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How serious are food allergies?

Ms. Vandana  R. Sheth
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), as many as 15 million Americans have food allergies, including approximately 6 million children. Food allergy is a growing public health concern in the US. Though reasons for this are poorly understood, the prevalence of food allergies and associated anaphylaxis appears to be on the rise. The incidence of peanut and tree nut allergy among children appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008. Research suggests that food-related anaphylaxis might be underdiagnosed.

Food allergy reactions can range from mild to life-threatening (severe). If you are diagnosed with a food allergy, the only way to avoid a reaction is by practicing strict avoidance of that food. If you have multiple food allergies and are avoiding many different foods, you might be at risk of not adequately meeting your nutritional needs. A registered dietitian specializing in food allergies can be a valuable resource in assisting you in this process.

Scientists estimate that approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies.

Food allergies affect 4 to 8 percent of children and 2 percent of adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the US, food allergy incidence increased by 18 percent from 1997 to 2007. Reasons for this increase range from misdiagnosis to potential increases due to extreme approaches to cleanliness.

Food allergies can be very serious. If you have a food allergy it is important to have an emergency plan so you know what to do if you have an allergic reaction. You need an emergency plan so you can recover from an allergic reaction quickly. Your doctor will help you come up with an emergency plan. You should carry a copy with you at all times.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.