PURPOSE OF THE STUDY.
The purpose of this study was to estimate the overall prevalence of childhood food allergy, and the severity of food-related allergic reactions in the United States.
Participants included individuals ≥18 years old residing in US households with at least 1 child <18 years old who could complete a Spanish or English survey. The final study population consisted of 38 480 individuals.
A survey was sent to a randomly assigned group of participants determined to be a representative sample of US households with children. The survey asked about previous allergic reactions related to food, date of onset, and method of diagnosis. Data were adjusted for potential biases, and multiple logistic regression models were used to examine associations between household or child characteristics and the diagnosis, prevalence, and severity of food allergy.
The prevalence of overall food allergy was 8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 7.7–8.3], and the prevalence of multiple food allergies was 2.4% (95% CI: 2.2–2.6). Peanut was most commonly associated with allergic reactions (25.2%), followed by milk (21.1%), and shellfish (17.2%). Prevalence of severe food allergy was 3.1% (95% CI: 2.9–3.3]. Peanut and tree nuts produced the most severe reactions. The overall odds of reported food allergy were higher among Asian and African American children. However, odds of a physician-confirmed food allergy were significantly higher among white children, those with multiple food allergies, and in households with an annual income ≥$50 000. Odds of severe food allergy progressively increased with age and were higher in boys, children with multiple food allergies, and households with an annual income ≥$50 000.
Eight percent of children surveyed had a history of food allergy, corresponding to 5.9 million children in the United States. Of those with food allergy, 38.7% had a history of severe reaction, and 30.4% were allergic to multiple foods. The disparity between reported history of food allergy and physician-confirmed diagnosis of food allergy between races and economic classes might assist in guided strategies to combat food allergy.
This study represents the largest population sample to date and reduces potential biases and limitations of other studies. It emphasizes the large number of children in the United States with food allergy and notes specific characteristics that may increase this risk. Finally, it demonstrates the disparity between race and economic classes of patients with reported versus diagnosed food allergy. All of these results may significantly assist in the creation of strategies for the prevention and treatment of food allergies among various epidemiologic strata.
- Copyright © 2012 by the American Academy of Pediatrics