Peanut allergies more common in children from higher-income families

11/13/2012

Children from high-income families are more likely to have peanut allergies, according to a new U.S. study.

Researchers say the findings support the hygiene hypothesis about the origins of allergies: an over-clean environment suppresses a child’s immune system development, boosting their chances of developing allergies.

The study, part of a presentation at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual meeting, saw researchers mine U.S. health data from 2005 to 2006, looking at socio-economic status and peanut sensitivities.

When they looked closely at children aged one to nine, those from families with high incomes had a greater sensitivity to peanuts.

But according to some experts, it’s a leap to link these numbers to the hygiene hypothesis.

“Just because someone is in a higher socio-economic status doesn’t mean they live more cleanly,” Dr. Susan Waserman, allergist and clinical immunologist at McMaster University, told the Toronto Star. She added that it is “offensive” to suggest people with lower incomes do not live in clean homes.

Waserman said the reason for this phenomenon might actually be much simpler: people with higher incomes can afford allergists and better medical care. They may read more about allergies and may be more inclined to have their kids tested.

Some 2.5 million Canadians suffer from at least one food allergy, according to Anaphylaxis Canada. Peanut allergies affect about 2 in 100 kids.

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