One in 13 kids suffers from a food allergy, double past estimates, new study says

Posted: June 20, 2011

CHICAGO - Food allergies affect about one in 13 U.S. children, double the latest government estimate, a new study suggests.

The researchers say about 40 percent of them have severe reactions - a finding they hope will erase misconceptions that food allergies are just like hay fever and other seasonal allergies that are troublesome but not dangerous.

Overall, 8 percent of the children studied had food allergies; peanuts and milk were the most common sources. That translates to nearly 6 million U.S. children.

The most recent government estimate, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was based on in-home interviews and found that about 3 million children were affected, or about 4 percent. Other estimates based on different methods have ranged from 2 percent to 8 percent.

The new study, funded by an advocacy group, involved 40,104 children. Results were released online today in Pediatrics.

Typical signs of a true food allergy include skin rashes, wheezing, tightness in the throat or difficulty breathing.

The new survey asked parents whether their children had those symptoms - a big strength of the study, said Dr. Calman Prussin, an allergy expert.

Many children outgrow allergies to some foods, including eggs and wheat, but they're less likely to outgrow allergies to peanuts and other nuts.

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