Earlier this year, Northwestern University released the results of a study that showed that children who live in the city are more likely to have food allergies than children in rural areas. In urban centers, 9.8 percent of children have food allergies, compared to 6.2 percent in rural communities. While the study noted that as an almost a 3.5 point difference, another way to look at this data is that city kids are one and half times more likely to have food allergies than those who live in the country.
As I have been traveling to different locations – all in the Northeast – over the past few months for book signings at food allergy walks, I have noticed something interesting as well. Each area I go to seems to have a different cluster of top food allergies.
Keep in mind that my observations are strictly anecdotal, and do not come close to constituting research. Also note that while most of the locations I have been to would be classified suburban, none of them are rural.
In the Philadelphia area, about half of the food allergy families had a child with EE (eosinophilic esophagitis). These families would often describe their food restrictions in two buckets, “My son has EE triggered by wheat, dairy, and eggs, and he’s anaphylactic to peanuts.” Also in the Philly area I talked to a number of parents who had very long lists of food allergies for their child – some parents would even describe the allergies in terms of what their child could eat (because those lists were shorter). But the Philadelphia area is a prominent center for treatment of food allergies and EE, with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia right there, so that could explain what I heard.
In Albany, nearly every family I spoke to was dealing with a tree nut and/or peanut allergy.
In the greater Boston area, nearly half of the families were dealing with fruit and vegetable allergies of varying sorts, with a variety of other coincident food allergies.
In Westchester I heard the most varied list of food allergies – many different combinations of the top eight, a great deal of shellfish, and a lot of wheat/gluten allergies.
On Long Island, I was surprised that the vast majority of families I spoke to were dealing with dairy allergies – and among those, about half also had an egg allergy.
Again, none of this is scientific, but I find it fascinating. What have you noticed? Where you live are there lots of other families with the same food allergies as your family?