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Lifelong Allergies: When Babies Don’t Outgrow Their Food Allergies

Finding out your baby has food allergies makes you wonder if it’ll last forever. You start down a path of fear; fear of your kid missing out on the birthday party, others not understanding dietary restrictions, or a simple accident leading to anaphylaxis. It’s heavy on the mind and heart…

Free to Feed’s here to guide your family on this journey, wherever you are. We’re happy to report most babies do outgrow their food allergies — but it’s important to talk about those who won’t. We’re fighting for the entire food allergy community with resources, education, support, and science!

Today we’re diving into stats about childhood food allergies, when babies don’t outgrow them, and how one new therapy may offer hope for your family. You’ll always have support from us.

What We Know About Infant Food Allergies and the Risk of Lifelong Allergies

If you’re new here — well first, take a deep breath — and then maybe check out some other blogs about food allergies because it’s a little confusing. We bring on the science here at Free To Feed, and try to make it easy for you to understand these tricky issues.

Start with these:

Okay, back to it.

Lifelong allergies fall in the IgE-mediated food allergy category because the immune system’s trying to protect your child.

The immune system thinks it’s protecting your child. (Argh) IgE antibodies respond to food allergens, which makes your baby have a negative reaction. As with all things in food allergies, symptoms and sensitivities depend on each individual child.

Top food allergies children don’t outgrow?

  • Milk

  • Eggs

  • Peanuts

  • Shellfish

This list comes from the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, & Immunology and accounts for children in the United States. We know it’s a hard list to swallow because many common foods include 3 of those ingredients.

The medical field’s still searching for answers to why some kids outgrow food allergies and others don’t. This drives our mission forward to continue our own scientific research and spread education about what we do understand.

While the cause of food allergies remains unclear, we know genetics and environmental factors play a role. Let’s look into statistics now.

What Data Shows For Children With Food Allergies

Let’s start with stats from 14 years ago. (Sorry. It’s not a joke.) On their website, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reviews food allergy data from 2008. (Can we get an update, CDC?) They report these major findings: [1]

  • In 2007, approximately 3% of children under 18 were reported to have food allergies.

  • In the 10 years between 1997-2007, food allergy diagnosis increased by 18% among children.

  • Kids with food allergies are 2-4 times more likely to suffer from asthma or other allergies.

We totally understand the 90s and early 2000s feel like a century ago. But we need to point out the dramatic rise in food allergies and what was happening in the medical field then.

Old recommendations on food allergens for babies was strict avoidance, sometimes till the age of 3. Science, data, and research, particularly from the LEAP study informed us strict avoidance actually increases the likelihood of food allergies! (Read more from us on the importance of early and often introduction here.)

Fast-forward to 2016, when a survey estimated children with food allergies hovers around 18%. That’s about 2 kids in every school classroom — in the United States alone. A dramatic 15% increase from 2007! And we know how often food allergies get dismissed or misdiagnosed. It’s tough but we’re happy to be digging out answers for our families.

What Babies Are At a Higher Risk For Lifelong Allergies?

As a parent, you want to feel prepared for what lies ahead. Knowing risk factors helps:

  • Having other allergies (asthma)

  • African American children

  • Age (most prevalent in childhood)

  • If a parent or sibling has other allergies (food allergies, eczema, hay fever, etc)