Food Allergy Quick Guide

FACTs & Statistics (from FARE)

  • Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies.

  • This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. That’s roughly two in every classroom.

  • A 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that there was an 18 percent increase in food allergy between 1997 and 2007.

  • The number of people who have a food allergy is growing, but there is no clear answer as to why.

  • Food allergies appear to be on the rise in all industrialized countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes them as “important health issues.” Environmental allergies (e.g., hay fever), along with asthma and other diseases caused by a defect in the immune system, also have been increasing.

  • Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department – that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year.

  • A reaction to food can range from a mild response (such as an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction.

  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported that food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits a year among children under the age of 18. Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.

  • Once an anaphylactic reaction starts, a medication called epinephrine is the first line of defense to treat the reaction, and you should immediately seek emergency medical attention by calling 911. You can protect yourself by learning the symptoms of allergic reactions and knowing what steps to take if you have a severe reaction.

  • Teenagers and young adults with food allergies are at the highest risk of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis.

  • Individuals with food allergies who also have asthma may be at increased risk for severe/fatal food allergy reactions.

  • Symptoms of anaphylaxis may recur after initially subsiding and experts recommend an observation period of about four hours to monitor that the reaction has been resolved.

  • It is possible to have anaphylaxis without any skin symptoms (no rash, hives).

  • Failure to promptly (i.e., within minutes) treat food anaphylaxis with epinephrine is a risk factor for fatalities.

  • Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.

  • Food allergies affect children and adults of all races and ethnicity.

  • A food allergy can begin at any age.

  • Your risk of having food allergies is higher if you have a parent who suffers from any type of allergic disease (asthma, eczema, food allergies, or environmental allergies such as hay fever).

  • Children with food allergy are 2-4 times more likely to have other related conditions such as asthma and other allergies, compared with children who do not have food allergies.

  • Food allergies may be a trigger for or associated with other allergic conditions, such as atopic dermatitis and eosinophilic gastrointestinal diseases.

  • There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions to food are important measures to prevent serious health consequences.