While the reason is still unknown, the number of food allergies is rising. Each year, more children are diagnosed with the problem. There are some allergies that last only a few years and will resolve themselves over time. However, there are also those conditions that last for a lifetime. Because of the growing concern, awareness of allergies from food and food contents is also on the rise.
Food Allergy Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control in the US, the number of food allergies between the years of 1997 and 2007 rose almost 20%. This is a substantial increase that does require attention. A few other facts about allergies include the following:
- At least 9 million adults suffer from allergies to some type of food.
- At least 6 million children have been diagnosed with food allergies.
- Approximately 150 people die from anaphylaxis due to food allergies each year.
- The majority of allergies diagnosed in children are to milk based products.
- The majority of allergies diagnosed in adults are to seafood.
While, in theory, a person can be allergic to any type of food, there are certain items that are most commonly responsible. Overall, a list of less than ten foods can account for more than 90% of the food allergies reported in adults. These foods include:
- Milk, Dairy, or Eggs
- Shellfish (particularly crustaceans: lobster, shrimp, crab)
- Tree Nuts
The main concern of food allergies is the risk for anaphylaxis. This is a reaction in the human body to the allergen. When a person consumes the food to which they are allergic, their body will then react in order to get rid of the allergen. Because anaphylactic shock can occur quickly, it can cause risk of death.
During an anaphylaxis reaction, the airways will begin to swell and tighten, making it nearly impossible to breath. Other symptoms include:
- Severe anxiety
- Gastrointestinal upset including diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and vomiting
- Chest tightening
- Abnormal breathing
- Heart palpitations
- Facial swelling
- Difficulty breathing
If anaphylaxis is not treated, death can occur. Because of this, anyone who is suffering from a food allergy and is exposed to the allergen should be taken to the physician immediately.
The newest method of treating anaphylaxis quickly is the “Epipen”. This small device is loaded with epinephrine, which will almost immediately stop an allergic reaction. Patients with food allergies can keep one of the pens on hand at all times.
Food allergies are on the rise, and they are a growing problem among children especially. However, treatments for allergies are also continuing to advance.