Babies and children * Young people * Healthy living * Allergies and hay fever

Children of wealthier families at higher risk of nut allergy

Boys at higher risk of nut allergy Allergy more common in young boys

Young boys are more likely to suffer from a peanut allergy than young girls, a study has shown.

The study also found that the highest rates of peanut allergy occurred in children from better-off families.

Peanut allergies commonly cause breathing problems. At their most serious, they can lead to a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock.

Researchers from Edinburgh University analysed the health records from more than 400 GP practices in England between 2001 and 2005 to find out the number of patients diagnosed with an allergy. Nearly three million individual patient records were analysed.

The results showed that boys under the age of 20 are almost a third more likely to suffer from a peanut allergy than girls of the same age.

And those from more well-off families were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed than those who are least well-off, suggesting that the middle classes are hardest hit.

However, it could also mean they are just more likely to visit a doctor.

The study findings also showed that by adulthood, peanut allergy rates are slightly higher in women than in men.

Part of the reason for the reversal may be that after the age of 15, women are more likely to visit their doctor than men and so are more likely to have an allergy diagnosed.

Alternatively, the difference in allergy rates could be caused by biological changes linked to sex hormones which occur around the time of puberty.

According to the findings, more than 25,000 people in England have been diagnosed with a peanut allergy at some point in their lives, a lower figure than previous estimates.

Children between the ages of five and nine years old had the highest rates of peanut allergy.

Dr Daniel Kotz, at the University of Edinburgh, who led the research, said: "Having a serious allergy like this can cause great anxiety and stress to those affected. We now need more research to help explain why the condition occurs relatively more often in boys and affluent people.”

The findings are published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

This article was published on Mon 7 February 2011

Image © Aurélien Pottier -

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