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High prevalence of peanut allergy in US school-age children

Published Online: July 30, 2014

What is the prevalence of peanut allergy among US children? Given that 90% of US households consume peanut butter, this is an important question. In a Letter to the Editor recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Bunyavanich and colleagues report and compare prevalence estimates of childhood peanut allergy according to varying criteria among 7-10 year-old children participating in a US birth cohort not selected for any disease.

The researchers determined the prevalence of childhood peanut allergy based on reported symptoms, laboratory tests for peanut allergen sensitization, clinical information, and combinations of these variables among 616 children of a large, observational cohort study based in eastern Massachusetts.

The authors found that the prevalence of self-reported peanut allergy in this cohort of US children was 4.6%, higher than previously reported estimates of self-reported peanut allergy among US children of comparable age. Similarly, they observed a 5.0% prevalence of “clinical peanut allergy” according to laboratory-based criteria that previously resulted in a 2.7% prevalence among comparably aged children in an earlier, unrelated study. When the authors defined peanut allergy based on both laboratory results and prescribed epinephrine auto-injector, they found a prevalence of 4.9%. Application of the most stringent definition for peanut allergy, requiring both laboratory-based peanut sensitization level greater than the 90% specificity decision point and prescribed epinephrine auto-injector, yielded a prevalence of 2.0%.

The relatively high prevalence rates the researchers observed may reflect continued rise of peanut allergy prevalence in the US, consistent with the rising trend in self-reported peanut allergy previously reported. The results of the study support that peanut allergy is a prevalent condition in US school-age children.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

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