Self-reported food allergies among children are increasing. A review published in the journal Pediatrics found that 3.9 percent of American children reported a food allergy in 2007. This was an increase of about 18 percent from 1997, when the rate was 3.3 percent.
It is possible for a child to be allergic to just about any food, but a short list of foods accounts for the vast majority of allergies. The most common food allergies in children, and the percent of children who have them, are:
- Milk (2.5%)
- Eggs (1.5%)
- Peanuts (1.4%)
- Tree nuts (1.1%)
- Wheat (0.4%),
- Soy (0.4%)
- Fish (0.1%)
- Shellfish (0.1%)
- Sesame (0.1%)
Milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish are often referred to as the “Big Eight” of food allergies, accounting for 50 percent of all serious reactions to food. Sesame allergy seems to be becoming more common in the United States.
Many children (up to 80 percent) outgrow their allergies to milk, eggs, or wheat by the time they are six years old. About 50 percent of children will outgrow their soy allergy by age seven. About 20 percent of children outgrow their peanut allergies by age six, and only nine percent will outgrow their tree nut allergies.
In other countries, the most common food allergens are often different foods than in the United States, because rates of allergies tend to be higher for more common foods. One study of children in Taipei found the top allergen to be crab. Children in Israel have higher rates of sesame allergy than children in the United States.
Many of the most common food allergies for children are not top allergies for adults. Adults tend to develop different allergies later in life.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. “Health Statistics.” Accessed June 18, 2010. http://www.aaaai.org/media/statistics/allergy-statistics.asp#foodallergy
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Chafen JJ, et al. Diagnosing and managing common food allergies: a systematic review. JAMA. 2010 May 12;303(18):1848-56.
Scott H. Sicherer, MD, et al. US prevalence of self-reported peanut, tree nut, and sesame allergy: 11-year follow-up. J Allergy Clin Immunol. Volume 125, Issue 6, Pages 1322-1326 (June 2010)
Sicherer SH, Sampson HA. Food allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2006;117:S470-5.
Wan KS, Yang W, Wu WF. A survey of serum specific-lgE to common allergens in primary school children of Taipei City. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2010 Mar;28(1):1-6.