Are Kids ER visits For Food Allergies On The Rise?

According to a study based on one of the major medical center in the U.S food allergy cases involving young children may be on the rise.


Dr. Susan A. Rudders and her colleges have recently discovered at the Children’s hospital in Boston, Mass that the number of Emergency room cases that involved food induced allergic reactions increased over the last six years from 164 cases in 2001 to 391 cases in 2006. Studies have also indicated that more severe life threatening cases, known as anaphylaxis, have also steadily increased from 78 identified cases in 2001 to a shocking 207 confirmed case in 2006. The researchers of the study reported in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that in 2001 for every 10,000 emergency room patients 15 were young children suffering from anaphylaxis symptoms. Compared to 2006 which stated for every 10,000 emergency room patients 38 were young children suffering from anaphylaxis symptoms.

Symptoms used to diagnose an anaphylaxis reaction include hives and/or pale skin, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, dizziness or fainting, difficulty breathing, and a sudden drop in blood pressure which usually leads to shock.

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that in 2007 3 million school aged children were clinically diagnosed with a food allergy. These stats indicate that there has been an 18 percent increase over the last ten years for children diagnosed with a food allergy. The most common food allergy is peanuts and tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts and cashews); however, milk, wheat, and eggs are also among the list of triggers.

Dr. Rudders has two potential theories for the increase in children’s food allergies. Her first theory is based on changes in the children’s diet. Her second theory is known as the “Hygiene Hypothesis”, this theory is based on the human obsession to maintain extremely clean environments (e.g. households). These sanitized environments decrease children’s exposure to germs, which weaken their immune systems causing them to be more prone to benign elements such as food proteins and pollens.

Further research needs to be conducted to confirm whether the rise in children’s ER cases related to food allergies indicates a trend in the rise of food allergies in young children.

The study conducted in the ER room at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, Mass limited the researcher by forcing them to use medical records instead of testing the children to confirm that they we’re indeed suffering from a food allergy. In the study food allergies were defined as an immune system reaction after a child had reportedly been exposed to a food allergen. An anaphylaxis reaction was defined as a reaction involving at least two organ systems or a sudden drop in blood pressure.

If the results of the study can be reproduced in other emergency rooms around the country, this would indicate that ER cases associated with food allergies is much higher than originally estimated. – Jeff, Staff Writer

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