According to the latest statistics, an estimated 8 percent of all children in the US under age 18—or roughly six million children—have food allergies.
To uncover these numbers, researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine surveyed parents of more than 38,000 children. Parents were asked if their child had one or more food allergies and if so, whether or not the child had experienced any allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis; swelling of the lips, eyes or face, and skin rashes or hives.
In children with confirmed allergies, 30 percent had an allergy to more than one kind of food and 39 percent had had severe allergic reactions in the past. As the LA Times reports, the most common foods children were allergic to were peanuts (25.2 percent), milk (21.1 percent), and shellfish (17.2 percent). Severe reactions were most common among children with tree nut (more than 50 percent) and fin fish (more than 40 percent) allergies. The reactions were more likely among 14- to 17-year-olds compared with 0- to 2-year-olds, and more likely in children with multiple food allergies.
The survey also revealed that children from families with higher incomes to have food allergies than children from families with lower incomes. Black and Asian children also had higher odds of having at least one food allergy.
Suspect that your child might have a food allergy? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), when the body's immune system overreacts to certain foods, the following symptoms may occur: hives, itchy skin rashes and eczema, swelling, sneezing, throat tightness, wheezing, vomiting and diarrhea, and other stomach problems. If you notice these symptoms, especially if they happen right after mealtime, talk to your child's doctor about whether testing for food allergies would be helpful.
Most allergic reactions are more of an inconvenience, rather than a true health hazard, but the AAP reminds parents that if several areas of the body are affected during an allergy attack, or symptoms include breathing problems or loss of consciousness, the reaction may be severe or even life threatening. This type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and requires immediate medical attention.