U.S. Food Allergy Prevalence Higher Than Reported

Prevalence is 8 percent, and severe reactions are seen in 38.7 percent of food-allergic children

MONDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence and severity of childhood food allergy in the United States is greater than previously reported, with disparities in childhood allergy and its clinical diagnosis, according to a study published online June 20 in Pediatrics.

Ruchi S. Gupta, M.D., M.P.H., from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues estimated the prevalence and severity of childhood food allergy in the United States. Data were collected by electronic survey of 38,480 children aged younger than 18. To account for bias, data were adjusted using both base and post-stratification weights, and were analyzed as weighted proportions to estimate prevalence and severity of food allergy. Characteristics significantly associated with outcomes were identified.

The investigators found that the prevalence of food allergy was 8.0 percent. Of the children with a food allergy, 30.4 percent had multiple food allergies and 38.7 percent had a history of severe reactions. Among food-allergic children, the prevalence according to allergen was highest for peanut (25.2 percent), milk (21.1 percent), and shellfish (17.2 percent). The likelihood of having a food allergy correlated significantly with age, race, income, and geographic region. Disparities according to race and income were seen for food allergy diagnoses.

"The impact of food allergy in the United States may be greater than previously reported. The prevalence of childhood food allergy was estimated at 8.0 percent, which is considerably higher than many recent reports. Furthermore, 38.7 percent of food-allergic children had a history of severe food-induced reactions," the authors write.

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