BACKGROUND: Little is known about the cause of food-induced anaphylaxis in children or about the factors that might affect its clinical severity.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate the cause of food-induced anaphylaxis in children in Italy and to identify factors that could influence the appearance of symptoms and the severity of anaphylaxis.
METHODS: One hundred and sixty-three children with anaphylaxis consecutively attending 29 outpatient allergy clinics throughout Italy were enrolled in this prospective study. Information about past anaphylaxis episodes was collected with a standardized questionnaire. Food sensitization was evaluated by skin-prick test.
RESULTS: A clinical history of asthma increased the risk of wheezing [odds ratio (OR) 2.2; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1-4.5] and respiratory arrest (OR 6.9; 95% CI 1.4-34.2). A clinical history of chronic/relapsing gastrointestinal symptoms increased the risk of vomiting (OR 2.1; 95% CI 0.9-4.3), hypotension (OR 7.9; 95% CI 1.9-32.0), and bradycardia/cardiac arrest (OR 9.2; 95% CI 0.9-91.3). The severity of present and previous episodes was similar only in patients with mild or moderate anaphylaxis. Peanut and egg were the most frequent causes of severe anaphylaxis.
CONCLUSIONS: A clinical history of asthma and chronic/relapsing gastrointestinal symptoms (probably linked to food allergy) may predict the development of respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms and the severity of anaphylaxis.