Eight per cent of US children have a food allergy, survey suggests
Childhood FA may be more prevalent and severe than previously acknowledged, say researchers
A large, population-based US survey looking at childhood food allergy (FA) has shown that FA occurs in almost eight percent of children. Published in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics, the survey took place among US households between 2015 and 2016, obtaining parent-proxy responses for 38, 408 children. Prevalence estimates were based on responses from NORC at the University of Chicago’s nationally representative, probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel (51 per cent completion rate), which were augmented by non-probability-based responses via calibration weighting to increase precision. Prevalence was estimated via weighted proportions. Multiple logistic regression models were used to evaluate FA predictors.
According to the survey, the most prevalent allergens were peanut (2.2 percent), milk (1.9 percent), shellfish (1.3 percent), and tree nut (1.2 percent). Among food-allergic children, 42.3 percent reported ≥1 severe FA and 39.9 percent reported multiple FA. Furthermore, 19.0 percent reported ≥1 FA-related emergency department visit in the previous year and 42.0 percent reported ≥1 lifetime FA-related emergency department visit, whereas 40.7 percent had a current epinephrine autoinjector prescription. Prevalence rates were higher among African American children and children with atopic comorbidities.
However, >11% of children were perceived as food-allergic, suggesting that the perceived disease burden may be greater than previously acknowledged. Comment the study’s authors: “ Because food is integral to most social interactions, children with FA may be at risk for a severe allergic reaction at any time. Childhood FA also imposes considerable financial burden on affected families, with an estimated annual economic impact of $24.8 billion ($4,184 per year per child).5 We concluded from a US population–based survey conducted by our group in 2009–2010 that childhood FA may be more prevalent and severe than previously acknowledged.“