(HealthDay News) – The prevalence of childhood food allergy is associated with urban/rural status, even after adjusting for confounding variables.

To estimate the prevalence and severity of food allergy by geographic location, Ruchi S. Gupta, MD, MPH, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and associates analyzed data from a randomized survey of 38,465 children younger than age 18, administered from June 2009–February 2010.

The researchers found that increasing population density corresponded with higher food allergy prevalence rates, with 9.8% of children affected in urban centers and 6.2% affected in rural areas. Graded odds were noted for food allergy, with the highest likelihood for urban versus rural areas (odds ratio, 1.7) followed by metropolitan versus rural areas (odds ratio, 1.4). The association remained significant even after adjusting for confounding variables, including race/ethnicity, gender, age, household income, and latitude.

“An association between urban/rural status and prevalence of food allergy was observed,” the authors write. “Understanding the influence of geography on the pathogenesis of food allergy holds promise for the treatment and management of disease and warrants further investigation.”

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