing, vomiting, persistent coughing and dangerous swelling of the airways.

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Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography