Children visiting emergency rooms for serious allergies jumped 150 percent from 2010 to 2016, a new study by Blue Cross and Blue Shield revealed.
NBC News reported insurance claims data showed most life-threatening allergic reactions were from foods such as peanuts and tree nuts.
The new study’s results appear to mirror a report published last year by FAIR Health, which found private insurance claims with diagnoses of anaphylactic food reactions rose by 377 percent from 2007 to 2016, per NBC News. The study also found that half of adults with food allergies developed them after the age of 18.
“The big question is why, and that’s what we in the medical community need to find out,” said Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “We know that food allergies are tied to both genetics and the environment — and we know that something has changed for it to have gone up so drastically.”
The insurance company used past medical claims to research how many young Blue Cross and Blue Shield patients were diagnosed with an allergy and the number of emergency room visits from anaphylaxis from 2010 to 2016.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield said children diagnosed as susceptible to an anaphylaxis episode increased 104 percent during the study period, rising from 23 per 10,000 children in 2010 to 47 per 10,000 children in 2016.
Emergency room trips increased from 1.4 per 10,000 children in 2010 to 3.5 per 10,000 children in 2016, with allergic reactions to specific foods responsible for 47 percent of children’s 2016 anaphylaxis episodes, the study noted.
Those episodes included difficulty breathing, reduced blood pressure, loss of consciousness and potentially death. The most common foods that trigger severe allergic reactions were peanuts at 22 percent, tree nuts and seeds at 15 percent, and milk and eggs at six percent.
The study found that 53 percent of the allergic reactions were due to unknown foods or other unspecified causes such as insect bites.
“As the rate of food allergies rises, this study highlights the increased need for awareness and education to help parents and caregivers recognize and properly treat anaphylaxis,” said Kenneth Mendez, president and chief executive of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
“Patients are more likely to use their medicines if cost is not an issue. Thankfully, with new generics, we again have more options for epinephrine. And with new innovative treatments on the horizon, there will be options to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis.”
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