Food allergy is a growing public health concern in the United States that affects an estimated 8% of children. Food allergy is defined as an adverse health effect arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a specific food. Nearly 40% of children with food allergy have a history of severe reactions that if not treated immediately with proper medication can lead to hospitalization or even death. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) convened an expert panel in 2010 to develop guidelines outlining evidence-based practices in diagnosing and managing food allergy. The purpose of this review is to aid clinicians in translating the NIAID guidelines into primary care practice and includes the following content domains: (1) the definition and mechanism of childhood food allergy, (2) differences between food allergy and food intolerance, (3) the epidemiology of childhood food allergy in the United States, (4) best practices derived from the NIAID guidelines focused on primary care clinicians' management of childhood food allergy, (5) emerging food allergy treatments, and (6) future directions in food allergy research and practice. Articles focused on childhood food allergy were considered for inclusion in this review. Studies were restricted to the English language and to those published within the past 40 years. A cross-listed combination of the following words, phrases, and MeSH terms was searched in PubMed and Google Scholar to identify relevant articles: food allergy, food hypersensitivity, child, pediatric, prevalence, and epidemiology. Additional sources were identified through the bibliographies of the retrieved articles.
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