The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology says peanut allergies affect an estimated 2.5% of children in the US.
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Matthew Greenhawt, chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Food Allergy Committee, says that research shows that peanuts are right behind milk and eggs as the most common food allergy. Greenhawt has been personally treating more children than previously who present symptoms of peanut reactions.
“We are seeing more peanut allergies—more food allergies overall—than we did 15 to 20 years ago,” he says.
There are a couple of theories for the rise in peanut allergies. Scott Sicherer, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute, points to the “hygiene hypothesis,” or the idea that humans are a lot “cleaner” now than we were generations ago—fewer of us are living on farms and being exposed to livestock, we use antibacterial soap frequently, and our homes and streets aren’t as littered with garbage and sewage.