African American Children More Prone To Allergies

By Sean Kane email: , Feb 25, 2013 10:01 AM EST

A new study finds that race plays a role in a child's risk of developing allergies.

The research was conducted at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting on Saturday, Feb. 23 in San Antonio, Texas. The research finds that African American children are at much higher risks of developing allergies than Caucasian children.

"Our findings suggest that African Americans may have a gene making them more susceptible to food allergen sensitization or the sensitization is just more prevalent in African American children than white children at age two," Haejim Kim, M.D., leader author and an allergist at Henry Ford told Science Daily. "More research is needed to further look at the development of allergy."

African-American children were found to be sensitized to at least one food allergen three times as often as white children. Of those studied, 20.1 percent of African Americans were sensitized to a food allergen. Only 6.4 percent of Caucasian children were found sensitized. The difference was less pronounced for environmental allergies, with a rate of 13.9 percent for African American children and 11 percent for Caucasian children.

Sensitization is not the same as an allergic reaction. Instead, it is when a person's immune system produces an antibody specific to an allergen, and does not always mean the person suffers allergy symptoms.

The study also finds that African-American children with at least one parent with an environmental allergy are sensitized to that allergen twice as often as African-American children without an allergic parent.

A previous 2009-2010 AAAI study found that eight percent of children possess a food allergy, and 30 percent of these children have multiple allergies to food. The most common food allergen is peanuts, followed by milk and shellfish. The study involved 543 two-year-old children skin-tested for three food allergens (milk, peanuts and milk) and seven environmental allergens. Race was self-reported by the children's parents.

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