Food allergy and food sensitization in early childhood: results from the DARC cohort

Allergy. 2009 Jul;64(7):1023-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2009.01952.x. Epub 2009 Feb 12.


Background: The prevalence of food hypersensitivity (FHS) and the relationship with atopic dermatitis (AD) is controversial. The aim of this study was to determine the development of FHS and to correlate this with AD in relation to sensitization and symptoms.

Methods: This study combines new data from birth to 18 months of age with previous published results from 3 and 6 years. The Danish Allergy Research Centre cohort, including 562 children, is a unique, population-based, prospective birth cohort, with clinical examinations at all follow-ups. All children were examined for the development of AD using Hanifin-Rajka criteria and for FHS using interviews, skin prick test (SPT), specific immunoglobulin E (IgE), and food challenge according to EAACI guidelines.

Results: Twenty children were confirmed with FHS to milk, egg, and peanut. FHS peaked at 18 months (3.6%) and then decreased to 1.2% at 72 months of age. No new cases were found after 3 years. Self-reporting could only be confirmed in 31% of cases. Among the 122 children with AD, 18 had FHS (14.8%). FHS was IgE-mediated in 95% of the cases but 16 of 20 children were additionally sensitized to other foods which they tolerated. Children with AD were neither more IgE-sensitized nor had higher levels of IgE when compared with healthy children but they were more persistently sensitized.

Conclusions: Sensitization to foods in young children without food allergy seems to be a normal phenomenon. The discrepancy between sensitization, self-reported food-related symptoms and confirmed FHS illustrates the need to perform standardized oral challenges in order to confirm the diagnosis of FHS.

MeSH terms

  • Allergens / immunology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin Tests


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E