A question that parents ask repeatedly is: When will my child grow out of this allergy?
In an attempt to answer this question, we recently published the largest study of food allergy tolerance to date in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (September 2013 issue, pages 194-198). This analysis used data from our nationally-representative prevalence survey of 40,000 households with children. We found that approximately a quarter of children have outgrown their food allergy at an average age of 5.4 years. Furthermore, we found that:
(1) Children with allergies to milk, egg, or soy outgrow their allergies more frequently than children with allergies to peanut, tree nuts, or shellfish;
(2) Children with milk, wheat, egg, and soy allergy outgrew their allergy younger than children with other food allergies;
(3) Children with a history of severe reactions were less likely to outgrow their allergy;
(4) Children who had their first food allergy reaction earlier in life were more likely to outgrow their allergy, regardless or allergen, severity, or symptoms.
In sum, many different factors affect the development of tolerance. Our findings will hopefully help focus future prospective studies on the development of tolerance to foods, to help clinicians and parents manage their child’s food allergy.