Allergies More Common -
U.S., Canada Studies
Nut and peanut allergies may be getting
more common in children, doubling over the past five years in
the United States, researchers reported.
Canadian researchers said they
were seeing many more cases of peanut allergy than expected, too.
Two reports published in the December
issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology suggest
that peanut and tree nut allergies, which can be deadly, will
continue to become more common. This is bad news for such children
as peanut products are found in a wide range of food and other
"This study confirms what we've
been hearing from growing numbers of families, school administrators
and other institutional leaders -- food allergy is increasing,"
said Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and chief executive officer of
the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.
"This is a public health and food
safety issue that affects all of us," she added in a statement.
Peanut allergies affect an estimated
1.5 million Americans and 200 people die every year from severe
allergic reactions, called anaphylactic reactions, to peanuts.
The American Academy of Allergy,
Asthma and Immunology says there could be several reasons that
peanut allergy is becoming more common.
Roasting peanuts can make them
more likely to cause an immune reaction, more children may be
eating peanuts when their immune systems are immature, and many
more skin ointments now contain peanut and nut products.
In 1997, Dr. Scott Sicherer and
Dr. Hugh Sampson of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New
York found that about 1.4 percent of all Americans had an allergy
to tree nuts or peanuts.
In 2002, they surveyed 4,855 households
representing 13,493 people by telephone, asking them for information
about peanut and tree nut allergies.
The numbers of people saying they
were allergic to peanuts did not change -- but many more reported
their children were allergic. Overall, 0.4 percent said they had
a child with a peanut or tree nut allergy in 1997 but 0.8 percent
said they had an allergic child in 2002.
"Because this allergy typically
develops in childhood and is infrequently outgrown, one might
predict that a growing number of the general population will have
these allergies," they wrote.
In a second study, Dr. Rhoda Kagan
of McGill University and colleagues surveyed 4,339 schoolchildren
in Montreal. They found 1.5 percent of the children in kindergarten
through third grade -- between the ages of 5 and 10 -- had nut
"Based on these facts, one could
predict that the number of peanut and tree nut allergies may grow
larger over time," the American allergy academy said in a statement.
Allergies to peanuts or any other
food occur when the body's immune system mistakenly sees compounds
from the foods as invaders and creates antibodies to fight them.
Scientists estimate that between
6 million and 7 million Americans suffer from true food allergies.
There is no cure and sufferers must often avoid even the tiniest
amount of the offending food.
Some recent studies have suggested
that 20 percent of children may outgrow their allergies, and many
teams are working on vaccines that may help.
Reference Source 89