Young boys ‘face twice the risk of peanut allergy’

Monday, February 7, 2011

LONDON - A new study has found that young Brit boys from higher income homes face twice the risk of peanut allergy than those from poorer background.

It also found that boys were more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than girls.

The new findings by Edinburgh University researchers emerged from the 2005 health data of more than 400 GP practices in England, reports the BBC.

They analysed the data on peanut allergies actually diagnosed by a doctor, rather than the actual incidence amongst a population.

The records of a total of nearly three million patients were examined.

Babies and younger boys were up to 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a peanut allergy than girls of the same age, a figure that confirms previous research into peanut allergies.

However, the gap in diagnoses between the sexes narrowed as the children grew up.

By the age of 15, girls and boys were being diagnosed at almost the same rates and by the age of 24 the figures were reversed, with more women being diagnosed than men.

According to researcher Colin Simpson, the reason for the difference was still not clear.

“There could be a link to the sex hormones, but we don’t know for sure. The fact that at puberty there is a change could point to a link, but we need to do more work,” he said.

The results also showed that there were more diagnoses in those from higher income groups.

Patients in the highest income groups were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed as those from the lowest income homes.

There were 0.7 diagnoses per 1,000 patients in the highest socio-economic group, compared with a diagnosis rate of 0.4 per 1,000 in the lowest.

This appears to confirm the common idea that peanut allergy affects those from the middle classes disproportionately.

But paediatric allergy expert Dr Adam Fox from the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London said that this was not necessarily the case.

“It’s interesting to see this difference but it does not mean that children from middle-class homes are more likely to have peanut allergies,” he said.

“It could be that those from more deprived backgrounds are not as good at getting their children diagnosed as those from the middle classes. We know that there is an inequality of access in health care,” he added.

The overall numbers of people with a peanut allergy appeared much lower in this study, than in previous work measuring the amount of peanut allergies in the UK.

Previous studies have a reported prevalence rates as high as 18 per 1000 among children of primary school age. This study showed much lower prevalence rates - of just 2 per 1000.

The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. (ANI)

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