The new study involved 38,480 families and estimated 5.9 million US children under age 18 have a food allergy. It found children with food allergies most commonly were allergic to peanuts (25 percent), milk (21 percent), shellfish (17 percent), tree nuts (13 percent) and eggs (10 percent). Severe reactions were most common among children with a tree nut, peanut, shellfish, soy or fin fish allergy.
The study also found children 14-17 were most likely to have a severe food allergy; food allergies affect children in all geographic regions; and Asian and African American children were more likely to have a convincing history or food allergy, but they were less likely to receive a formal diagnosis when compared to white children.
“This is the largest study ever conducted on the prevalence of food allergy in US children, and it differs from previous studies in important ways,” said Ruchi Gupta, principal investigator and a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “Our goal was to paint a comprehensive picture of childhood food allergy in America. We began by surveying a representative sample of children in the US and collected extensive information on each and every food allergy reported, including date of onset, method of diagnosis and reaction history.”
The study also collected data on race and ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and geographic region.