Kids’ Asthma Could Actually Be Food Allergies, Study Hints

A new study suggests that kids with “stubborn” asthma or skin allergies may actually be experiencing food allergies or sensitivities.

Some of the children displayed symptoms including hives, “an itchy rash,” difficulty breathing and nausea, vomiting or diarrhea after consuming certain foods, and were tested. Researchers discovered that in the 228 children seen at the inner-city New York allergy clinic, 28% had an allergy to at least one food. In American children, the general rate of kids with food allergies is only 4%.

What’s more, 71% of the kids were “sensitized” -meaning they tested positive for detectable antibodies- to at least one food. Although researchers advise examining the possibility of allergies masquerading as asthma- with milk, nuts and eggs being the most common triggers- they are unsure what causes them for certain:

One theory blames changes in children’s diets. Another theory, known as the “hygiene hypothesis,” holds that today’s clean living — creating less exposure to germs — may actually make some people’s immune system more prone to attacking normally harmless substances, like food proteins and pollen.

Regardless of what’s behind the trend, the research team says that when inner city children have skin rashes or asthma that can’t be controlled with standard medicines, doctors should consider the possibility of food allergy – even if the kids don’t show any of the usual reactions to food.

The study was published in last month’s Journal of Allergy Clinical Immunology.