RATIONALE: Environmental exposures play a role in the development of allergic disease and oral route of exposure generally induces tolerance. Children with oral habits such as thumb-sucking, chewing on objects or nail-biting introduce antigens into the gastrointestinal tract orally. Previous studies have shown that some of these behaviors are associated with less atopic sensitization, however, the relationship between oral habits and food allergy has not been examined. We hypothesize that children with oral habits would have lower risk of food allergy and atopic disease in general.
METHODS: Patients at a university-based pediatric allergy clinic with a history of eczema that were 10 years old or younger were eligible for the study. Parents filled out a questionnaire during the clinic visit. The questionnaire included information about the parents’ and children’s oral habits, environmental exposures, and allergic disease history.
RESULTS: So far 84 questionnaires have been collected and analyzed. Children who had a habit of chewing on objects had significantly lower rates of asthma (p=0.002) and seasonal allergies (p=0.025). There was no significant difference in the rate of food allergy between groups with and without oral habits.
CONCLUSIONS: The habit of chewing on objects as a child is associated with a lower risk of asthma and seasonal allergies. Data collection continues to increase our sample size.