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Emergency visits for childhood food allergy on rise in Illinois

Visits for anaphylaxis climb 29 percent, Hispanic children's visits up 44 percent.

Emergency room visits and hospitalizations of children with severe, potentially life-threatening food allergy reactions increased nearly 30 percent in Illinois over five years, reports a Northwestern University Medicine study.

Hispanic children, who previously had the lowest reported cases of food allergies, had the biggest increase of emergency room and hospitalizations overall with a 44 percent rise.

The children in the study experienced anaphylaxis, which can include difficulty breathing, reduced blood pressure, loss of consciousness and potentially death. The study included discharge data from 1,893 emergency room visits at about 200 Illinois hospitals from 2008 to 2012. The study was published on June 26, 2015 in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Previously, studies have shown the most affected children with food allergies were white or from higher-income families. Hispanic children and children from lower socioeconomic families were least affected. Scientists don't know why some ethnicities/races and socioeconomic levels have been more susceptible to food allergies than others.

The study showed an annual percent increase of 29.1 percent from 6.3 emergency department visits and hospital admissions per 100,000 children in 2008 to 17.2 in 2012. Visits were most frequent each year for Asian children. However, the annual percent increase in visits was most pronounced among Hispanic children at 44.3 percent. Visits by African American children rose 28.1 percent with white children up 30.6 percent.

The most common allergies causing emergency treatment for all populations were tree nuts, peanuts and milk. (SOURCE: Northwestern University)

Photo: Fotolia

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