MONDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 6 million U.S. children -- or about one in 12 kids -- are allergic to at least one food, with peanuts, milk and shellfish topping the list of the most common allergens, a new study finds.
Researchers conducted a nationally representative survey of the parents of more than 40,000 children. About 8 percent reported having a child who had a food allergy. Of those, about 30 percent said their child was allergic to multiple foods.
Among kids with food allergies, 25 percent were allergic to peanuts, 21 percent were allergic to milk and 17 percent had an allergy to shellfish. Those were followed by tree nuts (13 percent), eggs (nearly 10 percent), finned fish (6 percent), strawberries (5 percent), wheat (5 percent), and soy (just under 5 percent).
While the study was a snapshot of the prevalence of food allergies in America and did not track change over time, researchers said anecdotal evidence -- including reports from schools and the numbers of patients coming in to allergists' offices -- suggests that the rate is rising.
"Eight percent is a pretty significant amount of kids," said lead study author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University and a pediatrician at Children's Memorial Hospital, both in Chicago. "We are seeing a lot more cases. We are seeing a lot more in schools than we used to see. It does seem that food allergy is on the rise."
The study is published in the July issue of Pediatrics.
Allergic reactions to foods can range from mild to severe. In the survey, about 61 percent of food allergic children had a mild to moderate reaction, including swelling of the lips and face, hives, itching, flushing or an eczema flare.
The remaining 39 percent had a severe or even potentially life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis -- wheezing and trouble breathin
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