Rising Rates For Peanut Allergies

It is estimated that over 3 million Americans suffer from various forms of nut allergies and that peanut allergies have tripled from 1997-2008. This is according to a report released in May of 2010.

Alarming Increase

Lead researcher for this report, Dr. Scott Sicherer said, "These results show that there is an alarming increase in peanut allergies, consistent with a general, although less dramatic, rise in food allergies among children in studies reported by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)]." Sicherer is a professor of pediatrics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Jaffe Food Allergy Institute. "The data underscore the need for more study of these dangerous allergies."

Sicherer and his research team gathered data on 5,300 households in 2008. This represents some 13,534 individuals. The data compiled by the researchers was then compared to information generated from the exact same survey as conducted in 1997 and in 2002.

In 1997 only 0.4% of those children from households surveyed reported peanut allergies. But in 2008, 1.4% of the children from households surveyed had peanut allergies. The overall presence of child peanut and nut allergies in 1997 stood at 0.6% while in 2008, that rate climbed to 2.1%.

Several Shortcomings

Results from this study were published in the May 12, 2010 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. But the study has several shortcomings. For one thing, telephone surveys from the outset, exclude those whose socioeconomic status precludes owning a phone. That would mean that the results only represent those in the middle and higher income stratum of society.

Another problem has to do with the accuracy of the data generated by such surveys. Telephone surveys are not considered to be the most accurate source for data since this method involves self-reportage. However, the data that was generated by this report is similar to data gathered by more reliable scientific methods in the U.K, Australia, and Canada.

There's yet another problem in ascertaining the accuracy of the data in the report. It is very hard to define or diagnose nut allergies because by nature, all food allergies are difficult to diagnose. One recent study claimed that food allergies are present in more than 1%-2% of the population but certainly not present in more than 10% of the population. There is an uncertainty regarding food allergy prevalence because there is no uniform standard for diagnosing such allergies. 

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