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What are Some Risk Factors for Food Allergies?

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Updated April 28, 2008

Question: What are Some Risk Factors for Food Allergies?
Answer:

Food allergies do have a genetic component, and some people are more likely than others to develop food allergies. Two major factors are associated with later development of food allergies:

  • Having a parent, sibling, or other close relative with a food allergy.
  • Having another atopic (or allergic) condition. Conditions like eczema, asthma, or respiratory allergies like hayfever are all related to food allergies.

Other factors -- mother's diet during pregnancy, being born to older parents, and diet during infancy -- have seemed to have very mild effects or no effects, which is why groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics have relaxed their previous stances on feeding infants from allergic families and now state that, so long as solid foods are introduced after the age of four months, it's all right for parents to introduce foods like dairy, eggs, and nuts to older infants.

Gender also seems to plays a role in the development of food allergies, but this role changes over time. Males are more likely to be diagnosed with food allergies (and other allergies) as children. But from adolescence on, females are more likely both to be diagnosed with food allergies and to experience anaphylaxis, whether from food allergies or other causes.

Sources:

Adkinson, N. Franklin, et al. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. "Chapter 89: Adverse Reactions to Foods." 6th ed. Philadelphia: Mosby, Inc., 2003.

Björkstén, Bengt. "Genetic and Environmental Risk Factors for the Development of Food Allergy." Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Jun. 2005. 5(3): 249-53.

Jensen-Jarolim, E. and Untersmayr, E. "Gender-Medicine Aspects in Allergology." Allergy. May 2008. 63(5): 610-15. 23 April 2008.

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