Per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, peanut allergy is one of the most common causes of food-related sensitivities, and death.
However, there is an increasing body of medical opinion that the dramatic rise in frequency of nut allergies, and more particularly, the measures taken in response to the threat of peanut allergy, show elements of mass psychogenic illness, hysterical reactions grossly out of proportion to the level of danger.
“About 3.3 million Americans are allergic to nuts, (even more—6.9 million—are allergic to seafood). However, serious allergic reactions to all foods cause just 2,000 hospitalizations each year (out of more than 30 million nationwide), and only 150 people (both children and adults) die each year from all food allergies combined.” Media sensationalism has also been blamed.
Prevalence among adults and children is similar—around 1%—but at least one study shows it to be on the rise in children in the United States. The number of young children affected doubled between 1997 and 2002. 20% of children with a peanut allergy outgrow it. In the USA, only about 10 people per year die from peanut allergies.
One study has shown that peanut allergies also correlate with ethnicity; in particular, Native Americans are less prone to be allergic to peanuts. The exact cause of someone developing a peanut allergy is unknown. It’s possible that exposure to peanut oils in lotions may be implicated with development of the allergy. Comparative studies have found that delaying introduction of peanut products in children younger than 3 years, significantly INCREASES the risks of development of peanut allergies.
^ Christakis, Nicholas A. (2008-12-13). “This Allergies Hysteria Is Just Nuts”. British Medical Journal 337 (1384). Retrieved 2012-11-14.
^ Colver, A. (2006). “Are the dangers of childhood food allergy exaggerated?”. BMJ 333 (7566): 494–6. doi:10.1136/bmj.333.7566.494. PMC 1557974. PMID 16946341.
^ Prevalence of peanut and tree nut allergy in the United States determined by means of a random digit dial telephone survey: A 5-year follow-up study https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091674903020268
^ a b Burks, A Wesley (2008). “Peanut allergy”. The Lancet 371 (9623): 1538–46. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(08)60659-5. PMID 18456104. Lay summary – Reuters (May 2, 2008).
^ Høst, Arne; Halken, Susanne; Muraro, Antonella; Dreborg, Sten; Niggemann, Bodo; Aalberse, Rob; Arshad, Syed H.; Von Berg, Andrea et al. (2008). “Dietary prevention of allergic diseases in infants and small children”. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 19 (1): 1–4. doi:10.1111/j.1399-3038.2007.00680.x. PMID 18199086.