Peanut allergy was so prevalent in kids born in the United States in the past decade that it almost became an epidemic.

A new study conducted by the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute using data from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York found that the number of children with a peanut allergy has tripled from 1997 to 2008.

Their findings were published in the journal of the National Institute of Health.

Increasing Number Of Children With Peanut Allergy

"It really is almost an epidemic," stated Scott Sicherer, director of the institute. "It's impossible to deny an increase, even with anecdotal reports from school nurses [...] It's not just our imagination."

In the study, the researchers found that one in 70 children has a peanut allergy in 2008. In comparison, in 1997, one in 250 children has a peanut allergy.

Food allergy is considered common. In the United States, about 5 percent of children have some type of food allergy. It happens when the immune system reacts to and attacks a component of a food, sometimes causing life-threatening situations.

Unfortunately, public health officials still have no idea why the number of children with peanut allergy in the United States is rising. One theory suggests that families are so used to clean living that children do not get the chance to be exposed to certain germs that can build their immunities. As a result, Sicherer explained that the immune system attacks things it does not need to.

While there is still no cure for food allergies, "promising" treatment options are currently being developed. The NIH has also committed to supporting research into food allergy and the immune system.

How To Prevent Peanut Allergy

Peanut allergy is the most common food allergy in the United States. Unlike egg and milk allergy, peanut allergy is also more difficult to outgrow for children living with the ailment.

Last year, public health officials recommended that early exposure to peanuts could be the key to preventing the food allergy in children. The NIH is encouraging parents to introduce peanut-containing foods around 4 to 6 months of age, or by the time they start eating solids.

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