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Child Peanut Allergy Rates Tripled

NEW YORK—Self-reported peanut allergies in children have more than tripled from 1997 to 2008, according to a nationwide telephone survey published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2010.03.029).

Led by Scott H. Sicherer, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, researchers surveyed 5,300 households, representing 13,534 individuals in 2008. The survey was previously conducted in 1997 and 2002. In 2008, 1.4 percent of children in the survey were reported to have peanut allergies, as opposed to 0.4 percent in 1997. The prevalence of combined peanut or tree nut allergies in children was 2.1 percent in 2008, compared to 0.6 percent in 1997.

“These results show an alarming increase in peanut allergies, consistent with a general, although less dramatic, rise in food allergies among children in studies reported by the CDC,” said Dr. Sicherer in a press release. “The data underscore the need for more study of these dangerous allergies.”

Peanut and/or tree nut allergies remained steady among adults, with a rate of 1.3 percent. Tree nut allergies alone in children also increased from 0.2 percent in 1997 to 1.1 percent in 2008. Sesame allergy was reported in 0.1 percent of children and adults.

According to the press release, the study is the first of its kind to incorporate all age groups within a national sample, and to use the same study methods over such an extended period of time. The study is also the first U.S. study to evaluate allergies to sesame seeds, reported the release.

The authors cautioned the study has limitations inherent to telephone surveys, which may over-represent households of high socioeconomic status because homes without telephones are excluded. There are also limitations in the self-reported nature of the survey, and identifying a true allergy.

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