CHICAGO — Food allergies affect about 1 in 13 US children, double the latest government estimate, a new study suggests.
The researchers say about 40 percent of those children have severe reactions, a finding they hope will erase misconceptions that food allergies are just like hay fever and other seasonal allergies that are troublesome but not dangerous.
Overall, 8 percent of the children studied had food allergies; peanuts and milk were the most common sources. That translates to nearly 6 million US children.
The most recent government estimate, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was based on in-home interviews and found that about 3 million children were affected, or about 4 percent. Other estimates based on different methods have ranged from 2 percent to 8 percent.
The new study, funded by an advocacy group, is based on online interviews with parents of children younger than 18 and involved 40,104 children. Research firm Knowledge Networks conducted the survey. Families were recruited through random telephone dialing.
Results were released online today in Pediatrics. The findings suggest that food allergies affect two pupils per classroom, said lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, a pediatrician and researcher with Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital.
Dr. Calman Prussin of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said the study “confirms that food allergy is a substantial public health problem.’’