Food Allergies on the Rise in Children

Study Shows Food Allergies in Kids Are Up 18% in a Decade

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 16, 2009
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 16, 2009 -- Food allergies in children, including peanut allergy, have increased by nearly 20% in the last 10 years, and certain ethnic groups may be harder hit than others.

A new study shows reports of food allergies in children rose by 18% from 1997-2007 while ambulatory care visits to treat food-allergy-related illnesses have tripled in recent years.

Although food allergy rates were similar among boys and girls, the results showed the biggest increase in food allergies was among Hispanic children, but this may represent disparities in awareness and reporting among different ethnic groups.

Researchers say many reports have suggested that food allergies in children are on the rise, but few resources are available to make reliable estimates.

In their study, published in Pediatrics, researchers analyzed information from national health surveys that included information on parent-reported children's food allergies, visits to ambulatory care clinics for treatment of allergies, and allergy-related health care usage from 1993 to 2007.

The results showed that in addition to an 18% increase in parent-reported food allergies among children under the age of 18, visits to ambulatory care clinics for allergy-related illnesses increased from an estimated 116,000 per year in 1993-1997 to an estimated 317,000 per year in 2003-2006.

"Reported food allergy is increasing among children of all ages, among boys and girls, and among children of different races/ethnicities," write researcher Amy M. Branum, MSPH, of National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC, and colleagues in the study.

"However, it cannot be determined how much of the increases in estimates are truly attributable to increases in clinical disease and how much are attributable to increased awareness by physicians, other health care providers, and parents."