Background: Asthma continues to be an increasing cause of morbidity in the pediatric population, and studies have shown an association between food sensitivity and asthma.
Objective: We investigated the degree of food allergen sensitization in inner-city patients with asthma.
Methods: Five hundred four random serum samples from the National Cooperative Inner City Asthma Study were evaluated for specific IgE (UniCap) to 6 common food allergens (egg, milk, soy, peanut, wheat, and fish). Statistical analyses were performed to determine food sensitization prevalence and its association with asthma morbidity.
Results: Forty-five percent of patients had evidence of sensitization (food-specific IgE > or = 0.35 kU/L) to at least 1 food. Nineteen percent had IgE levels at > or = 50% positive predictive value for clinical reactivity to at least 1 food, with 4% of patients having levels > 95% positive predictive value for food allergy. Children sensitized to foods had higher rates of asthma hospitalization (P < .01) and required more steroid medications (P = .025). Sensitization to foods also correlated with sensitization to more indoor and outdoor aeroallergens (P < .001).
Conclusion: Food allergen sensitization is highly prevalent in the inner-city population with asthma, and it is associated with increased asthma healthcare and medication use. Therefore, food allergen sensitivity may be a marker for increased asthma severity.