New research shows that approximately 8 percent of U.S. children have been diagnosed with food allergies, and more are being treated in emergency departments for anaphylaxis. In the study, “The Public Health Impact of Parent-Reported Childhood Food Allergies in the United States,” appearing in the 2018 issue of Pediatrics (published online Nov. 19) researchers surveyed parents of nearly 40,000 U.S. children between Oct. 2015 and Sept. 2016 asking if their children have food allergies. Parents reported on whether their child had ever had a suspected food allergy, if it was physician-diagnosed, specific allergic reaction symptoms and other details about food allergy management. After applying statistical weighting procedures to ensure that the data are representative of the broader U.S. population, the authors concluded that nearly 8 percent of U.S. children have at least one IgE-mediated food allergy.
The most common allergens were peanuts, milk, shellfish, tree nuts, egg, fin fish, wheat, soy and sesame. Sesame was the ninth most common allergen and one in three kids with sesame allergy reported at least one severe allergic food reaction warranting an emergency department visit in the previous year. According to the researchers, sesame allergen labeling laws in the U.S. may be warranted, as is already the case in Canada, the Europe, Australia, and Israel.
Overall, approximately one in five children with a food allergy reported one or more food allergy-related emergency room visits in the previous year. In addition, researchers found 41 percent of children with food allergies have a current epinephrine auto injector prescription. The authors state that this data is consistent with recent reports suggesting that emergency department admission rates for anaphylaxis are rising, particularly among children. The authors state that their data underscore the importance of improving patient access to physicians trained in diagnosing food allergy, so that children with food allergy and their families can be more closely monitored, learn more about prevention and treatment, including the importance of epinephrine, to help families better manage childhood food allergies and avoid severe allergic reactions.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.