Which Children Outgrow Food Allergy?

Much of the allergy research focuses on who develops allergies, searching for the cause. But an equally interesting question is who outgrows them and when. A team at Northwestern University undertook both questions, funded by the Food Allergy Initiative. We've written about their answer to the first question: How common are food allergies?, and here we focus on their findings on outgrowing food allergies. (Gupta RS. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 2013. pages 194-8).

They used the results of a large survey of over 40,000 children that was supposedly representative of the U.S. population. The results could be interpreted for over 38,000. About 8% of the children (3,188) had food allergies and another 3% (1,245) had outgrown food allergies. This meant that 26.6% outgrew their allergies. At an average of 5 1/2 years, they could tolerate foods they were allergic to previously.

Of the children with milk allergy, 41.1% outgrew their allergy. 40.2% outgrew their egg allergy. 35.7% outgrew their soy allergy. The numbers for shellfish allergy, tree nut allergy and peanut allergy were less, with only 13.0%, 14.3% and 15.6%, respectively, developing tolerance.

Factors significantly associated with outgrowing a food allergy included:

  • a mild to moderate reaction history
  • being allergic to only one food
  • eczema as the only allergy symptom
  • white compared to black race
  • male compared to female
  • younger age of the first reaction

And it's of note that when an allergy developed at later ages, it didn't matter what the allergy was, how severe it was or what the symptoms were -- the individual was far less likely to outgrow the allergy.

My comment: It's good that approximately 1/4 of children with food allergies outgrow them, but that means 3/4 continue on with their allergies, especially those with shellfish and peanut or tree nut allergies and those with more severe allergies.

Dr. Stan Cohen 19 May 2015

Dr. Stan Cohen is one of our founders and our CEO as well as the Chairman of our Medical Advisory Board. Dr. Stan is an internationally recognized expert in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. He is a Read More

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