In the News: Childhood Food Allergies On the Rise

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
10/24/2008 4:28 PM   :  55 comments

New statistics released this week from the CDC show an 18% increase in the number of children with food allergies over the past 10 years. In 1997, 1 in 30 kids had food allergies, and now that number is closer to 1 in 26 (about 3 million kids).

Peanut allergies have doubled, and it appears that kids are taking longer to outgrow milk and egg allergies than they used to. But why the increase? What has changed?

Awareness seems to play a key role in whether or not a child is diagnosed with a food allergy. It seems that parents are quicker to take their children to the doctor for a diagnosis these days, versus assuming that symptoms like rashes, vomiting or breathing problems are just due to temporary illness.

Other research suggests that about 1 in 40 Americans will have a milk allergy at some point in their lives, and 1 in 50 percent will be allergic to eggs. Although most people outgrow these allergies as children, nearly 1 in 100 has a peanut allergy that typically lasts a lifetime.

The CDC's results also found that the number of children hospitalized for food allergies was up. The number of hospital discharges jumped from about 2,600 a year in the late 1990s to more than 9,500 annually in recent years.

When my daughter was 2 weeks old, she was diagnosed with a dairy "intolerance." (She was too little to be officially diagnosed with an allergy.) As a result, I had to cut all dairy products out of my diet for the next 10 months (because I was nursing). Eventually we were allowed to reintroduce dairy and at that point she no longer had a problem with it. But it was REALLY hard for me to be so restrictive about what I ate--always checking labels, asking detailed questions about how foods were prepared at restaurants, etc. So I can imagine how tough that is for parents dealing with their child's food allergies, especially if there are multiple foods involved.

Have you had to deal with food allergies in your family? Why do you think the number of children with food allergies is increasing so rapidly?


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Comments

  • 5
    I agree with you, Popeyetheturtle! I'm glad I grew up then and not now! - 10/24/2008   6:10:24 PM
  • 4
    When I look back to when I was a child, in the forties and fifties, I didn't have a single friend or acquaintance that had a "food allergy" or "intolerance".

    To me, the difference in eating is obvious. We drank "raw milk" (snuck before it was churned or separated and before the truck came to pick it up, raw fruits from wild strawberry, raspberry and blueberry patches, and sweet peas and carrots washed out in the horse trough.

    Nothing was fried in peanut or corn oil, it was lard or Crisco. We weren't introduced to peanuts until we were old enough to run around at the county fair.
    Food was eaten fresh or canned. Bread products were made from flour, cookies, pies and cakes called for "sifted" flour. Fresh cantaloupe and watermelon were eaten fresh out of the garden, and if we were "sneaking" some extra, most likely it was cut with a somewhat dirty, partially rusted pocket knife.

    "Store bought" foods were sugar, salt, pepper and other spices we couldn't grow. Ice cream was hand churned.

    We hunted our property and ate what we shot: venison, rabbits, wild turkeys, quails and dove. Since these were all "range animals", they had almost no fat and the amount of cholesterol in any meat was negligible (our cattle and pigs would also be considered "free range" today.

    "Processed foods", if a label had been required, it would have listed corn, water, and salt for a can of corn.

    It's my belief that our children and grandchildren don't get enough "dirt time" and there is way too much "junk" in the refined foods normally eaten today.

    I just looked at Fiber One. It has 57% of our daily minimum for fiber, but the list of ingredients is stultifying: Aspartame, guar gum (I don't even know what a guar is!), cellulose gum (what, they smash up a tree and make gum out of it?), and Phenylkentonurics are warned that it contains phenylanine, so it must be bad for you (but that stuff isn't even listed). - 10/24/2008   5:30:40 PM
  • 3
    I work with children who have many kinds of food allergy many I know are true allergic other are what Family say when they themself do not like a food. Just today I had a child's Mother tell me that there child can not eat chicken because it always made him sick we've been serving chicken send August 18,2008 and now its making her child sick. Went I tell her; she have to take the child to her Doctor and send the School a write up from the Dr. she tell me it not that its a foods allergy but it made me sick to look at it so I tell him it will made him sick, like allergy do. Family like that make it hard for all people (children) and in my job as person working with the real deal. We in the food business with children have to make sure not to put food never your child(ren) that other can't toleranter or must avoid so that NO BAD REACTION happen. So please just say you don't like this or that ; and don't say Oh he's allergy to something went they are not. Thanks. - 10/24/2008   5:28:08 PM
  • 2
    I'm allergic to many raw fruits and veggies, but fortunately I can eat most of them when they are cooked. I'm quite worried for my future kids, though, since my boyfriend has allergies too (to some clothes washing products and meds). Our kids, according to the statistics, will have 50% chances to be allergic. I know what pain food allergies are, and I can imagine how even more difficult it might be for little children. The only good news is that many food allergies that start early can disappear after some time without any contact with the allergen, unless the allergies that start later on (like mine that started when I was a teenager). - 10/24/2008   5:13:00 PM
  • STEPFANIER
    1
    I'm allergic to cashews and intolerant of peanuts, two conditions I didn't develop until adulthood. I've learned the hard way to ask when I go out to eat, especially in Indian or Thai restaurants. On the up side, I generally have to avoid all fried foods because they're fried in peanut oil.
    Reading labels and asking questions is a pain, but I'd rather ask than end up sick to my stomach later. (Thankfully, I don't have respiratory symptoms when I have a reaction!) - 10/24/2008   4:38:24 PM

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