TEEN HEALTH Published August18, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Food Allergies Causing More Trips to the ER and Hospital for Kids

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The number of children's visits to the emergency room or hospital due to severe allergic reactions to foods is rising.
(Photo : Scott Olson, Getty Images )

A study has found that the rate of emergency room visits and hospitalizations of children with severe food allergy reactions has nearly tripled in Illinois over five years. It is not known why this rapid increase is occurring.

The study was conducted by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. It found increases in the frequency of ER visits and hospitalization across all ages and ethnicities studied, and in groups that in the past had relatively low levels of allergy problems.

The researchers evaluate data from Illinois hospitals between 2008 and 2012 to identify children who suffered food-related anaphylactic shock. There were 1,893 emergency room visits for food-related anaphylaxis at about 200 Illinois hospitals from 2008 to 2012. There were 6.3 emergency department visits and hospital admissions for this per 100,000 children in 2008 and 17.2 per 100,000 children in 2012. The rate increased by an average of 29.1%each year of the study. The study was published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Increases in visit frequency were observed for all the variables that the study looked at, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, insurance type, whether the child lived in a city, hospital type, and allergenic food. Visits were most frequent each year for Asian children and for children who had private insurance. However, the annual percent increase in visits was largest among Hispanic children and children with public insurance.

The data was from children who experienced anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction that can include symptoms such as difficulty breathing, reduced blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and potentially death.

Whether the rate of serious reactions to food in Illinois differs from the rest of the country is not known. Most other states have not collected data on ER visits or hospitalizations due to allergic reactions. 

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