The prevalence of parent-perceived food hypersensitivity in pre-school children attending a tertiary care hospital in Malaysia
Faizah MJ1, Intan H Ismail2, E A Miles3
1Department of Paediatrics, Hospital Serdang, Jalan Puchong, Kajang 43000 Malaysia
2Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia, 43400 Serdang, Malaysia
3Human Development and Health Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, SO166YD United Kingdom
Background: The prevalence of food allergy has increased world-wide. In Malaysia, food allergy prevalence has never been studied. Prevalence data is important to assess the burden of food allergy in order to establish the requirement of allergy services.
Objectives: We aimed to determine the prevalence of parent-perceived food hypersensitivities in Malaysian paediatric population and evaluate the spectrum of clinical manifestations and allergens involved.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional parent-questionnaire survey among preschool children attended the outpatient general paediatric clinic. We evaluated the associated factors for hypersensitivity reactions to food.
Results: A total of 333 children were included in the study. Eighty (24.0%) parents reported that their children have ever had hypersensitivity reactions to food. The major food allergens were shellfish (45%), egg (36.2%), cow's milk and dairy products (28.8%) and peanut (27.5%). Reactions to multiple foods were reported in 57.7% children. The most commonly reported symptoms were hives and itchiness (46.3%), eczematous skin rash (45%) and chest tightness and wheeze (31.3%). Significant factors associated with parent-reported food hypersensitivity were history of eczema (OR, 7.3: 95% CI 3.15-17.08), and allergic conjunctivitis (OR, 6.2: 95% CI 1.82- 20.57) in the children and siblings with food allergy (OR, 3.72: 95% CI 1.22-11.37).
Conclusion: Parent perception of food hypersensitivity reactions is common in pre-school children. Further studies with a larger sample size and longer duration are required to determine the prevalence of food allergy in Malaysia.