City kids more likely to have food allergies

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PHOENIX -- Millions of kids battle food allergies. Now, new research is suggesting where you live may play a big role.

Gummies, popcorn and chocolate chips are just a few safe items that Zach Buck can eat. The Valley 5-year-old has a digestive disorder that causes him to have severe food allergies. 

“If I eat something I'm not supposed to have, I use this [epi pen] and put it on my leg,” Zach said.

“He is very well educated and he will tell you what he has, what it means,” said Zach’s mom, Tracy.

It was a diagnosis that didn't happen until he was 2 years old.

“It was a big relief, but at the same time it was like how because there is no family history,” Tracy said.

But food allergies among young people are rising. According to a new study, kids living in urban areas have a greater chance of developing an allergic reaction to food than kids in rural communities. They even more than doubled their chances of having peanut and shellfish allergies.

“Those are two of the most common types of food allergies that children can have,” Dr. Miriam Anand said.

Anand is with Allergy Associates and Lab. The study found environment has an impact on developing food allergies, but the triggers are still unknown.

“I can tell you we have something called hygiene hypothesis with respect to asthma and other allergies and it wouldn't surprise me if this is somehow related,” Anand said. “The hygiene hypothesis was based on the fact that kids who grew up on farms tend to have fewer allergies and are less likely to have asthma than kids who don't.”

While more studies are needed, education is key to keeping your little ones safe.

“You have to educate them because they’re not always going to be beside you,” Tracy said.

Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine looked at more than 38,000 kids around the country. The study will be published next month in the issue of Clinical Pediatrics.