Understanding a disease that affects millions of people worldwide.
Food Allergies Are a Growing Problem
If you have food allergies, you are far from alone. Approximately 15 million people in the United States1-3 and 17 million people in Europe have food allergies,4 and the numbers are growing. For example, a recent study has estimated that more than 1.7 million children in the United States are allergic to peanuts.5, 6
According to published studies, food allergies cause as many as 200,000 visits to U.S. emergency rooms each year7 and cost American families approximately $24.8 billion a year, with $4.3 billion attributed to direct medical expenses.8
Food Allergies Can Lead to Life-Threatening Reactions
Most people are familiar with seasonal or environmental allergies: the watery eyes, runny nose, and other inconvenient symptoms that happen to some people after exposure to pollen, dust, grass, etc. These symptoms occur not because the allergens themselves are harmful, but because the immune system misreads the allergens as threats and signals an attack.
For people with food allergies, the immune systems mistakes the proteins in some foods – most commonly peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish – as invaders. However, unlike the immune system’s typical reaction to environmental allergies, people who have food allergies can sometimes experience severe or potentially life-threatening reactions. Common symptoms can include hives, swelling, vomiting, abdominal pain, wheezing, breathlessness, or lowered blood pressure.
Accidental exposure to trace amounts of food allergens from cross contact can trigger severe allergic reactions. People with peanut allergies can be sensitive to the amount of peanut protein found in a fraction of a peanut kernel.
Living with Food Allergies Means Living with Uncertainty
There is no cure for food allergies, and there are no regulatory approved medical treatments. When patients are diagnosed with food allergies, they are told to avoid the food allergen and are given a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector, to be carried at all times in case of anaphylaxis resulting from accidental exposure.
However, avoiding food allergens is challenging. It means knowing all of the ingredients, preparation techniques, and manufacturing processes for any food to be eaten. It means careful reading of food labels, awareness of product recalls for mislabeling or contamination, and even avoidance of cuisines where some food allergens are known to be common.
Otherwise “normal” activities such as attending a sporting event, traveling by airplane or visiting public spaces can become difficult or stressful for people with food allergies and their loved ones. Studies have shown that the stress of vigilantly avoiding any food allergen and the anxiety around fear of a potentially fatal accidental exposure can substantially diminish the quality of life of patients and their families.9, 10
Aimmune is focused on developing food allergy desensitization treatments and products to potentially reduce the chance of a severe allergic reaction following accidental exposure.
Learn about our Pipeline
1. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health. Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States: Report of the NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. 2010. Retrieved from www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/foodallergy/research/pages/reportfoodallergy.aspx.
2. United States Census Bureau Quick Facts (2015 estimates).
3. Gupta RS, Springston EE, Warrier MR, et al. The Prevalence, Severity, and Distribution of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States. Pediatrics 2011;128(1):e9-17.
4. EAACI. Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Public Declaration. www.eaaci.org/attachments/FoodAllergy&AnaphylaxisPublicDeclaration.pdf. Updated February 11, 2015. Accessed December 4, 2017.
5. Gupta R, Warren C, Blumenstock J, et al. OR078 The Prevalence of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States: An Update. Ann Allerg Asthma Im. 2017;119(5 Suppl):S11.
6. United States Census Bureau Quick Facts (2015 estimates).
7. Clark S, Espinola J, Rudders SA, Banerji A, Camargo CA Jr. Frequency of US emergency department visits for food-related acute allergic reactions. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2011;127(3):682-3.
8. Gupta R, Holdford D, Bilaver L, Dyer A, Holl JL, Meltzer D. The Economic Impact of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States. JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(11):1026-31.
9. Cummings AJ, Knibb RC, King RM, Lucas JS. The psychosocial impact of food allergy and food hypersensitivity in children, adolescents and their families: a review. Allergy 2010; 65: 933–945.
10. Flokstra-de Blok BMJ, Dubois AEJ, Vlieg-Boerstra BJ, Oude Elberink JNG, Raat H, DunnGalvin A, Hourihane JO’B, Duiverman EJ. Health-related quality of life of food allergic patients: comparison with the general population and other diseases. Allergy 2010; 65: 238–244.