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Key words: Food allergies, Intolerance, Cumulative incidence, Children
The data presented in this article were obtained as part of a larger study on vaccination coverage and child health behaviours known as ICONA 2003. All regions and autonomous provinces of Italy participated in the study. The study population was recruited by cluster sampling and consisted of 12-24 months old children who were resident in their respective regions. Information were obtained through a standardized questionnaire administered to the mothers or caretakers of the selected children in early 2003. Interviews were conducted in the child’s home by staff of the local health authorities. The families of 4,602 children were interviewed. Overall 7.4% of the interviewed families reported that their children had suffered from food allergies or intolerance, with regional prevalences ranging from 4.8% in Puglia and Marches to 15.4% in Lazio region. A total of 5.2% children were reported to be allergic or intolerant to cow milk and its derivatives, while 2.0% were allergic to egg products. Among those who had milk allergies or intolerance, the most common substitutive milk was soy milk (34%) followed by hypoallergenic milk containing hydrolysed protein (21%). Although these data are based on reports by mothers and caretakers, they provide the first national estimate of food intolerance in early childhood. The prevalences we observed are similar to those found in other international studies of children in this same age group. The wide geographic variability seems to be due to different diagnostic approaches and criteria rather than to a true difference in the prevalence of these problems. The diagnosis of these conditions should be based on more objective criteria.
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