The prevalence of food allergy and other allergic diseases in early childhood in a population-based study: HealthNuts age 4-year follow-up

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The HealthNuts study previously reported interim prevalence data showing the highest prevalence of challenge-confirmed food allergy in infants internationally. However, population-derived prevalence data on challenge-confirmed food allergy and other allergic diseases in preschool-aged children remain sparse.


This study aimed to report the updated prevalence of food allergy at age 1 year from the whole cohort, and to report the prevalence of food allergy, asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis at age 4 years.


HealthNuts is a population-based cohort study with baseline recruitment of 5276 one-year-old children who underwent skin prick test (SPT) to 4 food allergens and those with detectable SPT results had formal food challenges. At age 4 years, parents completed a questionnaire (81.3% completed) and those who previously attended the HealthNuts clinic at age 1 year or reported symptoms of a new food allergy were invited for an assessment that included SPT and oral food challenges. Data on asthma, eczema, and allergic rhinitis were captured by validated International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood questionnaires.


The prevalence of challenge-confirmed food allergy at age 1 and 4 years was 11.0% and 3.8%, respectively. At age 4 years, peanut allergy prevalence was 1.9% (95% CI, 1.6% to 2.3%), egg allergy was 1.2% (95% CI, 0.9% to 1.6%), and sesame allergy was 0.4% (95% CI, 0.3% to 0.6%). Late-onset peanut allergy at age 4 years was rare (0.2%). The prevalence of current asthma was 10.8% (95% CI, 9.7% to 12.1%), current eczema was 16.0% (95% CI, 14.7% to 17.4%), and current allergic rhinitis was 8.3% (95% CI, 7.2% to 9.4%). Forty percent to 50% of this population-based cohort experienced symptoms of an allergic disease in the first 4 years of their life.


Although the prevalence of food allergy decreased between age 1 year and age 4 years in this population-based cohort, the prevalence of any allergic disease among 4-year-old children in Melbourne, Australia, is remarkably high.

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