The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released new figures indicating boys have a higher risk of developing an allergy to peanuts as compared to girls. But experts were unable to provide any concrete explanation peanut allergies have increased and why there is a higher rate in boys.
The data showed about 71,000 boys between ages 2 and 18, as compared to only 39,000 girls, were allergic or had intolerance to peanuts.
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit Director Robert Loblay told the Sydney Morning Herald the difference between the gender statistics remains a "mystery."
''Twenty years ago, we hardly ever saw a child with a peanut allergy, maybe one every year. Now, we see 900 to 1000 kids each year," Loblay added.
One possible explanation for the higher rate of allergies in boys may be attributed to genetics.
"It can't be explained by exposure to peanuts or boys being more likely to eat them," Australian Medical Association Vice-president and Consultant Immunologist Brad Frankum said.
"It has to be something to do with genetic susceptibility. True food allergies in children is a genetic-based problem."
As an additional challenge to addressing the issue, the health system is ill-equipped for the rapidly increasing number of cases.
"It's a problem that the health system is only just starting to grapple with," Prof. Frankum said.
"We have a serious lack of specialist allergists and our public hospitals can't cope with the mass of kids that need testing. Waiting lists are getting longer, which means kids are avoiding foods unnecessarily for years because of a lack of resources."
Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia National President Maria Said explained there are some theories but "we really just don't understand why."
Said cited all the allergies like peanut allergies are the most fatal and there is an increasing concern as children age and enter their high-risk teenage years.
As the number of individuals with food allergies increase, "Experts are calling for a national allergy register to track fatalities and severe reactions," the News.Com.Au reported.
More attention needs to be given and an institutionalized register is necessary to capture the actual food allergy situation. For more information regarding food allergies, refer to the Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia Web site.