Yes, according to recent research by the Centers for Disease Control. Between 1997 and 2007, research showed an 18% increase in food allergies in children under 18. In fact, food allergy research has become a priority at the National Institutes of Health precisely because food allergies affect so many people. Continued research is important because even though some risk factors have been identified for food allergy, we still don’t fully understand why a patient’s immune system suddenly recognizes a food as foreign and manifests allergic symptoms. New research is working to solve these mysteries by examining the mechanisms of food allergy in order to treat, and even prevent, food allergy.
The rise in food allergy also means that there are more people in neighborhoods and classrooms living with food allergy and more families for whom it is normal to inquire about ingredients. For example, the Food Allergy Research and Education non-profit organization (FARE) reports that the number of children with peanut allergies tripled between 1997 and 2008. Peanut allergies now affect approximately 0.6% of the population, and tree nut allergies also have a high prevalence of 0.4-0.5%.
Given the rise in food allergy and the prevalence in the U.S., you may know someone with food allergy. Studies have shown that parents of children with food allergy experience higher levels of stress than parents of children without food allergy. Children with food allergy are twice as likely to be bullied. Though not all adverse food reactions are life threatening, it is important to foster a healthy environment for those living with potentially dangerous food allergies.
The physicians of Richmond Allergy and Asthma Specialists work with patients and families to help patients manage their allergies. The food allergy appointments at Richmond Allergy and Asthma Specialists focus on helping patients navigate what may be a new diagnosis of food allergy. Although avoidance is the common way of managing food allergy, oral immunotherapy may become a mainstream way of treating food allergies in the future. In addition, I encourage my food allergy families to consider becoming involved with the local FARE Chapter and to review FARE resources for patients with newly diagnosed food allergies.