The number of children suffering from peanut allergies has been rising in Olmsted Country Minnesota and researchers believe the trend is consistent in most cities in America.
The study, which analyzed the medial records of several hundred children in Olmsted County, showed the peanut allergy cases have tripled in the past decade and are continuing to rise each year.
To put things into perspective, two out of every ten thousand children were diagnosed with peanut allergies in 1999 compared to seven out of every ten thousand children diagnosed in 2007 in the county. Study leader Maria Rinaldi revealed that, overall, ten children in the county were diagnosed in 1999 compared to thirty in 2007. Researchers say over three quarters of the new diagnoses were in children under two years of age and approximately 70 percent of cases were boys.
“No matter how we’re defining peanut allergy, we’re seeing this consistent increase,” Rinaldi told Reuters Health regarding the study findings published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology on September 3.
The one question Rinaldi and her team could not answer is exactly why peanut allergies are on the rise. Dr. Scott Sicherer – a pediatrics professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine – has his own theory to explain the increase:
“The leading theory is about hygiene — with less infection thanks to city living, smaller families, vaccines, sanitation, antibiotics, etc., the immune system is less ‘busy’ with germs and may become more prone to attack harmless food proteins,” he explains, noting that these are simply theories and not proven reasons why there are so many more cases each year.
Food allergy symptoms include respiratory symptoms, digestion problems and hives.