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Food Allergies Sending More Americans To The ER

December 30, 2010

Trips to the emergency room from food allergies may be more common than previously thought.

Researchers report that Americans made just over a million visits to the ER for allergic reactions to food between 2001 and 2005.

That averages out to about 200,000 ER visits each year, including about 90,000 visits for serious, sometimes life-threatening, allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis.

These findings suggest that the numbers are now significantly higher than previously thought.

“While severe, life-threatening food-related allergic reactions are still relatively uncommon, our study suggests that they are more common than previously thought,” lead researcher Sunday Clark, of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, told Reuters Health in an email.

The new findings suggest that ER visits for all levels of allergic reaction to food are more common than past studies have indicated.

Another report recently found that Americans made 125,000 trips to the ER for food allergies in 2003, with about 14,000 of those involving anaphylaxis.

The current study is based on different data sources than previous studies.

Clark told Reuters that the team used figures from an annual government survey of hospitals, along with two recent medical studies, in order to estimate the frequency of ER visits for true food allergies.

According to Clark, it is possible that a growing number of Americans have been going to the ER more often for food reactions in more recent years.

The team found evidence that more children are turning up in ERs with serious food reactions than in years past.

The number of food-induced allergic reactions treated at Children’s Hospital Boston more than doubled over six years.

The researchers were unable to determine why figures rose, but they did say that the increase was in line with the national increase in the number of children being diagnosed with food allergies.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that three million school-aged children in the U.S. had a food allergy during 2007, which jumped 18 percent compared to 10 years earlier.

The most common triggers of food allergies include milk, soy, eggs, wheat, shellfish, peanuts and treat nuts.

Clark told Reuters the current findings highlight the importance of recognizing the signs of food-induced allergic reactions.

Food allergy symptoms range from the relatively mild to the more severe signs of anaphylaxis.

The study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

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