Food allergies affect 1 in 12 kids: study

Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:46am EDT
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By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - One in 12 kids in the United States may have a food allergy, according to new findings based on an online survey.

The study, published June 20th in Pediatrics, also showed that more than one third of those kids had severe allergies, and that allergies were more common in minority kids.

Allergies are a particularly difficult chronic condition because kids can't escape food in any part of their daily lives, said lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

"What I hope this paper will do is open this awareness to how common (food allergy) is and how severe it can be, and develop policies for schools and sporting events and any activities that kids participate in to make it clear that everybody is looking out for these kids," she told Reuters Health.

Previous studies have estimated that anywhere between 2 and 8 of every 100 kids in the U.S. has a food allergy.

But most of those reports are based on studies that asked participants many different health questions, including only a few related to allergies, Gupta said. Other studies have also looked at emergency room trips for allergic reactions, or evaluated doctors' diagnoses in medical records.

Gupta and her colleagues instead wanted to design a study focused solely on the rate and severity of food allergies. They surveyed a nationally representative sample of almost 40,000 U.S. adults who lived with a child under 18.

Those adults filled out an online questionnaire about allergies based on a single kid in their household, reporting whether or not the child had any signs and symptoms of a food allergy, had ever been diagnosed with an allergy by a doctor, and had ever had a severe allergic reaction to food.   Continued...

<p>Price labels of half gallons of milk for sale are seen in a store in New York April 7, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>