Children living in inner-city areas have a disproportionately high risk for food allergies, according to a study published online August 13, 2014, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The study, conducted by Johns Hopkins Children’s Center researchers, found that 1 in 10 children living in 4 large US cities had a food allergy.
Investigators followed 516 inner-city children living in Baltimore, Boston, New York City, and St. Louis from birth through 5 years of age and measured exposure to household allergens, tracked diets, conducted physical exams, and reviewed health histories. They measured the presence of food-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to milk, eggs, and peanuts at 1, 2, 3, and 5 years of age.
More than half of the participants were sensitive to at least 1 of the allergens, with 10% meeting the study’s criteria for a full-blown food allergy. Of the participants, 17% had elevated IgE antibodies that classified them as “possibly allergic,” although none had a clear history of allergic reactions.
The results further suggested that breast-fed children have a higher risk of developing food allergies and that children living in houses with higher endotoxin levels were less likely to have a food allergy.
Food allergy prevalence might be even higher than the results showed, according to the researchers, because the study counted only the 3 most common food allergies.