Background: Prevalence and incidence of food hypersensitivity (FHS) and its trends in early childhood are unclear.
Methods: A birth cohort born on the Isle of Wight (UK) between 2001 and 2002 was followed-up prospectively. Children were clinically examined and skin prick tested at set times and invited for food challenges when indicated.
Results: Nine hundred and sixty-nine children were recruited and 92.9%, 88.5% and 91.9% of them respectively were assessed at 1, 2 and 3 years of age. Prevalence of sensitization to foods was 2.2%, 3.8% and 4.5% respectively at these ages. Cumulatively, 5.3% [95% confidence interval (CI): 3.9-7.1] children were sensitized to a food. Using open food challenge and a good clinical history, the cumulative incidence of FHS was 6.0% (58/969, 95% CI: 4.6-7.7). Based on double-blinded, placebo-controlled, food challenge (DBPCFC) and a good clinical history, the cumulative incidence was 5.0% (48/969, 95% CI: 3.7-6.5). There is no evidence to suggest that the incidence of FHS has increased, comparing these results with previous studies. Overall, 33.7% of parents reported a food-related problem and of these, 16.1% were diagnosed with FHS by open challenge and history and 12.9% by DBPCFC and history. Main foods implicated were milk, egg and peanut.
Conclusions: By the age of 3 years, 5-6% of children suffer from FHS based on food challenges and a good clinical history. There were large discrepancies between reported and diagnosed FHS. Comparing our data with a study performed in the USA more than 20 years ago, there were no significant differences in the cumulative incidence of FHS.