Childhood Food Allergies May Be More Common Than Previously Thought

New research suggests that as many as 1 in 12 children in the U.S. may have a food allergy. The study appears to confirm that food allergies are more widespread, and potentially more dangerous, than previously believed.

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Dr. Ruchi S. Gupta, lead author of the study (which appeared in the latest issue of the Pediatrics journal) says “Understanding how common it is and how severe it is, that’s important to note.”

According to the data, eight percent of those younger than 18 have allergies. This means nearly 6 million kids in the United States are allergy sufferers. Nearly 40 percent of those have had a severe reaction caused by food allergies. According to Dr. Gupta, who is a pediatrician at Chicago's Children’s Memorial Hospital, the study found that more than 30 percent of children with allergies were allergic to more than one type of food.

The results were based on 40,000 surveys answered by children's parents. The data suggests that food allergies may be twice as prevalent as previously thought. Other estimates have averaged about 4 percent, well under the 8 percent discovered with this survey. The most commonly reported food allergen was peanuts, followed by milk and shellfish.

Dr. Gupta suggests that future studies should explore why food allergies appear to be becoming more common. "The question is, what has changed in our environment and our lifestyles that is causing this?"

Read more about the study here: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/43447764

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