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Study: Food Allergy in Childhood Triples the Odds for Asthma as an Adult

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Physicians have long known that childhood food allergies and allergen sensitizations are associated with asthma and rhinitis in kids, but how do they fare later in life? A recent study published in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology sought to find out.

1,456 participants were followed at fixed time points from ages 1-26 for their food allergy and food sensitization status. Food allergy was evaluated at all points, ages 1, 2, 4, 10, 18, and 26. Their sensitization status was determined using skin prick tests from age 4 onward. Asthma and rhinitis were also evaluated from age 4 onward based on physician diagnoses.

The participants were characterized by sex, eczema at the corresponding age, family history of asthma, rhinitis, eczema, food allergy, cord Immunoglobulin E, maternal smoking, and socioeconomic status to determine possible covariates.

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The study determined that childhood food allergy and particularly, food allergen sensitization were independently associated with asthma in adulthood, even after adjustment for relevant covariates.

Food allergy at 4 years was significantly associated with asthma at 18 years and 26 years. Conversely, childhood food allergy was not associated with adulthood rhinitis whatsoever.

While food allergy sensitization at ages 4 and 10 was associated with both allergic airway diseases, the associations between food allergen sensitivity and rhinitis were less robust relative to asthma.

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However, food allergy at age 10 was not associated with asthma in adulthood and childhood food allergy was not significantly associated with rhinitis in adulthood.

The researchers concluded:

Taken together, our findings indicate that childhood food allergy increased the odds of asthma during adulthood by nearly three-fold. Additionally, childhood food allergen sensitization was associated with increased odds of asthma and, to a lesser extent, rhinitis in adulthood. These associations were robust and remained despite adjusting for clinically relevant covariates, including eczema. Our findings also highlight the differential associations between childhood food allergy/food allergen sensitization with asthma and rhinitis, which are often thought to be similar disorders in the “one airway, one disease” paradigm.

Given these findings, we suggest that children with food allergy/food allergen sensitization be followed-up to facilitate early detection and intervention of subsequent allergic airways disease, particularly asthma.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of SnackSafely.com.

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