About 25 percent of children in Qatar are allergic to milk and the commonest food allergy is linked to cow’s milk, shows a recent study conducted by the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). Children are found to be the least allergic to wheat.
Food allergies are on the rise in the country which experts are now attributing to marriages among close relatives. The study has put the incidence of asthma among children in Qatar at 19.6 percent with close marriages as one the main reasons.
“Based on our findings on asthma and the high rate of other diseases among children, we have concluded that food allergies could be more closely related to consanguineous marriages than we previously thought,” Dr Mohammed Ehlayel, senior consultant, Pediatric Allergist-immunologist at HMC told The Peninsula.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the third Annual Child Health Research Day held by HMC in collaboration with Canada’s Sick Kids Hospital on Tuesday.
Dr Ehlayel’s studies on “the peculiarities of primary immunodeficiency diseases among children of MENA region” and “the risks of food allergies among children in Qatar” were among some 50 researches presented at the forum.
“Unfortunately, when we looked into it, we found out that the commonest food allergy among children in Qatar was linked with cow’s milk,” said Ehlayel.
About 25 percent of children in the country were allergic to milk, followed by pistachio (16 percent), eggs (14.7 percent), cashew (14.5 percent) and peanuts (13.8 percent). Children were found to be least allergic to wheat, according to an analysis of some 340 children (aged 0-14) with food allergies.
It was also found that more than 60 percent of children who were allergic to cow’s milk were also allergic to goat milk. However, 80 percent of them are comfortable with camel milk, which research indicates, has strong nutritious value for children aged 15 months and above, Dr Ehlayel explained.
He also said that the HMC is seeing more and more cases of children in pre-school and kindergarten who are allergic to peanuts, which not only causes severe allergic reaction but could also put a child at the risk of death.
“We have noticed that primary immunodeficiency diseases (PID) are related to close marriages,” said the expert, adding that there is a high prevalence of these diseases in this region compared to the UK and the US.
Present mainly in children, PIS are a heterogeneous group of disorders with defects in the structure or the function of one or more components of the immune system and are characterized by an increased incidence of infections, autoimmunity and malignancies.
Some 140 children in Qatar are being treated for immune deficiencies but cases that require bone-marrow transplant are transferred elsewhere, he said.
To create more awareness about the disease, HMC gives parents medical counselling on diseases which are linked to consanguineous marriages.
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