Children with food, respiratory, or skin allergies are significantly more likely to have an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than children without allergies, according to a new study that adds to evidence implicating immune dysfunction in autism.
In the study, Guifeng Xu and colleagues reviewed data collected by the U.S. National Health Interview Survey between 1997 and 2016. Their analysis included nearly 200,000 children between 3 years and 17 years of age. Of these, 1,868 had an ASD diagnosis.
The researchers report that children with ASD were more likely to have food allergies (11.25% vs. 4.25%), respiratory allergies (18.73% vs. 12.08%), and skin allergies (16.81% vs. 9.84%) than children without ASD. The likelihood of having ASD more than doubled among children with food allergies compared to those without food allergies. Skin and respiratory allergies were also associated with elevated odds of having an ASD diagnosis, although to a lesser degree.
The researchers note, “The association between food allergy and ASD was consistent and significant in all age, sex, and racial/ ethnic subgroups.” However, boys with ASD were more likely than girls with ASD to have respiratory and skin allergies.