The number of U.S. children who have skin and food allergies has risen significantly in the last few years, a new government report by the CDC reveals.

Surprisingly, the incidence of respiratory and food allergies increased with income: kids living in families that earned more than 200% of the poverty level had the highest rates, statistics suggested.

Report author LaJeana Howie, from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said:

“The prevalence of food and skin allergies both increased over the past 14 years. This has been a consistent trend.”

Allergies are among the most common medical conditions that affect kids in the U.S. An allergic condition is defined as a hypersensitivity disorder in which the immune system responds to certain substances in the environment that are generally considered nontoxic.

The most common allergies among kids are:

  • respiratory allergies (hay fever)
  • skin allergies (eczema)
  • food or digestive allergies

Allergies can impact a child’s physical and emotional health and can hinder normal daily activities like play, sleep, and going to school. A serious allergic reaction with quick onset anaphylaxis can be dangerous.

Foods are the most common cause of anaphylaxis among teenagers and children. Finding these allergies early in kids as well as making the correct interventions can help to reduce the negative outcomes on quality of life.

The report revealed the following results in regards to allergies among children:

  • With food allergies – the overall rate went from 3.4% in 1997 to 5.1% in 2011.
  • With skin allergies – the overall rate rose from 7.4% in 1997 to 12.5% in 2011.
  • Respiratory allergies remained the same – at 17% between 1997 and 2011.

Authors also noticed racial trends in their data. For example, they saw that Hispanic children had the lowest incidence of skin, food, and respiratory allergies, compared with other groups.

African American children were more likely to have skin allergies than white children (17.4% versus 12%), however, they were less likely to have respiratory allergies (15.6% versus 19.1%).

Additionally, age was also an element in the incidence of skin and respiratory allergies. Among skin allergies, the rate fell with age: 14.2% of those aged 4 or younger had them, 13.1% of those aged 5 to 9 had them, and 10.9% of those aged 10 to 17.

This trend was opposite for respiratory allergies: 10.8% of those aged 4 and under had them, 17.4% of those aged 5 to 9 had them and 20.8% of those aged 10 to 17.

Lastly, income also played a role. Among households bringing in less than 100% of poverty level, 4.4% of those kids had food allergies and 14.9% had respiratory allergies.

Among households making more than 200% of poverty level, 5.4% of those kids had food allergies and 18.3% had respiratory allergies.

In 2011, the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine reported that 5.9 million kids in the U.S. have food allergies. Among this number, 30.4% are allergic to many foods, and 38.7% of those have severe reactions.

Another study published in JAMA suggested that foreign born children who move to live in the U.S. have a lower risk of allergic diseases. The longer they live in the U.S., the greater their risk for these conditions becomes.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald