Food allergy reactions skyrocket over last decade

A recent study shows the number of insurance claims from people diagnosed with severe allergic reactions to food has jumped almost 400 percent in the last decade.

Whether his daughter is playing on a playground or trying different foods, Jordan Osterman does everything he can to keep his daughter safe. So, finding out 17-month-old Tess is allergic to hummus came as a bit of a surprise.

"At home was the first time. It was an isolated incident. She was eating it with other foods. We didn't know what it was. Then the second time, similar reaction after eating hummus, breaking out in hives and getting a rash, we knew it was that," Osterman said.

And Tess isn't alone.

A recent study by the non-profit Fair Health found the number of insurance claims from people who had a severe allergic reaction to food skyrocketed nearly 400 percent from 2007 to 2016.

Nearly two-thirds of allergic reactions involved people under 18-years-old. Among the top listed foods were peanuts, tree nuts and seeds.

"It's becoming a huge issue. I've had some school districts contact me this year saying we have so many kids with food allergies now," said Dr. Douglas McMahon, University of Minnesota Dir. of Outpatient Allergy.

McMahon believes recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2007 that parents delay giving their kids highly allergic foods until they are older could be behind the recent spike.

He recommends exposing kids to foods like milk, wheat, eggs early to avoid the possible deadly consequences.

"Anaphylaxis is a severe food allergy and unfortunately someone dies every other day in the United States from this, so it's a very serious issue." Dr. McMahon said.

Osterman hopes his daughter will eventually grow out of her allergy to hummus.

In the meantime, he'll get her to eat as many different foods as he can to learn whether she's allergic to anything else.

"Maybe we'll get a chance to find out now and address it more than [if] we never know and she's 10 and has whatever food for the first time and it puts her down for the count. We don't want that," Osterman said.

Everything from using antibiotics to treat young children to a surge in C-sections have previously been cited as possible reasons for food allergies in kids.

The study also found that the number of food allergies is growing faster in rural areas than in cities, the reverse of conventional wisdom.