Peanut allergies seen on the rise: study

The number of children with peanut allergies in one Midwestern county has tripled in the past decade, according to a new study that adds to evidence nut allergies are getting more common in the developed world.

Researchers reviewed the medical records of several hundred children in Olmsted County, in southeastern Minnesota, and found that new diagnoses of peanut allergy rose from two out of every 10,000 kids in 1999 to nearly seven out of every 10,000 in 2007.

Overall, 65 of every 10,000 children in the county - home to a sophisticated countywide electronic health records system that provided data for the study - had a verified peanut allergy in 2007.

Though exact percentages of kids with peanut allergies may vary from place to place and study to study, Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who was not involved in the research, said, “What’s consistent with this article is it does look like peanut allergies, especially among the younger children, are increasing over time.”

Most, though not all, studies trying to gauge how widespread food allergies are among kids have tracked an increase in recent decades.

Food allergies are thought to affect eight percent of U.S. kids, with the most common culprits being cow’s milk, wheat, egg, soy, peanuts, tree nuts and some seafood.

Peanut allergies typically appear early in life, when toddlers are first encountering solid foods, and about 20 percent of cases go away on their own as a child gets older.

Peanut Allergy Statistics
Reliable peanut allergy statistics are not that easy to come by. There is a lot of available research on food allergies in general but not too many studies have been done on peanut allergy alone.

The internet is littered with hair-raising numbers about peanut allergy and other nut allergies but close examination may reveal that these peanut allergy statistics have been extrapolated or taken from studies with non-representative sample sizes.

Whether you think that prevalent peanut allergy statistics overstate or understate the problem, the important things to remember are:
- Peanut allergy is a very real problem with a potentially fatal reaction
- Someone who suffers a peanut allergy reaction should seek immediate medical attention
- Epinephrine (adrenaline) is the only available treatment for a severe peanut allergy reaction
- There are many nut-free foods and resources available to those with a peanut or other nut allergy

Here are a few related peanut allergy statistics accompanied by links to their sources. We encourage you to follow the links for a better understanding of the problem.
Peanut allergy is one of the “Big 8” food allergies that account for 90% of those suffered by 21 million Americans. (AAAAI and FAAN)

More than 3 million people in the United States report being allergic to peanuts, tree nuts or both. (AAAAI)

Approximately 1% of the U.S. population has a peanut allergy (Sicherer, SH, “Prevalence of peanut and tree nut allergy in the US…”)

Less than 21% of patients with peanut allergy will outgrow it. (AAAAI)

Peanut Allergy is the most common cause of food related death (AAFA).

Four out of every 100 children have a food allergy. (CDC/NCHS Study, “Food Allergy Among U.S. Children…”)

From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18% among children under age 18 years. (CDC/NCHS Study, “Food Allergy Among U.S. Children…”)

From 2004 to 2006, there were an average of 9,537 hospital discharges per year with a diagnosis related to food allergy among children 0 to 17 years. (CDC/NCHS Study, “Food Allergy Among U.S. Children…”)

Maria Rinaldi, lead author of the new report and an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said estimates of peanut allergy vary because of the way peanut allergy is defined for the purposes of research studies.

Some rely on parents’ reports of allergy, which may or may not be validated by a doctor.

Rinaldi and her colleagues took a conservative approach, gathering data from the medical records of more than 500 Olmsted County children with suspected peanut allergies between1999 and 2007.

Rinaldi said her team, who published their findings in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, used a strict definition of allergy, and only included children who had laboratory-confirmed peanut allergy, narrowing the group down to 171 kids.

They found that fewer children had been diagnosed with peanut allergy in 1999 compared to later years.

For instance, just 10 children in the county were diagnosed in 1999, and 30 were diagnosed in 2007.

“No matter how we’re defining peanut allergy, we’re seeing this consistent increase,” Rinaldi told Reuters Health.

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