When the appendix is inflamed, it might need to be surgically removed. Children with food allergies are at a three times lower risk of developing complicated appendicitis, according to a new study. Photo by torwaiphoto/shutterstock
Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Researchers have discovered that children with food allergies are at a three times lower risk of developing complicated appendicitis.
These findings, which were published Monday in the Journal of American Medical Association Pediatricts by scientists at Lund University and Skåne University Hospital in Sweden, could lead to better diagnostic tools.
"In a study of all the children who underwent surgery for appendicitis in Lund, Sweden, over the span of a decade, we found that the most common form of allergy, such as allergy to pollen and animal fur, was associated with a three times lower risk of developing complicated appendicitis," Martin Salo, a researcher at Lund University and physician at Skane University Hospital, said in a press release.
He said the results were adjusted for factors known to increase the risk of serious appendicitis, such as lower age and long-lasting symptoms.
Studied were IgE-mediated food allergies, which cause the child's immune system to react abnormally when exposed to specific foods such as milk, egg, wheat or nuts.
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, which projects from the colon on the lower right side of the abdomen.
Most often, appendicitis, which causes pain in the lower right abdomen, occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30, according to the Mayo Clinic. A rupture spreads infection throughout the abdomen. The organ, which doesn't have a specific purpose, is then usually surgically removed.
Researchers in Sweden note that previous studies have found that a third of children have a more complicated form of appendicitis, which requires a longer hospital stay and sometimes several surgeries.
Scientists for years have theorized that because the immunological response is different for children with allergies, contracting complicated appendicitis was lower.
"The outcome of the study supports the theory that complicated appendicitis has a different immunological development compared to uncomplicated appendicitis," Salo said. "The results also provide clues that we hope can lead to the development of new diagnostic aids such as blood tests."
Studied were 605 children under the age of 15 at Skane University Hospital in Lund between 2007 and 2017.
The researchers compared the outcomes for 102 children with IgE-mediated allergy to 503 without this allergy. Among the children with the allergies, 19.6 percent contracted more complicated appendicitis. But among children with no IgE-mediated allergy, 46.9 percent were affected.
"Our results suggest that allergic immune responses modulate the severity of appendicitis, yet we can only speculate about the causal mechanisms," the researchers wrote in the study. "Our findings do not support the theory that seasonal antigenic exposure or allergy treatment influences the association of allergy with complicated appendicitis."