National allergy programme had little impact on parent-reported food allergies in children aged 6–7 years

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Abstract

Aim

The ten-year Finnish national allergy programme was launched in 2008 to lessen the disease and psychological burden of allergy. This study assessed the prevalence of parent-reported food allergies requiring avoidance diets at primary school in children aged six and seven years.

Methods

The cohort comprised 1937 children (51% boys) who started primary school in Tampere, Finland, in August 2016. School health nurses charted parent-reported, doctor-diagnosed food allergies requiring avoidance diets as part of the routine health examination.

Results

We found that 127 (6.6%) children had parent-reported, doctor-diagnosed allergies to at least one food and 37 (1.9%) were allergic to basic foods, namely cows’ milk, wheat and one other grain. All required an avoidance diet. The figure did not differ significantly from the 2.7% and 2.5% found by studies of this age group in 2009 and 2013, respectively. Allergies to fresh fruit and vegetables decreased from 5.8% in 2009 to 3.6% in 2016.

Conclusion

We studied the national allergy programme that started in 2008 and found that there was a nonsignificant overall decrease in the number of children aged six to seven years on avoidance diets for allergies between 2009 and 2016. The only allergies that showed significant decreases were fresh fruit and vegetables.

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