Reporting Jason DeRusha
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – In an average elementary school classroom, at least two kids will have a food allergy. That’s according to a new study published in Pediatrics.
One in 12 children has a food allergy, according to research gathered from a survey of nearly 40,000 parents.
When kids show an allergy to food, how often do they grow out of it?
Grace Heinze, 7, says it’s very hard being allergic to peanuts.
Grace was first diagnosed when she was 14-months-old on a Mother’s Day, when her mom, Katie Heinze, gave her her first peanut butter sandwich.
“She had a pretty bad reaction,” Katie said. “We rushed her to Children’s Hospital.”
So how often do kids grow out of allergies?
“It depends what they’re allergic to,” said Dr. Richard Sveum, an allergy specialist at Park Nicollet Clinic in St. Louis Park.
“Allergies are a moving target. It’s not something you’re born with and die with – it can come and go depending on how your body reacts,” he said.
According to new research of kids with food allergies, about 15 percent of kids are like Grace — allergic to peanuts. Twenty-one percent are allergic to milk, and 17 percent are allergic to shellfish.
“I wanna sit at the brown table, but I can’t,” said Grace, talking about lunch at school. She sits at a special peanut-free table.
What allergies do kids outgrow? Milk, egg, soy and wheat allergies. In the past, doctors thought kids that were going to outgrow those allergies would do so by age 5.
“Still a high percentage of children will outgrow milk and soy allergies, but perhaps at a much slower rate,” said Dr. Allan Stillerman, at Allergy and Asthma Specialists in Minneapolis.
For example, with milk allergies, the latest research shows that just 20 percent of 4-year-olds have outgrown their milk allergy. By age 16, however, almost 80 percent of kids are over it.
With egg allergies, 68 percent of kids have outgrown it by age 16.
“Now this is much better news than for peanuts and tree nuts, where 80 percent of patients maintain the allergy,” Stillerman said.
The peanut protein appears to behave differently than proteins from other foods. It provokes a stronger response from the immune system.
Why? Researchers aren’t sure.
“I have had patients outgrow their peanut allergies,” Stillerman said.
And that’s exactly what Grace Heinze and her parents say they hope happens for her.
“She could go to birthday parties and eat what she wants. I could send her to school and I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I’d have to worry about other things,” Katie Heinze said.
Doctors do see certain types of allergies tied to certain ages. So food allergies are most common in young children. Allergies to pollen, grass, ragweed tend to show up between ages 10 to 20. And then as people get older, they start experiencing allergic rhinitis (hay fever).
“The world and national experts in allergies do not know the answer to that question,” Stillerman said.