In a study of discharge data collected over 5 years from over 200 hospitals in Illinois, it was determined that emergency room visits and hospitalizations of children with severe food allergies rose an average of 30% each year between 2008 and 2012.
The study, led by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and attending physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, focused on children that suffered anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
Previously, white children and those from higher-income families were affected most by food allergies, but the study shows that the rates of Hispanic, African American and lower-income children are skyrocketing as well.
“This study shows that severe food allergies are beginning to impact children of all races and income. This is no longer primarily a disease of children who are white and/or from middle-to-high income families. Nobody is immune to it,” said Dr Gupta.
The study showed an average annual increase of 29.1% from 6.3 emergency department visits and hospital admissions per 100,000 children in 2008 to 17.2 emergency department visits and hospital admissions in 2012. The most frequent visits were by Asian children, though at 44.3%, the annualincrease in visits was greatest among Hispanic children.
Food allergy affects nearly 8% of children in the US according to a 2011 study conducted by Dr Gupta. Nearly 40% of them have a history of severe reactions that can cause hospitalizations and, in the most extreme cases, death.
Dr Gupta warns: “Ensuring timely diagnosis by the physician and education about recognition and management of severe and potentially fatal reactions is critical. We need targeted education to all families and public entities including schools, camps and restaurants because anaphylaxis can happen anywhere and at any time.”