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Hand eczema linked to increased food allergy risk in occupational settings

19 Jan 2018

There appears to be an association between hand eczema and the risk of food allergy among occupational kitchen workers, a study reports.

Researchers conducted a cross-sectional web-based questionnaire survey on kitchen workers whose exposures were categorized as occupational (cooks and food handlers, n=1,592) or nonoccupational (housewives, n=1,915). They tested the association between the presence/severity of hand eczema and the risk of food allergy using logistic regression adjusting for potential confounders.

Results showed hand eczema to be more prevalent in the occupational group than in the nonoccupational group (current hand eczema, 32.3 percent vs 25.9 percent; hand eczema in the last 12 months, 45.2 percent vs 37.3 percent; hand eczema ever, 63.6 percent vs 55.3 percent; p<0.001 for all), with occupational kitchen workers having more severe symptoms.

Likewise, the occupational group had a higher prevalence of current diagnosed food allergy (9.9 percent vs 3.8 percent) and lifetime diagnosis of food allergy (14.0 percent vs 6.7 percent; p<0.001 for both).

Current hand eczema showed a significant association with increased risk of current diagnosed food allergy among occupational kitchen workers (adjusted odds ratio, 2.4; 95 percent CI, 1.6–3.7).

“The more severe the hand eczema was, the more likely the person was to be suffering from food allergy,” researchers noted.

The present data highlight a significant public health problem in the adult population, as well as suggest that controlling occupational hand eczema will be important for the prevention of adult food allergy, researchers said.

“Considering that cooks and food handlers are common occupations among the global adult population, more attention should be paid to the risk of transdermal sensitization to food via hands affected by eczema,” they added.

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