23 November 2016

Food allergies among kids vary by race

A study of 817 children who were diagnosed with food allergies shows that race and ethnicity are important factors in how people are affected by food allergies.


Black and Hispanic children are much more likely to have corn, shellfish and fish allergies than white children, according to a US study.

Racial minority groups

The study also found that compared to whites, black children have much higher rates of asthma, eczema and allergies to wheat and soy.

The results, from the study of 817 children who were diagnosed with food allergies from birth to age 18, show that race and ethnicity are important factors in how people are affected by food allergies, according to the researchers.

Read: Peanut allergies rising

"Food allergy is a prevalent condition in the US, but little is known about its characteristics and severity in racial minority groups," said study lead author Dr Mahboobeh Mahdavinia, an allergy and immunology expert at Rush University in Chicago.

"Our goal was to characterise the food allergy-related outcomes in these children and to identify any disparities in health care usage among African-American, Latino and white children with food allergy," she said in a university news release.

Food allergies affect eight percent of children in the United States, at an estimated annual cost of $24.8 billion.

Further research needed

Peanut was the most common food allergen among all three racial groups. The only food allergy more common among white children than black and Hispanic children was to tree nuts, which include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews and pecans. Tree nut allergies are distinct from peanut allergy.

"A major concern is that African-American and Hispanic children had significantly higher rates of food-induced anaphylaxis [severe allergic reaction] than white children. Furthermore, African-American and Hispanic children also had higher odds of emergency room visits for food allergy-related reactions compared to white children," Mahdavinia said.

Read: Food allergy a rising global health problem

"We need to conduct further research to identify food allergy and food sensitivities among all races and ethnicities so we can develop culturally sensitive and effective educational programmes to improve food allergy outcomes for all children," she added.

The study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Read more:

Food allergies affect 1 in 12 kids

Allergic to certain foods?

Food allergy all in the mind?


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Allergy expert

Dr Morris is the Principal Allergist at the Cape Town and Johannesburg Allergy Clinics with postgraduate diplomas in Allergology, Dermatology, Paediatrics and Family Medicine dealing with both adult and childhood allergies.

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