Food allergies skyrocket in children

10.23.08 Milk, eggs and peanuts are the top 3 allergies


Eating is increasingly risky business for more than 3 million kids in the U.S. A new study found that about 4 percent of American children under 18 years old suffered from a food or digestive allergy in 2007, the Associated Press reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 1 in 26 children had food allergies last year. That's up from 1 in 29 kids in 1997. The 18 percent boost is significant enough to be more than a minor trend, the CDC said.

Experts cite more parental awareness. Today's parents are quicker to take their kids to doctors or specialists to check for the possibility of food allergies, but it remains unclear what's driving the allergy increase. One factor is more peanut allergy cases, experts said. Also, some children are taking longer to outgrow some milk and egg allergies than they did in past decades. Eight types of food account for 90 percent of all allergies: milk, eggs, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Allergic reactions can range from a tingling sensation of your lips or mouth to hives and even death, the CDC reports.

Children with food allergies were also two to four times more likely to have other health issues—asthma, eczema and respiratory problems—compared to kids without allergies. The CDC study also found that the number of children hospitalized for food allergies jumped from about 2,600 per year in the late 1990s to more than 9,500 annually in recent years.

Allergy prevalence shifts with age, too. In the last 12 months, 4.7 percent of kids younger than 5 reported a food allergy, compared with 3.7 percent of those 5 to 17 years old. Also, Latino children (3.1 percent) had lower rates of allergies than white or black children (3.9 percent).

The verdict is still out on whether a mom's diet during pregnancy can affect a baby's tendency toward food sensitivties or allergies. Check out steps you can take to try and prevent this in Babies and Food Allergies.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.