The hospitalisation rate for potentially fatal allergic reactions has almost tripled in Australia over the past 13 years, a new study has found.
And while young children are most at risk of serious allergic reactions, hospitalisation rates are increasing in school age children as the "food allergy generation" gets older.
University of Canberra researcher Raymond Mullins warned that the these children – born more than a decade ago – will pose more challenges to the health system as they get older and become more at risk of fatal reactions as adults.
The study found there were 6.3 cases of serious allergic reactions per 100,000 people in 1998, but by 2011 it had risen to 17.7.
"Food allergy is clearly a chronic problem now," Murdoch Childrens Research Institute co-researcher Mimi Tang said. "It is an increasing burden."
Serious food allergies make up the bulk of attacks, particularly in children, with peanuts and tree nuts being the main cause.
The potentially fatal allergic reactions can cause rashes, swelling around the throat, shortness of breath, vomiting, abdominal pain and low blood pressure.
The paper, published on Wednesday in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found children younger than four had the highest hospitalisation rate for serious food allergies, with 30.3 cases per 100,000 in 2011 compared with 7.3 cases 13 years ago.
But rates have surged most in the 5-14 age bracket, particularly in recent years. There were 12.1 cases per 100,000 for this age group in 2011, a more than sevenfold increase.
Caitlin Louey, 16, had a serious allergic reaction to peanuts when she was three after trying a Drumstick ice-cream, and has to carefully monitor her food to avoid eating nuts.
"It was really frustrating when I was young. I couldn't eat birthday cake and couldn't go to some parties," she said. "But that is just something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life until they find a cure."
Caitlin said other children at her school had similar food allergies, including one of her best friends, and it was something parents and teachers were much more aware of than they used to be.
Professor Tang said the the government had to address the increases in serious allergies and make sufficient resources available.
"In the past allergy was not common. it wasn't part of the curriculum in medical training so most of the general practitioners, physicians and pediatricians working today are not familiar with food allergies," she said.
"It used to be one child per school having a severe allergy – it is now one or two children per class".