Background: Food allergy (FA) is an important health problem. However, epidemiological studies at the population level are scarce. We assessed the prevalence of FA and its associations with respiratory manifestations among schoolchildren.
Methods: A total of 6672 schoolchildren aged 9–11 years recruited from 108 randomly chosen schools in six French cities underwent a clinical examination including skin prick test (SPT) to common food and aeroallergens and the standardized protocol of the run test to assess exercise-induced bronchial hyper-responsiveness (EIB). Asthma, allergic rhinitis (AR) and clinical symptoms of FA were determined using a standardized questionnaire completed by parents.
Results: About 2.1% of the children reported symptoms of FA, 1.9% were sensitized to food allergens, and 0.1% had SP-tested FA. The AR was more prevalent than asthma (20.0% lifetime, 11.9% past year vs 9.8%, 8.7% respectively). Reported FA, food sensitization and SP-tested FA were all positively associated with asthma and AR (P < 0.001). These associations persisted also for FA not manifesting as respiratory symptoms (P < 0.001). Asthma and AR remained significantly associated with reported symptoms of FA and allergic sensitization to food allergens after adjustment for confounders as well as for sensitization to aeroallergens. No relationship existed between EIB (9.0%) and FA.
Conclusion: The relationships between FA and asthma and AR could be totally explained neither by the existence of respiratory manifestations of FA nor by sensitization to aeroallergens. The FA might intervene differently in asthma and AR.