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"We observed that while an estimated 53 percent of food-allergic infants under age 1 have a milk allergy, the number drops to 41 percent of 1- to 2-year-olds, 34 percent of 3- to 5-year-olds and 15 percent of 11- to 17-year-olds," Warren said in a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Warren is a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.
For the study, the researchers surveyed more than 53,000 parents nationwide. The investigators found that more than 2 percent of all children under age 5 have a cow's milk allergy, and 53 percent of food-allergic infants under age 1 have this type of allergy.
"A child may have a milk intolerance that his parents mistake for a milk allergy," Gupta said. "It's important that any child suspected of having a milk allergy have the allergy confirmed with an allergist."
A food allergy of any kind can have a big effect on a household, including food costs and quality of life, she noted.
"A child with a milk allergy should receive counseling on how to avoid milk, but also on what it means to unnecessarily cut out foods. You don't want to get rid of necessary nutrients," Gupta said.
The study also found that only 26 percent of milk-allergic children in the United States have a current epinephrine auto-injector prescription. An "EpiPen" can save a child's life if a serious allergic reaction occurs.
"Parents need to make sure they have an epinephrine auto-injector available and should talk to their child's allergist if they have any questions," Gupta said.
The study was scheduled for presentation Friday at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, in Seattle.
Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
-- Robert Preidt
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