Parent-reported adverse food reactions in Hong Kong Chinese pre-schoolers: epidemiology, clinical spectrum and risk factors

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The epidemiology of adverse food reactions (AFRs), including the potentially life-threatening food allergy (FA), in Asia is unclear. AFR is believed to be less prevalent than in Caucasians. This study determines the prevalence, clinical features and risk factors for parent-reported AFR in Chinese pre-school children in Hong Kong. Children aged 2-7 yr living in Hong Kong were recruited through local nurseries and kindergartens to ascertain the occurrence and clinical spectrum of AFR and other atopic disorders. Subjects' parents answered a self-administered questionnaire that was modified and validated based on the International Study of Asthma and Allergy in Childhood. A total of 3827 children from 21 nurseries and kindergartens returned the study questionnaires, and information on AFR was analyzable for 3677 (96.1%) children. The prevalence rates of parent-reported AFR and parent-reported, doctor-diagnosed AFR were 8.1% and 4.6%, respectively, whereas 5.0% of pre-schoolers had doctor-diagnosed asthma. The six leading causes of AFR were shellfish (15.8%), egg (9.1%), peanut (8.1%), beef (6.4%), cow's milk (5.7%), and tree nuts (5.0%). When compared with children born and raised in Hong Kong, children born in mainland China (n = 253) had less parent-reported AFR (4.0% vs. 6.7%; p = 0.016). On logistic regression, parent-reported AFR was associated with younger age (p = 0.010), born in mainland China (p = 0.038), and AFR history in father (p = 0.001), mother (p < 0.001), siblings (p = 0.020), and paternal history of rhinitis (p = 0.044). This study shows that AFR is a common atopic disorder in Hong Kong pre-school children, and prevalence rates are comparable to the Caucasians.

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