Better-off boys hit by peanut allergies
Childhood peanut allergies mainly affect better-off boys, according to scientists.
A study found that young boys have higher rates of the potentially fatal condition than young girls, and children from well-off homes are more likely to be affected than those from poorer backgrounds.
An explanation may be that affluent families tend to eat more exotic foods, which could trigger an allergy, but more research is needed.
The findings, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, emerged from the health records of more than 400 GP practices in England between 2001 and 2005.
They showed that males younger than 20 were almost a third more vulnerable to peanut allergies than girls.
However, the pattern reverses in adulthood with more women than men being at risk.
Part of the reason may be that, after the age of 15, women are more likely to visit their doctor and therefore have the allergic condition detected.
Another possibility is that biological changes linked to sex hormones around puberty might influence immune system-driven allergic reactions. The highest rates of allergy were found in children between the ages of five and nine.
The research suggests 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.
It is not clear whether fewer people are being affected or whether the change is due to under-recording of cases by GPs.