To cite this article: Pyrhönen K, Hiltunen L, Näyhä S, Läärä E, Kaila M. Real-life epidemiology of food allergy testing in Finnish children. Pediatric Allergy Immunology 2011; 22: 361–368.
Background: The cumulative incidence of parental-reported symptoms of food allergy (FA) during the first years of life is estimated to exceed 30%. However, the occurrence and determinants of FA testing in a general child population have remained unknown.
Methods: The study population comprised all 5920 children aged 0–4 yr in the province of South Karelia, Finland, identified from the nationwide population register. The study included a questionnaire survey and a retrospective collection of FA test results (skin prick tests, IgE antibodies, or open food challenges) from the patient records of the entire study population. The questionnaire and patient record data were linked together on an individual basis with the parents’ permission.
Results: A total of 5849 FA tests had been performed on 961 children. By the age of 4 yr, the cumulative incidence of FA testing was 18% for any food item; 17% for essential items (milk, egg, cereals) and 9% for other food items. Essential food items had been tested in 90% of children who reportedly had a physician-diagnosed FA for these. The incidence of testing was 30% higher in boys than in girls and twofold higher among the offspring whose either or both parents reportedly had some allergic manifestation.
Conclusions: A large proportion of children are subjected to FA testing in their early years. This result shows the need to evaluate the financial burden of FA testing and to improve current testing practices.