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Cate Swannell
Med J Aust 2017; 207 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/mja.17.n2108
Published online: 21 August 2017

Approximately one in 20 Australian adolescents aged 10 to 14 years has a food allergy, according to research from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI), published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The results of the study, one of the few population-based studies in the world to examine the frequency of food allergy in early adolescence using the gold standard of oral food challenge, indicated that the prevalence of food allergy is around 5% during early adolescence. The School Nuts Study was undertaken by the Australian Centre of Food and Allergy Research, based at the MCRI. Schools were randomly selected from greater metropolitan Melbourne, and students aged 10–14 years, and their parents, were asked to complete a questionnaire about the adolescent’s food allergy or food-related reactions. Of 20 965 eligible students, 9816 students (46.8%) provided parent and student questionnaires, 5016 had a complete parent response and underwent clinic evaluation, and 4800 students completed questionnaires only. Clinic evaluation consisted of skin prick tests and food challenge if eligible. The skin test covered 15 food allergens – egg white, cow’s milk, soy, peanut, cashew, almond, hazelnut, walnut, pistachio, macadamia, pecan, Brazil nut, pine nut, sesame and shellfish. A food challenge was undertaken if students were suspected of having a current food allergy on the basis of their response to the questionnaire, and further information was collected by phone and from skin prick test results. Peanut and tree nut were the most common allergies, with each affecting 2–3% of adolescents. Cashews (1.6%) accounted for the highest prevalence of the tree nut allergy, and egg (0.5%) had the highest reaction rate among the other (non-nut) foods. The authors acknowledged the likelihood of some participation selection bias which may have slightly affected the results.



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