CHICAGO (AP) — A new study finds increasing numbers of emergency room visits and hospital stays for children with severe food-allergy reactions in Illinois.

The analysis of statewide hospital data shows 226 such ER visits and hospital stays in 2008. The number increased to 590 in 2012.

What’s driving the trend is unclear. The study shows increases among children regardless of their race, ethnicity or type of insurance.

Study co-author Dr. Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine says one theory for a rise in food allergies is that children in industrialized nations live in too-clean environments and are not exposed to enough bacteria.

The study was published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and was supported by a not-for-profit group called Food Allergy Research and Education.


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