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Keywords:

  • food allergy;
  • peanut;
  • prevalence

Background: Despite increasing awareness of peanut allergy, little is known of its prevalence. We report on a two-stage interview survey conducted in Great Britain.

Methods: A total of 16 434 adults (aged 15+ years) reported their own allergies and atopies and named cohabitants with peanut allergy (stage 1). Follow-up interviews were conducted with identified sufferers from peanut allergy (stage 2).

Results: At stage 1, peanut allergy was reported in 58 respondents and 205 other household members. When we accounted for cases where peanut allergy was unconfirmed or newly reported at stage 2, the prevalence, based on 124 confirmed sufferers, was estimated as 0.48% (95% confidence interval 0.40%–0.55%). The prevalence in children (0.61%, 0.41%–0.82%) was slightly higher than in adults; age-of-onset was strikingly earlier. Prevalence was strongly associated with other atopies, particularly tree-nut allergy. Cases tended significantly to cluster in households. Half of cases had never consulted a doctor. Exactly 7.4% reported being hospitalized after a reaction.

Conclusions: Peanut allergy is reported by 1 in 200 of the population and is commoner in those reporting other atopies. The fact of similar rates in children and adults argues against a recent marked rise in prevalence. The frequency and potential lethality of this disorder emphasize the need for sufferers to receive correct medical advice on management.