The prevalence, severity, and distribution of childhood food allergy in the United States

Pediatrics. 2011 Jul;128(1):e9-17. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0204. Epub 2011 Jun 20.


Objective: The goal of this study was to better estimate the prevalence and severity of childhood food allergy in the United States.

Methods: A randomized, cross-sectional survey was administered electronically to a representative sample of US households with children from June 2009 to February 2010. Eligible participants included adults (aged 18 years or older) able to complete the survey in Spanish or English who resided in a household with at least 1 child younger than 18 years. Data were adjusted using both base and poststratification weights to account for potential biases from sampling design and nonresponse. Data were analyzed as weighted proportions to estimate prevalence and severity of food allergy. Multiple logistic regression models were constructed to identify characteristics significantly associated with outcomes.

Results: Data were collected for 40 104 children; incomplete responses for 1624 children were excluded, which yielded a final sample of 38 480. Food allergy prevalence was 8.0% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 7.6-8.3). Among children with food allergy, 38.7% had a history of severe reactions, and 30.4% had multiple food allergies. Prevalence according to allergen among food-allergic children was highest for peanut (25.2% [95% CI: 23.3-27.1]), followed by milk (21.1% [95% CI: 19.4-22.8]) and shellfish (17.2% [95% CI: 15.6-18.9]). Odds of food allergy were significantly associated with race, age, income, and geographic region. Disparities in food allergy diagnosis according to race and income were observed.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that the prevalence and severity of childhood food allergy is greater than previously reported. Data suggest that disparities exist in the clinical diagnosis of disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States / epidemiology