Children living in urban centers have a much higher prevalence of food allergies than those living in rural areas, according to a new study, which is the first to map children’s food allergies by geographical location in the United States. In particular, kids in big cities are more than twice as likely to have peanut and shellfish allergies compared to rural communities.
The study, which was funded by the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI), will be published in the July issue of Clinical Pediatrics.
“We have found for the first time that higher population density corresponds with a greater likelihood of food allergies in children,” said lead author 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 (formerly Children’s Memorial). “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, also a researcher at the Institute for Healthcare Studies at the Feinberg School, said some of her future research will focus on trying to identify the environmental causes.
The study included 38,465 children, 18 years and under, who comprised a representative sample of U.S. households. Their food allergies were mapped by ZIP code.
Here are the key findings:
- In urban centers, 9.8 percent of children have food allergies, compared to 6.2 percent in rural communities, almost a 3.5 percent difference. (more…)