While food allergy rates are on the rise, a new study suggests that they are actually not as common as parents report to their children's doctors. Even when a child has a true food allergy, out of an abundance of caution some parents impose further food restrictions that often are not required.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3 million American children (or 3.9%) have at least one true food allergy. However, researchers found that about 12% of children have self-reported allergies to common food allergens including shellfish, fish, cow's milk, egg, peanuts, and tree nuts. Often, their parents have noticed symptoms that they mistakenly tie to a certain food, reporting the discovered allergy to the child's pediatrician. When tested by the doctor, however, just 3 to 4 percent of children actually have a food allergy.
commented on the study results, saying that the first barrier to effective allergy treatment is determining whether a food allergy is actually present. They also recommend that physicians should administer an oral challenge, in which small quantities of a suspected allergen are given in a controlled setting, before diagnosing a child with a food allergy. Because children can 'outgrow' food allergies, they should be retested every 1-3 years to determine if the food allergy is still present.