Food allergy (FA) is a common public health problem that affects both children and adults. Empirical knowledge of the burden of FA in Kuwait is limited. This study sought to estimate the prevalence of FA among schoolchildren in Kuwait and assess associations between FA and the coexistence and severity of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema.
Schoolchildren aged 11–14 years (n = 3,864) were enrolled in a cross-sectional study. Parents completed questionnaires regarding their children’s early life exposures and clinical history of FA and allergic diseases. Study-defined FA was ascertained by a convincing clinical history. Associations were assessed using Poisson regression with robust variance estimation, and adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were estimated.
The 12-month prevalence of study-defined FA was estimated to be 4.1% (154/3,738), with more girls being affected than boys (aPR = 1.44, 95% CI: 1.04–1.99). Egg (2.7%), fish (1.6%), shellfish (1.3%), peanut (1.3%), and tree nut (1.2%) were the most reported offending food allergens. Underweight and adiposity, cesarean section delivery, exposure to household dogs during infancy, and parental history of doctor-diagnosed FA were associated with an increased prevalence of study-defined FA. However, later birth order was associated with a reduced prevalence of study-defined FA. The prevalence of eczema only was higher in children with study-defined FA than in those without study-defined FA (aPR = 3.49, 95% CI: 2.37–5.14). In contrast, this association was not pronounced for children who had asthma only (aPR = 1.56, 95% CI: 0.94–2.57) or rhinitis only (aPR = 1.40, 95% CI: 0.86–2.28). Study-defined FA was associated with a 9.20-fold (95% CI: 4.50–18.78) higher prevalence of coexisting asthma, rhinitis, and eczema. Moreover, study-defined FA was associated with increased severity of symptoms of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema.
FA affects a considerable proportion of schoolchildren in Kuwait, and the most reported offending food allergens are similar to those reported in Western countries. Study-defined FA was associated with the coexistence and increased severity of asthma, rhinitis, and eczema, indicating that FA may link the comanifestations of allergic diseases and contribute to their chronicity and severity.