May is Food Allergy Action Month. Food allergy is a potentially serious immune response to eating specific foods or food additives. Eight types of food account for over 90% of allergic reactions in affected individuals: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Reactions to these foods by an allergic person can range from a tingling sensation around the mouth and lips and hives to death, depending on the severity of the allergy. The mechanisms by which a person develops an allergy to specific foods are largely unknown.
Food allergy is more prevalent in children than adults, and a majority of affected children will “outgrow food” allergies with age. However, food allergy can sometimes become a lifelong concern.
Among children under 17 years old, the prevalence of food allergies increased from 3.4% in 1997– 1999 to 5.1% in 2009–2011. Hispanic children had a lower prevalence of food allergy compared with non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black children.
The prevalence of food allergy increased with income level. Among children with family income less than 100% of the poverty level, 4.4% had a food allergy. Food allergy prevalence among children with family income between 100% and 200% of the poverty level was 5%.
From 2004 to 2006, there were approximately 9,500 hospital discharges per year with a diagnosis related to food allergy among children under age 18 years.
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Two weeks ago, NCHS released a report concerning the prevalence of food allergies in children. In this report, the authors reported that “children with food allergy are two to four times more likely to have other related conditions such as asthma and other allergies, compared with children without food allergies.” According to the report, about 3 million children have food allergies. However, statistics show that asthma affects almost 7 million children, and asthma rates more than doubled between the 1980s and 1990s. The cause of the condition, like food allergies, is still relatively uknown (Advance Data 381).
For more Asthma statistics, click here.