Food Allergy Research

Who is Likely to Outgrow a Food Allergy?

“Will my child outgrow the allergy—and when?” This is typically one of the first questions parents ask when a child is diagnosed with a food allergy. Two recent studies shed light on this important issue.

researchNational Survey of U.S. Children

Few large studies have explored which factors could help predict whether or not a child will achieve tolerance—that is, outgrow an allergy. Between June 2009 and February 2010, Dr. Ruchi Gupta and colleagues (Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital, Chicago) surveyed the families of 40,104 children nationwide—the largest study of this kind to date. The researchers analyzed data for nine common food allergies: milk, peanut, shellfish, tree nuts, egg, fin fish, wheat, soy, and sesame.

The study, published online in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology in July 2013, found that 3,188 children surveyed currently had a food allergy, while 1,245 had outgrown one. Key findings of this FARE-funded study include:

  • A little more than a quarter of the children—26.6%—outgrew their allergies, at an average age of 5.4 years old.
  • Children who were allergic to milk, egg, or soy were most likely to outgrow their allergies. The likelihood of outgrowing shellfish, tree nut, and peanut allergies was significantly lower.
  • The earlier a child’s first reaction, the more likely that child was to outgrow the allergy.

Other factors that contributed to outgrowing an allergy included having a history of only mild to moderate reactions, being allergic to only one food, and having eczema as the only symptom. Conversely, children with severe symptoms (trouble breathing, swelling, and anaphylaxis) and multiple food allergies were less likely to achieve tolerance.

  • Black children were less likely to outgrow their allergy than white children.
  • Boys were more likely to outgrow their allergy than girls.

Dr. Gupta and her team conclude that, while more studies over longer periods of time are needed to confirm these findings, this data can improve the management of food allergies and aid in counseling food allergy families.

Outgrowing Peanut Allergy

Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies among children. In the United States, the number of children with peanut allergy more than tripled between 1997 and 2008.

This allergy tends to be lifelong; only about 20 percent of children are fortunate enough to outgrow it.

A Canadian research team reports that children are most likely to outgrow their peanut allergy by age six. After age 10, the chance of spontaneous resolution (i.e., of outgrowing the allergy) is much lower, according to this study, which was published online in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice on June 27.

Between 1998 and 2011, the researchers, led by Dr. Anne Des Roches (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine, Montreal), followed 202 children with peanut allergy from early childhood (18 months or younger) to adolescence. To confirm their diagnosis and monitor their allergies, the children periodically received skin prick tests, along with blood tests, which measured the amount of peanut IgE in their blood. (IgE is the antibody that triggers the symptoms of a food allergy.)

Starting at age five, children whose blood tests showed a comparatively low level of peanut IgE also had the opportunity to undergo food challenges, the most accurate test available.

At the end of the study, 51 of the original 202 participants—just over 25 percent—had outgrown their allergy. Further, 80 percent of the children in this group were allergy-free before age eight. Tests also showed that these children had low levels of peanut IgE in their blood. In children who remained allergic, the amount of peanut IgE in the blood increased over the years.

The Canadian team concluded that their findings are consistent with a previous study by researchers in Australia, which followed 267 children over five years. They recommend additional studies to examine “whether spontaneous resolution may still occur in this population in late adolescence or early adulthood.”

The studies discussed here help us understand the nature and progression of food allergies. For more information about progress in the field of food allergy, please visit www.foodallergy.org/research.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.

35 thoughts on “Who is Likely to Outgrow a Food Allergy?

  1. Great information, Although the information isn’t what most of us want to hear–that our kids will have these allergies for the long haul–the realistic numbers you present are good to know. Thank you!

    1. Any changes since then? I do hope for a good change!… My girl is 3y. and we too struggle with wheat, eggs, peanuts, milk, soy, corn, cocoa, shellfish allergy 🙁

  2. My son is 19 months old, and he is allergic to milk, eggs, cheese, peanuts, and chicken! I like that you provide the data from other researchers. I feel better informed about my son’s condition and how to help treat it. Can anyone provide some information about chicken allergies😩😂

  3. My 18 month old daughter has mild eczema and to be on the safe side I had her tested for peanut allergies before I gave them to her. Good thing I did. Her blood test came back moderately allergic. I had gestational diabetes while I was pregnant with her. With the amount of protein I was supposed to eat, peanut butter was a huge part of my diet. I guess I caused the allergy. I feel awful. Hopefully it will become less in the future. I can only hope an pray.

    1. Jane,

      Please do not blame your child’s allergy on yourself and that you ate peanut butter! There is only one study I know of that shows or suggests that eating peanut while pregnant could possibly lead to peanut allergy in the child. There are several that show no link. I have spoken to two separate allergists and neither subscribe to the theory. Take the necessary precautions to keep your daughter safe. If you have only had a skin prick test I urge you to have a blood test. We had several positive skin tests for peanut at 18 months with severe anaphalactic allergy. The reactions were so severe a blood test was not recommended as needed and now I wish we had done it. My daughter had constant excema and severe congestion since birth. We completely avoided peanut. At 4 years (last month) we had an accidental peanut ingestion with no reaction. We just had a skin prick, blood test, and component blood test come back negative for peanut allergy. The theory is that her immune system was under developed at the time of previous testing and as she has grown the allergy is gone. We are going to have a challenge next month. Her congestion has also improved. The excema is still an ongoing problem. We were originally told that outgrowing a peanut allergy is very rare and it is in developed immune systems. The younger the child is tested or exposed the more likely it is for the peanut antibody to decrease or disappear as an immature immune system develops. Good luck!!

      1. Thank you for posting your experience with PA. My son (2) is allergic, but his blood and skin results are very different. While he shows a skin positive, his ige for peanut is very low–almost negative. His eczema is under better control now, although still present. We have hope that he may be one that outgrows his allergy. His first reaction was facial swelling at 6 months. Thank you for encouraging this mama! 🙂

    2. I understand how you feel. We are living the allergy nightmare. However, you did NOT cause your baby to have a peanut allergy.
      If you are basing your belief that your child has peanut allergy on standard blood work and or standard blood testing then you have hope. Lots of hope.
      Ask your doctor to order “component testing.” Many many people show positive for peanut when they are in fact allergic to birch tree pollen. I know it sounds to good to be true. Google it.

      Component testing

    3. I understand how you feel, my son had severe eczema and he showed reaction to skin test but his eczema has become better, I did give him oven baked food containing traces of nut, it may have helped, god bless.

  4. I just got results to a blood test that my 12.5 month old daughter is highly allergic to peanuts, moderately allergic to cat dander and egg white. She has had persistent eczema. Her first reaction was around 5 months. We have a cat and she has eaten eggs with no symptoms of a reaction so I’m a little stumped on those…I’m really hoping she will grow out of the peanut allergy!

    1. A food challenge is the gold standard of allergy testing. If your kid eats egg with zero reaction she isn’t allergic. Never remove a non reactive food based on blood or skin testing. Thank God and move on with your life.

    2. You should also have component testing for the peanut. Skin and scratch for peanuts can be tree pollen. Only component testing will give you the truth.

  5. Great article!

    Our eight-year-old daughter Zoey, has multiple allergies:

    Tree nuts
    Peanuts
    Watermelon
    Soy
    Coconut

    I am reviewing Zoey’s specific and total IGE levels from May 2014 to December 2014 and the numbers vary significantly –

    May 2014 total IgE was: 4455
    December 2014 total IgE was: 85

    I am so confused by the disparity between the two reports and have received different answers from Zoey’s pediatrician, allergist, pathologist at Marin general, and doctor at lab. Zoey’s allergist, even went as far as saying, Zoey could be “growing out of her allergies”.

    For obvious reasons, I’m trying to get answers. My instinct tells me, we should have Zoey go in for more lab work.

    If you have any insight, I’d be ever so appreciative.

    Thank you for your help!

    ~Nancie Bailey

  6. Nice article. My son is 15 months and has multiple food allergies like egg,milk,soy,all nuts,wheat and beet-root. I hope he out grows atleast a few of them.His blood tests and skin tests were positive and suffers from eczema.We are Asian-Indian and it is quite uncommon among Indians to have food allergies.
    I read an article saying high vitamin D levels during pregnancy causes Food allergies.I am not sure if it is really the cause.

  7. I started giving my daughter peanut butter at approx. 10.5 months with no reaction until about 2 weeks in she developed red blotches on her face. Her ige came back at .41. A month later I brought her for component testing and this time her ige was negative? Could she have outgrown it already or did it just go down because she has had no further exposure?

  8. Interesting about the vitamin D level, but then you should probably see more food allergies closer to the equator, no? My son also has multiple food allergies (21mo), and I really want to begin the GAPS protocol with him but since he is on a low percentile for weight, my husband doesn’t want to eliminate foods that he can eat. But it may be something to look into – our allergist says leaky gut is just a theory, but it resonates with my esp as DS’ blood test show an allergy to about 35/42 of the foods for which he was tested (though we only eliminate the ones to which he’s had a reaction plus peanuts and tree nuts).

    1. I have always had a vitamin D deficiency and both of my children have Peanut and Tree Nut Allergies, Eczema and seasonal allergies.

  9. Hello ,it’s so great to read all these comments and get more knowledge.I am also a. Mother of 5 yr old with food allergies and eczema almost since she was 1 yr old .My daughter has allergies to wheat ,eggs , chickpeas,peas,nuts ,bananas ,some lentils. I am getting her skin testing done regularly with her bed test but I’m so confused at the fact that my daughter came out negative for banana on prick test and allergist asked me to give it to her but as soon we gave it to her she had real bad allergic reaction ,took to ER.
    just trying to find the answer how could it be negative on her skin and she had reaction to banana.Please help me and tell me if there is something I can do to get my daughter out of these allergies or should I trust these prick test anymore .
    ANY Reply would be appreciated .thank you and good luck to all the parents will always no kid should be born with allergies.
    God Bless.

    1. I would recommend a blood test …. my son 4.5 years old has a sesame allergy and I recently blood tested him again and his levels are extremely higher this year than last year he needs an EPIPEN and it is so stressful and scary….. and additionally allergist tested other foods and came up as low levels for peanuts wheat egg whites cows milk bananas oats and tomatoes which he continues to eat and thankfully no reactions…… as well as seasonal allergies. Buti may ask the allergist about component testing once I find out more info

    2. Do not trust skin prick tests, do a blood test instead and test for all the foods that you worry about. My daughter was allergic to almost everything during her 1st year of life and had moderate eczema , the blood test helped tremendously. Stopped giving her faulty foods and re introduced them slowly. Right now she only has eggs and shellfish. Probiotics and vitamin d help! No eczema anymore only sensitive skin to wetness and sweat. She is 4 half right now. Good luck!!!

  10. My 11 month old son was tested by blood Ige and skin testing and shown to be allergic to milk, egg whites and yolks, cashews and walnuts, peanuts, and wheat. I believe he has a few more allergies but the pediatrician and allergist wouldn’t test for them. His main reaction has been eczema, some facial swelling, diarrhea, and insomnia.

    Even after showing positive blood and skin prick tests for it, the allergist told me to go ahead and give him wheat. I don’t understand this and am not really convinced I should. Has anyone else been told to feed your kid something he showed to be allergic to? His skin test showed a strong reaction.

    1. Jo,

      Same thing with out allergist for my son. He is positive and very high to yeast, and moderate for wheat, as well as peanut, egg, cucumber, banana, and low soy. His allergist told us the wheat, yeast and soy we could still give him, and I have. His eczema is pretty bad sometimes, which they have told me could come from the soy wheat and yeast, so I have cut it down a lot and can tell when he has it by his eczema!

  11. I am 13 and have eaten almonds often, and recently I got hives when I ate almonds. I wasn’t sure that it was that, but after eating it several times to check I am pretty sure it’s hives. I believe it is the only thing I am allergic to, and I only get hives, no difficulty breathing or anything. Is it likely I’ll outgrow it? I don’t want to take antihistamines every time I eat almonds!

  12. Hi im 13 and found out that I had a severe peanut allergy when I was young i dont remember what age but i can hardly remember the bunch of shots they put in my back but I have never had reaction and i have ate little Debbie for a big part of my life i didn’t know how serious a severe peanut allergy is till i choked on french fries from my school it didnt get to me until my birthday when i started thinking about it now im terrified to eat anything but do anybody think that i grew out of it i am a boy and i am white but i do have French Indian in me my mom and grandma think i have but i havent checked my other allergy’s haven’t gone down or do you think i should get tested again

  13. My 7yr old son, who already have nut allergies, was just diagnosed with a cinnamon allergy!
    He had 3 slices of Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin bread and had an anaphylactic reaction that I had to rush him to the hospital!

    1. Christine, sorry to hear it. Is is possible that the bread had trace amounts of nuts in it (from being made on the same equipment as items with nuts in them), rather than your son developing a cinnamon allergy? Was the cinnamon allergy confirmed by a pediatric allergist?

      1. Hi Glla,
        We actually did another skin and blood testing and found out he wasn’t allergic to cinnamon after all. It is highly likely there was some cross contamination within the process of making the bread from the company.

  14. I have a 5 year old son who is severely allergic two peanuts along with asthma eczema and allergies I fear for him every day of my life I would die without him he’s a very smart boy and he knows to ask somebody to read it for him so I leave them in God’s hands and that you take care of him and always watches out after him

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