The number of food allergies in children in United States is much more serious than government thinks, according to a new study.

The study published in the journal Pediatrics says 8 percent of children in U.S suffer at least one kind of food allergy and 4 out of 10 children suffer serious reactions. The symptoms include anaphylaxis, skin rashes, wheezing, difficult breathing and low blood pressure. Eight per cent of children in U.S translates to 6 million children.

Dr. Calman Prussin, an investigator with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that figure confirms that food allergy is a substantial public health problem.

Studies in the past have estimated that anywhere between 2 and 8 of every 100 children in the U.S. has a food allergy.

The sample in the study included 38,480 children, evenly divided between the sexes, with a mean age of 8.5 years.

The study was based on online interviews with parents of children.

The chance of having serious allergies was higher in boys; in children with multiple allergies; in higher income households; and in older age groups.

Peanut, milk and shellfish allergies were the three most common in all children surveyed.

What I hope this paper will do is open this awareness to how common (food allergy) is and how severe it can be, and develop policies for schools and sporting events and any activities that kids participate in to make it clear that everybody is looking out for these kids, lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago told Reuters Health.

A shortcoming of the study was the chance of recall bias among surveyed participants.

The study authors said that their findings will provide important epidemiologic information to guide strategies for the prevention of food-induced reactions.