Children with food allergies might be vulnerable to asthma, study finds

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Additional study findings identified the most common allergenic foods to be peanut, milk, egg, shellfish, and soy. ©iStock
Additional study findings identified the most common allergenic foods to be peanut, milk, egg, shellfish, and soy. ©iStock

Related tags: Food allergy, Allergy

Developing food allergies are a reliable indicator of the chances of acquiring other allergies such as asthma and allergic rhinitis, a US study has demonstrated.

The study, published in BMC Pediatrics​, found an association of a food allergy with the development of a respiratory allergy.

Additional findings identified the most common allergenic foods to be peanuts, milk, egg, shellfish, and soy.

Food allergies were also associated with development of eczema although not at the same risk level of asthma.

Allergies in Europe

asthma inflammation breathing iStock.com Daniela Andreea Spyropoulos
Eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis (rhinitis) are some of the most common childhood medical conditions in Europe.©iStock/Daniela Andreea Spyropoulos

Eczema, asthma, and allergic rhinitis are some of the most common childhood medical conditions in Europe.

The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) reported an allergic rhinitis rate in 13-14 year-old children at 22.1% globally.

The study identified 150 million Europeans as having allergic rhinitis, with 12.3% in Northern and Eastern Europe, and 21.2% in Western Europe.

In a similar vein, food allergies are common in their prevalence. Childhood food allergies in particular are associated with limited social interactions, co-morbid allergic conditions, and significant economic cost.

Researchers from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) carried out a review of the records of more than one million children dated between 2001 to 2015.

The researchers split the records into two groups. One consisted of 29,662 children that were tracked continuously for the first five years of life.

Another group consisting of 333,200 children and adolescents were followed for at least 12 months.

The team found children in the first group had a food allergy incidence rate of 8% between birth and aged five. Peak age of diagnosis was between 12 and 17 months of age.

The other group had a food allergy incidence rate of 6.7% echoing previous studies.

However, allergies to specific foods did not mirror those from previous results. While allergies to peanut, milk, shellfish and soy were proportionately higher in the study population, wheat allergy was proportionately rarer and sesame allergy was higher than previously appreciated.

“Disease rates for these conditions seem to be changing, prompting a need for more information and surveillance,"​ said study lead author Dr David Hill, an allergy and immunology fellow with an interest in food allergy. 

“Compared with previous reports, this study found higher rates of asthma and lower rates of eczema, a skin inflammation.”

Similar research findings

eggs packaging
Eggs were also identified as a food children were commonly allergic to.©iStock

Similar studies in this area have resulted in a mixed bag. An earlier study​ have hypothesised an association between food allergy and the development of an allergic condition.  

This research however, suffered from a small sample size​.

The findings in Hill's study concluded that overall, children with an existing food allergy were at increased risk of developing asthma and allergic rhinitis.

"For patients with an established diagnosis of food allergy, 35% went on to develop asthma; and patients with multiple food allergies were at increased risk of developing asthma as compared to those with a single food allergy,"​ said senior author Dr Jonathan Spergel, chief of the division of Allergy and Immunology at CHOP.

"Similarly, 35% of patients with food allergy went on to develop allergic rhinitis."

These asthma and allergic rhinitis rates in children with food allergy were roughly double the rates found in the general population.

"Of the major food allergens, allergy to peanut, milk and egg significantly predisposed children to asthma and allergic rhinitis,"​ added Hill.

Source: BMS Pediatrics

Published online ahead of print, DOI: 10.1186/s12887-016-0673-z

“The epidemiologic characteristics of healthcare provider-diagnosed eczema, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergy in children: a retrospective cohort study.”

Authors: David Hill et al.

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