Food Allergies on the Rise?
The following is an archived post
If you’re like me and work with schools, or work closely with children, or if you’re a parent of school-age children, you may have noticed something very concerning. I’m talking about food allergies. Why do they seem to affect more and more kids every year?
My nutrition colleagues and colleagues at Flik Independent School Dining have discussed this at length. I remember when I was in elementary school and middle school, there was one fellow student who had a peanut allergy. The experiences of most of my colleagues were similar. But now, food allergies just seem rampant. In addition, we are seeing a variety of the eight major allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, milk, soy, egg) present themselves in any number of combinations in many individuals.
The truth is, food allergies are in fact on the rise. According to a recent CDC study:
In 2007, approximately 3 million children under age 18 years (3.9%) were reported to have a food or digestive allergy in the previous 12 months.
From 1997 to 2007, the prevalence of reported food allergy increased 18% among children under age 18 years.
Children with food allergy are two to four times more likely to have other related conditions such as asthma and other allergies, compared with children without food allergies.
From 2004 to 2006, there were approximately 9,500 hospital discharges per year with a diagnosis related to food allergy among children under age 18 years.
These numbers are probably higher now, as a number of years have passed since this study was published. Furthermore, these numbers only account for reported/documented cases.
There are a number of theories as to the causes of this rise in food allergies, from our “over-hygienic” Western lifestyles (we aren’t exposed to enough in the environment and our immune systems are skewed to fight things it shouldn’t be fighting) to the lack of exposure to allergens at an early age (some physicians feel children should be exposed to potential allergens at ages earlier than 2-3, the current recommended age to start introducing certain foods).
Regardless of the cause, it’s important to remember how serious and potentially deadly food allergies can be. Whether in the school environment or in society at large, food allergies affect the population in greater numbers and we must all be aware of how we can contribute to others’ safety.