The Latest Food Allergy Statistics

Over the years, we’ve written articles detailing the latest statistics on the rise of food allergies in the US. Today, 32M Americans have at least one food allergy, which translates to approximately 6M children and 26M adults. Only just one year ago, that population was believed to be approximately half these figures. 

We decided to delve even further into these numbers to provide a more detailed picture of what the state of food allergies in the US—and worldwide—looks like today, and why many clinicians are calling food allergies an epidemic. 

Which foods trigger allergic reactions?  

– Eight foods are responsible for approximately 90% of all food allergies in the US: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, eggs, milk, and soy.

– Over 170 foods have reportedly triggered allergic reactions.

– For kids, the most common food allergies are peanuts, milk, shellfish, and tree nuts (in that order). 

– For adults, the most common food allergies are shellfish, milk, peanuts, and tree nuts (in that order). 

– Many experts believe sesame should be listed among the “Top 8” most common allergens—which receive special treatment on food labels—as sesame is also a common allergen and has been documented to cause severe reactions, including anaphylaxis.

What’s the breakdown by allergen for US food allergies?

Studies published between 2018 and 2019 estimate the US populations for different food allergens as listed below. 

Notably, approximately 40% of children with food allergies are allergic to multiple foods. 

  • Shellfish = 8.2M

  • Milk = 6.1M

  • Peanut = 6.1M

  • Tree nuts = 3.9M

  • Eggs = 2.6M

  • Finfish = 2.6M

  • Wheat = 2.4M

  • Soy = 1.9M

  • Sesame = .7M

Allergic reactions can be life-threatening

– Each year, 200,000 people in the US require emergency medical attention because of food allergies.

– Between 2007 and 2016, medical treatment for anaphylaxis resulting from food allergies increased by 377%.

– Allergies are considered the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the US.

– Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER.

– More than 40% of children with food allergies have experienced a severe reaction (e.g.,  anaphylaxis).

– Failure to treat anaphylaxis with epinephrine within minutes of an allergic reaction increases the likelihood of fatality.

– Teens and young adults with food allergies are the highest risk population for fatal allergic reactions, although they can occur at any age. 

Can food allergies be outgrown?

– Kids often outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, wheat, and soy during childhood. Some research suggests, however, that kids are outgrowing at least some of these food allergies more slowly than in previous decades, with many kids still allergic after age five. 

– Allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish are usually lifelong.  

Food allergies can be costly and affect the quality of life

– Caring for children with food allergies costs US families nearly $25B annually.

– 1 in 3 children with a food allergy report being bullied.

– More than one-quarter of parents surveyed report that their kids don’t participate in sleepovers or camps because of their food allergies. 

– More than 15% don’t go to restaurants, and over 10% avoid childcare or playdates. 

– 10% of parents home school their children because of their food allergies. 

– Most parents of young children in their first year after a food allergy diagnosis were found to avoid restaurants, and about half restrict social activities or travel.

– Mothers of food-allergic children younger than five have higher blood pressure measurements and report much greater levels of psychosocial stress than mothers whose young children don’t have food allergies. 

Who is at the highest risk for developing a food allergy?

– According to a self-reported study, the prevalence of childhood food allergy has increased by 2.1% per decade among African Americans, 1.2% per decade among Hispanics, and 1% among white Americans. 

– Children with food allergies are more than 2x as likely to have asthma and are more than 3x as likely to have eczema or respiratory allergy issues. 

– Most food allergies develop in childhood; however, records suggest that at least 15% of people with food allergies are first diagnosed in adulthood.

Where do most reactions occur?

– The majority of fatal food allergy reactions are triggered by foods consumed outside of the home. 

– More than 15% of school-aged children have had an allergic reaction at school. 

– In one school district in 2012, more than half of the 38 kids treated with district-supplied epinephrine were experiencing their first severe reaction. 

What can I do to keep myself/my child safe?

Fortunately, in the past few years, we’ve started to see greater innovation and investment in food allergy education, prevention, treatment, and management. A lot of start-ups (many with female founders!) are pushing the needle forward to better support the food allergy community. Another way you can get involved is through advocacy. In recent years there has been a surge of legislation either passed or proposed to better protect the food allergy community. You can find a list here of 25 food allergy laws—find out if your state has made the list!     

Finally, check out Allergy Amulet’s complete Food Allergy Toolbox for a list of companies and products that are working to build a better food allergy future. Because the more tools we have in our toolboxes, the better that future will be! 

– The Allergy Amulet Team 

Sources: FARE, AAFA, Spokin

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