A new study has found that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with peanut allergies than girls – and boys from richer households at that.

The study out of Edinburgh University studied the records of nearly three million British patients. They found that young boys are 30% more likely to be diagnosed with a peanut allergy than girls, a figure which is consistent with previous research.

However, the gap in diagnoses between the sexes narrowed as the children grew up. By the age of 15, boys and girls were being diagnosed at almost the same rates. By age 24 the figures were actually reversed, with more women being diagnosed than men.

One of the researchers said other allergies had shown higher rates in boys than girls as well.

“There could be a link to the sex hormones, but we don’t know for sure,” said Colin Simpson. “The fact that at puberty there is a change could point to a link, but we need to do more work.”

The study surprisingly showed that children from higher income homes were more likely to be diagnosed. But this appears to have more to do with better access to health care among the upper and middle classes.

“It’s interesting to see this difference but it does not mean that children from middle-class homes are more likely to have peanut allergies,” said pediatric allergy expert Dr. Adam Fox. “It could be that those from more deprived backgrounds are not as good at getting their children diagnosed as those from the middle classes. We know that there is an inequality of access in health care.”

He added, “Whatever the reason is, it’s an interesting finding and we need to find out why these differences are showing up.”

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