Food Allergies Are On the Rise
Food allergies are on the rise and have reached epidemic proportions, with 32 million, or more than 1 in 10 in the US, now suffering from a food allergy. Not only are food allergies inconvenient for families to manage, but one accidental exposure can have potentially life-threatening consequences. In fact, more than 40% of food allergic children have experienced a severe reaction.
Major Food Allergens
Although more than 170 foods have been identified as triggers of food allergy, the FDA classifies 8 foods/food groups as the major food allergens in the US:
milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, shellfish, fish,
wheat, and soy.
Sesame is becoming an emerging concern and the FDA is considering including it as the 9th major food allergen in the US (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the EU already list sesame as a major food allergen). In young children, milk, egg, and peanut comprise > 80% of food allergies.
Not only do these represent the most common childhood food allergies, but studies indicate that with early introduction, there can be a significant reduction in the development of an allergy to these foods. See our chapter on Prevention to learn more.
Top Allergens Affecting Children
• Affects 2% of children
• Usually presents in the 1st year of life
• ~ 50% of children do not “outgrow” (or become tolerant to) their egg allergy, which often
happens as late as teenage years.
• Most common food allergy in infants and young children
• Affects 2-3% of children < 3 years old
• Usually presents in 1st year of life
• Though most children “outgrow” (or become tolerant to) their milk allergy, it remains the
most common cause of reactions in school
• Affects up to 2% of children
• Peanut allergy is more likely to be lifelong; only 20% outgrow a peanut allergy
• Although peanut is the allergen most often associated with severe or fatal reactions, any
food allergen has the potential to cause anaphylaxis.
• Affects 1-1.5% of children
• Includes shrimp, lobster, squid, crab, scallops
• Often caused by a protein called tropomyosin
• Even the steam from cooking can trigger an allergy
• Affects 0.5% of children
• Up to 40% of fish allergies develop in adulthood
• May be allergic to finned fish and not shellfish or vice versa
• Affects 0.4% of children, normally under the age of 3; Affects 0.3% of the general population
• 70% outgrow it by age 10
• Found in many food products, so it’s important to read the labels
• Affects 0.4% of children
• Often outgrown by 10 years of age
• Not to be confused with celiac disease. People with a wheat allergy can often have other
grains that are not wheat.
• Wheat is sometimes found in cosmetic products. People with wheat allergies should avoid
using these products on their body.
• Affects 1% of the general population
• Many people with tree nut allergies are only allergic to 1 or 2 types of tree nuts. Therefore, it’s
worth working with an allergist to determine if they can safely eat other types of tree nuts.
• Includes brazil nuts, cashews, pistachios, almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pine nuts (as
well as foods made with these nuts)
Any food allergen has the
potential to cause anaphylaxis.
All Babies Are At Risk
Babies aren’t born with food allergies; they develop over time. In fact, over 50% of children diagnosed with a food allergy do not have a direct family member with a food allergy. That’s why, according to the new medical guidelines on food allergy prevention, early allergen introduction is recommended for all babies.
While there are some factors that increase the risk, it’s important to note that all babies are at risk for developing food allergies.
General Population: Everyone is at risk for developing a food allergy, with 1 in 12 children suffering from a food allergy today.
Top Resources for You
What does an allergic reaction look like?
What are the top allergens affecting children?
What’s my baby’s risk of developing a food allergy?
How can I prevent food allergies before they start?