Monday, October 27, 2008

CDC Reports Increased Food Allergies

Last week, food allergies were in the news again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report saying three million children in the U.S. have food or digestive allergies in 2007, which is an 18% increase in a decade (click here to see the report). But those numbers are a lot smaller than the numbers FAAN, researchers at the University of Chicago, and other food allergy experts have estimated – the usual estimate is about eight million children and four million adults in the U.S., and rate is estimated to have doubled among young children in the last five years.

Even though the CDC’s conservative numbers are much smaller than everyone else’s, they still show the same overall trend – food allergies are increasing rapidly, and we still don’t know why.

This latest finding from the CDC really didn’t add anything to what we know about food allergies. It didn’t say how close various cures may be. It didn’t say why the rate is increasing so drastically. It didn’t offer new ideas on how to prevent food allergies.

But it did spur the news media to discuss food allergies again, like this interesting AP news story on the Allergy and Asthma Source website and this report from Reuters. And this time, because the severity of food allergies is becoming more well-known, some news outlets took the opportunity to report on related stories. For example, ABC News did a report not on the CDC’s findings per se, but on the promising ongoing study on peanut desensitization (click here). They also included a link to an April story they did on school bullying using peanut products as weapons (click here).

Once upon a time, food allergies were considered too obscure to warrant any attention from news outlets. But now, food allergies are prevalent – celebrities talk about their food-allergic children, school districts around the country are tackling the problem head-on, and states are slowly but surely enacting guidelines for schools to use when handling children with food allergies. The U.S. is becoming more aware, and the news media is more willing to address the issue.

This is great news, indeed.

While we crave new advances, cures, and preventions, we are still happy with simply increasing awareness. Simply put, the more people in society who understand how dangerous food allergies are, the safer we food-allergic adults and our food-allergic children will be.

This week has been an encouraging week for us, because of the CDC’s release and the way the news media has responded to it.

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