Food Allergies — City Kids More Likely to Have Them

A little over a year ago, I wrote about food allergies for a few days. It is clear now, as it was then, there are more people allergic to certain foods than ever before. The reasons behind this are still unclear, but a recent study sheds some light on the “why.” I am going to summarize the study in a moment, but first, let me tell you what a terrible mother I am.
My son, Shane, had a strange reaction a while back (see the picture, I swear I didn’t hit him) while we were at a Cardiologist’s office. Diagnosis: His heart is fine, but what is with that face? Lots of Benadryl later, he recovered. The allergist did some scratch tests, and he was slightly positive for a peanut allergy. Disaster! How am I going to keep peanut butter and Snickers out of my house?
So, I sort of refused to believe it. After all, there were no peanuts at the Cardiologist’s office, and none of my other kids have allergies. A few weeks ago, sick of having to eat my Uncrustables in the closet, I conducted my own, very high-tech, scientific test. I gave him peanut butter. I may as well have given him arsenic.  He immediately turned red, started crying hysterically and gagging uncontrollably. I almost called CPS on myself.
I’ve resigned myself. I’m the mom of a kid at the peanut allergy table. But, I still would like to understand why. This study is a good first step toward an explanation.

– Lead Author: Ruchi Gupta, M.D., Northwestern University

1. First study to map kids’ food allergies by geography.

2. Looked at about 38,000 kids, 18 and younger and mapped food allergies by zip code. Children on the east and west coasts and in the south are most susceptible. The national prevalence is 8% and in NYC it is 9.2%.

3. In urban areas, 9.8 percent of children have food allergies, compared to 6.2 percent in rural areas. Kids in urban areas are twice as likely to have peanut allergies and almost three times as likely to have an allergy to shellfish.

4. There is no difference in severity of allergies based on where a child lives. Nearly 40% of kids with food allergies had already experienced a severe, life-threatening reaction to food.

5. The states with the highest overall prevalence of food allergies are Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, New Jersey (Jerseeee), Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. The numbers in these states range from about 9-13%.

There is no denying food allergies are a huge problem and quite frankly, a little annoying. I hate having to write down all of the ingredients for a school snack. This research is interesting because now, scientists are wondering, is there a bacteria found in rural areas that, when encountered early in life results in protection against food allergies? Conversely, is there, perhaps, a pollutant in urban areas that predisposes children to allergies? While this study doesn’t offer answers, it does provide hope that more knowledge will lead to a cure. How nice would it be not to have to check every label and carry around an epipen? Fingers crossed.

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