Previous studies have shown that in some parts of the world, as many as two out of every 100 kids might have peanut allergies. The current study, however, found rates only a tenth of that, even in age groups most likely to have allergies.
To investigate, researchers analyzed information from a database of all diagnoses of peanut allergies by general practitioners in England between 2001 and 2005. The database included almost 3 million patients.
On average, among kids under 15, one or two out of every 1,000 had received a diagnosis of peanut allergy at some point. The highest rates were in boys ages 5 to 9.
In the entire study population, including adults, about two out of every 4,000 people had a peanut allergy recorded by a general practitioner in 2005 - a doubling of the allergy prevalence in 2001, when it was about one in every 4,000 people.
By the end of the study, there were about 26,000 cases of diagnosed peanut allergy among all practices according to the findings.
Researchers note that part of the difference between this study and previous ones may be in the way rates of allergy were calculated, as well some allergy sufferers go straight to specialists, and don't receive a diagnosis from a general practitioner.
While the current study, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and previous research don't agree on the actual prevalence of peanut allergies, there is a general consensus that the rate of recorded allergies is increasing.
According to Health Canada, peanuts are one of the nine most common food allergens among Canadians. For more information on peanut allergies, visit Health Canada and Anaphylaxis Canada.
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