Urban Youth May Have Heightened Food Allergy Risk

Food allergies to dairy and peanuts were more common in children from inner city areas

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When a child has an allergic reaction to a food, the experience can be scary for both the parent and child. But food allergies may be a more pointed concern for families living in dense, urban environments like big cities.

According to a new study, inner-city children were more likely to have food allergies and sensitivity than children from other environments.

"Talk to your child’s pediatrician about food allergies."

The study was written by Robert Wood, MD, of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, and colleagues.

For the study, the team followed 516 inner-city children from birth through age 5. The kids lived in Baltimore, Boston, New York City and St. Louis. Each year of the study, the investigators measured each child's exposure to household allergens, conducted physical exams, tracked the children's diets and reviewed their health histories.

The authors also looked at blood samples to measure antibodies to milk, eggs and peanuts. Antibodies are used as a predictor of food allergies.

The study participants were grouped as allergic, possibly allergic, sensitive to a food or not sensitive.

The authors found that 55 percent of the 516 children were sensitive to milk, eggs or peanuts.

Participants were considered allergic when they had clinical symptoms along with higher-than-normal numbers of antibodies — about 10 percent of the patients.

The National Institutes of Health estimated that about 6 percent of children had food allergies.

The study authors found that the most common allergy was to peanuts (6 percent of the children), then eggs (4.3 percent) and milk (2.7 percent).

The authors found that children who were breastfed had a higher risk for developing food allergies.

The authors also found higher instances of environmental allergies, wheezing and an allergy-driven skin condition in kids with food allergies.

Dr. Wood called the study findings a “wake-up call” in a press statement.

Dr. Wood said researchers need to do more work to understand the high rate of food allergies “among an already vulnerable group known for its high risk of asthma and environmental allergies.”

The study was published online Aug. 13 by the peer-reviewed Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Funding was provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The authors disclosed receiving funds and other support from numerous public and private companies.

Review Date: 
August 18, 2014
Last Updated:
August 19, 2014