Background: An increasing number of studies in children is highlighting the importance of transdermal routes of exposure to food allergens through damaged skin in the pathogenesis of food allergies. However, data on this in adults are limited. A few case-series studies has documented development of food allergy among kitchen workers with hand eczema after direct contact exposure to foods.
Methods: To explore the significance of hand eczema as a risk factor for food allergies in adults at the epidemiological level, we performed a cross-sectional web-based questionnaire survey on kitchen workers whose exposures were classed as occupational (cooks and food handlers, n = 1592) or non-occupational (housewives, n = 1915). Logistic regression was used to explore the association between the presence/severity of hand eczema and the risk of food allergy after adjustment for potential confounders.
Results: Current hand eczema and current diagnosed food allergy were more common among occupational kitchen workers (OKW) than among non-occupational kitchen workers (NOKW) (32.3%-vs-29.9% and 9.9%-vs-3.8%, respectively). Current hand eczema was significantly associated with increased risk of current diagnosed food allergy in OKW (adjusted odds ratio 2.4, 95% CI 1.6-3.7). Those with more severe hand eczema were more likely to suffer from allergic symptoms for foods, and diagnosed food allergy.
Conclusions: This study illustrates a significant public health problem in the adult population, documenting a major impact of hand eczema on the ongoing adult food allergy epidemic.
Keywords: Food allergy; Hand eczema; Kitchen worker; Occupational allergy; Sensitization.
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