City Kids More Prone to Food Allergies Than Rural Peers: Study

Researcher says finding points out impact of environment

FRIDAY, June 8, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- City children are more likely than rural kids to have food allergies, a new study suggests.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 38,000 children in different areas of the United States and found that 9.8 percent of city children have food allergies, compared with 6.2 percent of rural children.

Compared to rural kids, children in cities are twice as likely to have peanut allergies (2.8 percent vs. 1.3 percent) and more than double the rate of shellfish allergies (2.4 percent vs. 0.8 percent).

Food allergies were equally severe regardless of where children live, and nearly 40 percent of food-allergic children in the study had experienced a severe, life-threatening reaction to a particular food. Symptoms of a life-threatening reaction include trouble breathing, a swelling in the throat and a drop in blood pressure, the researchers said.

States with the highest overall rates of food allergies in children were Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The study will be published in the July issue of the journal Clinical Pediatrics.

"We have found for the first time that higher population density corresponds with a greater likelihood of food allergies in children," study author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

"This shows that environment has an impact on developing food allergies. Similar trends have been seen for related conditions like asthma. The big question is -- what in the environment is triggering them? A better understanding of environmental factors will help us with prevention efforts," Gupta explained.

An estimated 5.9 million children under the age 18, or one out of every 13 children, have a potentially life-threatening food allergy, according to previous research by Gupta.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about food allergy.

SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, June 7, 2012
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