What makes city kids more susceptible to food allergies?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Food allergies affect city kids more than rural children, in first finding.
Advertisement

Compared to children who live in rural areas, kids in the city are found to be more susceptible to food allergies. Researchers noted the finding when they mapped allergy statistics across geographical areas in the United States for the first time.

City kids twice as likely to be allergic to peanuts, shellfish

They found that kids in the city were twice as likely to be allergic to shellfish and peanuts than rural children.

But the question the investigators are asking is why? What’s triggering food allergies in city environments?

Ruchi Gupta, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago said in a news release, "This shows that environment has an impact on developing food allergies. Similar trends have been seen for related conditions like asthma”. He adds if we knew why it’s happening, it might be possible to target environmental factors that could prevent children’s food allergies.

The study found that 6.2% of kids in rural settings have food allergies. In the city, 9.8% are plagued with the problem that, for some, can be life-threatening; 40% of food-allergic children in the study had already experience a severe reaction, with peanut allergies being more than twice as prevalent among kids in urban areas, compared to rural

Advertisement

Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia had the highest number of kids with allergies to foods.

There are two possible reasons kids in the city suffer worse from food allergies than children in rural settings. The researchers suspect it may be prenatal exposure to bacteria in the country that protects rural children. Another theory is that pollution, which is already known to contribute to asthma, eczema, runny noses from allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis (like ‘pink-eye’), might be the culprit.

According to background information from a 2011 study conducted by Dr. Gupta, 5.9 million children under the age of 18 suffer from food allergy and one in 13 have a potentially lethal response triggered by food allergy.

Understanding what environmental factors might be contributing to increased food allergies among kids in the city could lead to a cure. The study included 38,465 children, 18 years and under, and is the first to pinpoint the relationship between population density and food allergy prevalence.

Source:
Northwestern University
June 7, 2012

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

Advertisement