I recently went on a weekend getaway with seven other moms. While riding in the van to our fun for mom’s destination, we realized that between us we had a total of 25 children. As moms do we talked about everything from potty training to training bras, vegetables to video games. At one point the conversation turned to food allergies. I was surprised that out of eight moms, only one mom in our group had a child with food allergies. A mom of four had a son with more than one food allergy. Her infant daughter was still nursing so the future of food allergies was unknown. I wondered, just how common are food allergies in kids? Was our group of 25 children statistically lucky, average or on the high side of food allergies?
Just what is a food allergy?
The definition of a food allergy according to FAAN, the Food Allergy and Anaphalaxis Network is “a condition in which the immune system incorrectly identifies a food protein as a threat and attempts to protect the body against it by releasing chemicals into the blood. The release of these chemicals results in the symptoms of an allergic reaction.”
FAAN attributes 90% of food allergies reactions in the United States to these eight foods:
-tree nuts including walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans
Symptoms of food allergies can range from a tingling sensation, itching, or a metallic taste in the mouth or hives, a sensation of warmth, wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing, swelling of the mouth and throat area, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping and even a drop in blood pressure and loss of consciousness.
Just how common are food allergies in kids?
According to the FAAN more than 12 million Americans, about 4%, have food allergies. That’s about 1 in every 25 people. The statistics are higher for young children under three years of age. About 3 million young children in the United States, or 1 in 17, have food allergies.
The experts at FAAN report that the good news is that many children will outgrow their food allergies. About 19% of kid’s food allergies will continue into adulthood.
Are food allergies on the rise?
Web Md reported in 2009 that food allergies had risen 18% in a ten-year period, or at the very least parent reports of food allergies and visits to treatments centers for related care were up.
“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, and colleagues, from the Centers for Disease Control.
“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.”
The results of studies by FAAN conducted in 1997, and repeated in 2002, showed that peanut allergy had doubled in children during that five-year time span.