Study Shows High Rate of Food Allergies in Inner-City Kids

Food allergies are becoming more and more common and problematic with each passing year. A recent study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center has come to light which reveals that kids who live in urban areas tend to be more prone to food allergies than other kids.

Allergies on the Rise

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that six percent of children in the United States suffer from food allergies. The Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization tells us that number is around seven percent. The new Johns Hopkins study notes that these allergies have been on the rise over the past two decades.

Previous Studies

This information joins previous studies that show other health issues are more prevalent in inner-city kids, including asthma and environmentally-based allergies. Recent information indicates that these issues may be the result of urban kids not being exposed to certain microbes that are more prevalent in rural areas.

Food Allergy Facts

The statistics for food allergies are surprising indeed. Between the years of 2004 and 2006, there were roughly 9,500 annual discharges from hospitals related to child food allergies. In 2007, a full three million children reported some sort of digestive or food allergy in the previous year. Kids with allergies are at least three times as likely to have asthma when compared to kids without allergies.

At-Risk Population

According to the Johns Hopkins study, there is a certain subgroup of children who have a much higher risk of developing food allergies than others; those of inner city kids. For kids who living in urban areas, particularly in the cities that the study observed, the instance of food allergies skyrockets to a whopping ten percent. These cities include Baltimore, Boston, New York and St. Louis.

Since the study only counted the three most common food allergies in kids in the study notes, that number could actually be even higher. Peanuts, as one might expect, were the worst and most common of the allergies with eggs and milk being the second and third largest culprits, respectively.

When the results are tallied, over 50% of the children surveyed displayed sensitivity if not a full-blown allergy to milk, eggs and peanuts.

Wake-Up Call

Dr. Robert Wood, lead investigator on the study, feels that the findings indicate a major need to look into and reveal the causes of this high prevalence of allergies, particularly considering the high instances of other conditions in the same population.

Dr. Wood believes that the criterion developed for the study, which measures certain blood antibodies that indicate a likelihood of developing allergies, are very strict and as such the study likely underestimates the sheer number of kids with food allergies.

The study also indicates that children who experience airborne and other irritants during their first year are at a notably lower risk of developing asthma, allergies and other similar conditions. The study has concluded that even though it examined a high-risk group, the instances of food allergies overall is too high for acceptability and further research needs to be done to discover the true underlying causes of this increasing epidemic.

By Ramie A Tritt, MD, President, Atlanta ENT

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