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Food Challenged: A look back

Joshua about to eat his first plate of eggs

The following is the final post in series on food allergies and their treatment at Children’s Hospital Boston. Written by Joshua Feblowitz, a research assistant at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and a freelance writer for Children’s.

After last week’s successful food challenge, it was finally time to head to my favorite diner for my first plate of eggs. As I pulled into the diner’s parking lot, a few questions were running through my mind: will I have a reaction? What should I order? What if the anticipation is better than the food? Admittedly, most of my thoughts were preoccupied with the upcoming meal, but I also couldn’t help but think about how much things have changed since I was first diagnosed with severe food allergies two decades ago.

There’s no question that the landscape surrounding pediatric food allergies has shifted dramatically. Around the country, all kinds of food allergies are on the rise. Current research indicates that as many as 4 out of every 100 kids in the US now have food allergies, a dramatic increase over the numbers a decade ago. Hospital admissions for food allergies have risen more than 500% since I was diagnosed in the late 1980s.

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Peanut allergies on the rise among kids

for kids with severe nut allergies, peanuts can be deadly
For kids with severe nut allergies, peanuts can be deadly.

We all know that children can be notoriously picky when it comes to food, but for kids with severe food allergies an extremely limited diet can be a life saver. Current data shows that close to 7 percent of all kids in the United States have food allergies, well over double the number reported a decade ago. This upward trend was reported in several new studies which show food allergies, especially to peanut and tree nuts are still on the rise among kids. Yet despite the wealth of information proving the increase in these cases, researches can’t seem to figure out why the numbers are growing.

“I think it’s a big puzzle that we still don’t fully understand,” says Dale Umetsu, MD, PhD, of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Allergy Program and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “Clearly there are changes in our environment that are causing this increase but we don’t know which ones; it could be a slew of different factors.”

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