Over the years, numerous studies have attempted to determine the prevalence of food allergies in U.S. children, based on varying criteria. In a letter to the editor, published online on July 30 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers report the results of a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health, which shows that peanut allergy is “an increasingly prevalent condition” among school-age children in the U.S. Researchers concluded that the prevalence of clinical peanut allergy among children between the ages of 7 and 10 was 5 percent – higher than previous estimates.
Dr. Supinda Bunyavanich (Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY) and colleagues studied the prevalence of peanut allergy among 616 children between the ages of 7 and 10. These children were participants in Project Viva, a study that has been exploring a wide range of health issues among more than 2,000 women and their children in eastern Massachusetts for more than a decade. The researchers also compared their results to prevalence estimates from previous studies.
In their analysis of the Project Viva group, the researchers determined the prevalence of peanut allergy based on several different sets of criteria:
- Self-reported peanut allergy (based on mothers’ responses to questions about symptoms and history of reactions): 6 percent
- Clinical peanut allergy (based on laboratory results): 5.0 percent
- Peanut allergy based on laboratory results, plus an epinephrine auto-injector prescription: 4.6 percent
- Peanut allergy based on blood test results that show the highest level of sensitivity to peanut, plus an auto-injector prescription: 2.0 percent
In all cases, the prevalence rates were higher than those reported in previous studies using comparable criteria.