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Kids' Allergies Skyrocket

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, November 16, 2009 2:40 PM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Food Allergies, Anaphylactic Shock, Genetic Engineering, Peanut Allergies, Allergic Reaction, CDC

Allergies are on the rise in kids, not just in the U.S. but worldwide and no one knows why.


IMAGE SOURCE: iStockPhoto / peanuts / author: billberryphotography

More Than Ever

Why are there more children with allergies in the U.S. than ever before?

This new study speculates that a growing awareness may partially account for the dramatic increase in rates of sometimes life-threatening pediatric food allergies.

To put together data in this published study in the December issue of Pediatrics, statisticians looked at four different national data sources to assess food allergies as they occur in the U.S.

Between 1997 and 2007 incidents shot up 18 percent and parents of almost four percent reported a food or digestive allergy in their child.

Rates of skin allergies (eczema) rose to 8.9 percent from 7.9 percent.

Approximately 3.9 percent of U.S. children under the age of 18 experience food allergies.

Children are tested for food allergies by measuring the immunoglobulin E, or IgE antibodies in their blood.

Peanut allergies accounted for nine percent and egg allergies seven percent and milk allergies accounted for 12 percent. Proteins are frequently the source of allergies.

CDC statistician and study author, Amy Branum, believes that the numbers may reflect more than an increased awareness because the numbers hiked among parents as well and health care workers.

"We do think this is an increasing trend," confirms Branum. And "anytime you see any health condition going up – that's always a concern. Going up is not the right direction."

Children seeking emergency treatment is also on the rise, tripling in the past few years. In 2006, 317,000 were rushed to the ER because of a reaction to something they ate, reports Newsweek.

Allergies can be life threatening when they lead to trouble breathing an anaphylactic shock, a tightening of the throat that can cut off oxygen. Symptoms can appear minutes after people eat an offending food or up to several hours after. A reaction might start with a tingling in the mouth or a swelling of the tongue.

And the reaction does not appear to be in proportion to the amount of food ingested. One peanut can have a child turning blue.


Europe has seen a rise in allergies as well.

EuroPrevall is a project that includes teams from 19 countries in Europe, Ghana, India and China. It is tracking 9,000 children looking for common food allergies.

Newsweek reports in the Mediterranean, peaches are frequently an allergen, but not so in northern Europe. Fish and citrus might affect those in Russia, but not Sweden. Even kiwi, the little green fruit from New Zealand is sparking an allergic reaction in Europe.

It wasn’t until the office of Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) began asking for a federal analysis two years ago was the issue of food allergies even on the CDC radar. That’s when the lead author of this study, Amy Branum began the task.

One Theory

For years, opponents of bio-engineered foods, which introduce novel proteins into re-mixed DNA combinations, have warned of food allergies.

Dr. Arpad Pustai, at the Rowett Institute in Scotland, found that rats fed genetically engineered (GE) potatoes developed immune system harm and allergic reactions. Dr. Pusztai was fired from his position and his work largely discredited, though there are many admirers who believe he was on the right track.

30 international scientists from 13 countries have supported Dr. Pusztai and in 2005 he won a Whistleblower Award from the German Section of the International Association of Lawyers against Nuclear Arms and the Federation of German Scientists.

Approximately 70 percent of grocery store food contains GE ingredients which are not labelled. The U.S. FDA has approved GE foods under a GRAS designation, generally recognized as safe, and there is not testing required of producers, who largely grow GE soy and corn in the U.S. #

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