CHICAGO, June 20 (UPI) -- Food allergy affects 8 percent of U.S. children age 18 or under -- more than previously reported, researchers say.
Dr. Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Children's Memorial Hospital shows food allergy affects about 5.9 million U.S. children, and of those, 38.7 percent had a history of severe reactions and 30.4 percent had multiple food allergies.
Of the children with food allergies, 25 percent are allergic to peanuts, 21 percent are allergic to milk and 17 percent are allergic to shellfish, the study says.
"The large, population-based nature of this study shows that pediatric food allergy is a significant and growing problem in our society," Gupta says in a statement. "Based on our data, about one in every 13 children has a food allergy. What's more, nearly two out of every five affected children suffer from a severe food-allergy. For these children, accidental ingestion of an allergenic food may lead to difficulty breathing, a sharp drop in blood pressure, and even death."
The researchers surveyed nearly 40,000 U.S. households with children and collected data on present or past food allergy, date of onset, method of diagnosis, and reaction history for each reported allergen.
The findings are scheduled to be published in the July issue of Pediatrics.