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Food Allergies


Foods are the most common cause of anaphylaxis in children and adolescents. Approximately 15 million people in the U.S. have food allergies; 9 million adults and 6 million children (Food Allergy Research & Education [FARE], n.d.). The incidence and prevalence of food allergies and anaphylaxis appear to continue rising; a 2013 study by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that food allergies among children have increased by approximately 50% between 1997 and 2013 (Jackson, 2013).

In the most basic terms, a food allergy and related symptoms occur when a person’s immune system incorrectly identifies parts of food or ingredients in a food, typically a protein, as harmful. This triggers the body’s cells to release antibodies, immunoglobulin E (IgE) to neutralize the food or food substance. If the food is ingested again, the IgE antibodies recognize the protein and signal the immune system to release histamine causing allergy symptoms including anaphylaxis (FARE, n.d.).

There are eight major food allergens currently known in the United States; milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. Allergic responses can affect many body systems and cause symptoms ranging from hives, nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting, facial swelling and itching, to more serious anaphylactic reactions such as swelling of airways, drop in blood pressure, unconsciousness and death. During the period 2004-2008 there were approximately 9,500 hospital admissions per year among children under 18 years old related to food allergy (CDC, 2008).

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Food allergy among U.S. children: Trends in prevalence and hospitalizations. Retrieved from

Food Allergy Research and Education, FARE. (n.d.), Food allergy facts and statistics for the U.S., Retrieved from

Jackson, K., Howie L., Akinbami L, (2013). Trends in allergic conditions among children: United States, 1997–2011. Retrieved from