Kids' Food Allergies Increase, Research Shows

The number of kids suffering from food allergies has increased significantly over the past two decades.

However, whether these reports reflect more food allergies in kids or just more reporting of kids' allergies by parents has been a topic of debate.

Now new research from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics offers compelling evidence that this spike in childhood food allergies is for real.

The study provides some of the "missing pieces" in our information on childhood allergies, says Amy Branum, lead author on the study and health statistician for the National Center for Health Statistics, ABC News reports.

News agencies report, food allergies in children, including peanut allergy, have increased by nearly 20% in the last 10 years, and certain ethnic groups may be harder hit than others.

A new study shows reports of food allergies in children rose by 18% from 1997-2007 while ambulatory care visits to treat food-allergy-related illnesses have tripled in recent years.

Although food allergy rates were similar among boys and girls, the results showed the biggest increase in food allergies was among Hispanic children, but this may represent disparities in awareness and reporting among different ethnic groups, WebMD reports.

It was also reported, the researchers noted that Hispanic children had the lowest overall prevalence of food allergy but the greatest increases over time of parent-reported incidences of food allergy.

"People should be aware that food allergy may really be increasing," Branum said. "If small children have symptoms when they eat a particular food, have that child checked out, particularly if they have co-occurring conditions like asthma and eczema."

"Food allergies are real," said Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit. "And it appears that the prevalence is rising."

This will present various challenges, she noted. One is that there's already a shortage of allergy specialists in many areas, Appleyard said. Another is that schools will have to gear up to take care of additional children with food allergy to ensure their safety during the school day and on field trips, she said, U.S. News & World Report reports.

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