There are not available data concerning the occurrence, the clinical features and the environmental risk factors for food intolerances and allergies in immigrant children. The aim of the study was to evaluate rates, distribution, clinical features and environmental risk factors for food intolerances and allergies in immigrant children. Hospital records of 4130 patients with celiac disease (CD), cow milk protein intolerance (CMPI) and food allergies (FA) diagnosed in 24 Italian Centres from 1999 to 2001 were retrospectively reviewed, comparing immigrant patients with Italian ones. 78/4130 (1.9%) patients were immigrant: 36/ 1917 (1.9%) had CD, 24/1370 (1.75%) CMPI and 18/843 (2.1%) FA. They were evenly distributed across Italy and their native areas were: East Europe (23/78), Northern Africa (23/78), Southern Asia (14/78), Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa (9/78), Southern America (4/78), Far East (3/7), Middle East (2/78). Despite differences in their origin, the clinical features of immigrant children were similar to the ones of Italian patients and among each ethnic group. The majority of them were born in Italy (57/78) or have been residing in Italy since several years (19/78). All of them had lost dietary habits of the native countries and had acquired those of the Italian childhood population. Food intolerances and allergies are present also in children coming from developing countries, and paediatricians will need to have a full awareness of them because the number of immigrant children in Italy is quickly increasing. The clinical features of food intolerances and allergies appear the same in each ethnic group, despite differences in races. Sharing of dietary habits with the Italian childhood population seems to be an important environmental risk factor.
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