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Nearly four times as many allergy-related health claims have been reported in the past decade.

Jillian Kramer
August 22, 2017

Food allergies are no fun. Not only do they prevent people from noshing on certain foods—think: common allergens such as peanuts, shellfish, wheat, and milk—but ingesting one of those allergens accidentally can have dire consequences, from hives to trouble swallowing, wheezing, stomach cramps, and even anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. Those facts make new research even more dismaying: reports of severe allergic reactions are rising in the U.S., up an alarming 377 percent in the last decade.

The data, collected by nonprofit Fair Health, shows that not only are food allergies increasing at an astounding rate but that about 25 percent of those severe reactions were reported last year alone. (Data for 2017 isn't available yet.)

To compile these statistics, Fair Health—which has access to some 23 billion health-insurance claims—reviewed the claims submitted with a diagnosis of anaphylaxis caused by food. What's more, based on these claims, the nonprofit was able to drill down the list of top foods causing the greatest number of problems: peanuts caused anaphylaxis the most often, making up 26 percent of the claims. Tree nuts came in a close second, accounting for 18 percent of the anaphylaxis claims. Eggs, crustacean, and dairy allergies brought up the rear, making up a total of 18 percent of claims.

A separate recent study showed that some 53 percent of American adults with food allergies developed that condition after the age of 18—and Fair Health's research backs it up. While most of the claims filed in the last decade deal with those younger than 18, 34 percent of the anaphylaxis diagnoses were given to adults, data shows.

Next, Fair Health plans to drill even further down into the data, studying allergies as they relate to gender, age, geographic distribution, treatments, and costs, according to the research paper. "Such research, in turn, may inspire other researchers and help to inform policy or protocols about this serious and growing health condition," the nonprofit concludes.

There's also some hope for allergy sufferers in the form of new methods that have been successful in ending peanut allergies in children. But considering half of all allergies are developed as an adult, we'll still need further studies and solutions that, hopefully, these statistics will inspire.