Kids raised in U.S. cities are surrounded by some of the most delicious, diverse cuisine out there. But a new study shows that these children may not have the luxury of trying all the food options available to them, due to high rates of food allergies.
The study, available in the July issue of Clinical Pediatrics, surveyed the health of over 38,000 children across the country and mapped their specific allergies based on zipcode. The result? Kids who live in cities are far more likely to have food allergies: 9.8 percent of urban children are affected, whereas only 6.2 percent of rural children had the same issues.
It isn't just the allergy rates that are different: specific allergies vary too. Urban children are more than twice as likely to be allergic to both shellfish (2.4 percent versus .8 percent) and peanuts (2.8 percent versus 1.3 percent). For other trouble products, such as soy and and milk, the differences were more even across the board.
Researchers also found that allergy rates increased from north to south and in the middle of the country. The states that had the highest rates of allergies were Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Alaska, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. While the frequency of allergies changes significantly based on location, one thing remains the same: the severity of the allergy, with nearly 40% of allergic children reporting at least one life-threatening allergic reaction to a specific food.
“We have found for the first time that higher population density corresponds with a greater likelihood of food allergies in children,” lead author Dr. Ruchi Gupta stated in a press release. "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?"
Food allergies in children have increased 18 percent over the past decade. According to Gupta's research, 5.9 million children (roughly 1 out of every 13) have a life-threatening allergy, with food-allergic reactions send one American to the emergency room every three minutes.
To learn more about diagnosing a food allergy, visit the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.