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Race Plays Role in Kids' Food Allergies: Study

MONDAY, Feb. 1, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Black American children have higher rates of shellfish and fish allergies than white children, a new study finds.

The research confirms the important role that race plays in children's food allergies, the study authors said.

"Food allergy is a common condition in the U.S., and we know from our previous research that there are important differences between African American and white children with food allergy, but there is so much we need to know to be able to help our patients from minority groups," said study co-author Dr. Mahboobeh Mahdavinia. She is chief of allergy and immunology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

"In this current paper, our goal was to understand whether children from different races are allergic to similar foods, or if there is a difference based on their racial background," Mahdavinia said in a medical center news release.

The research team studied 664 children, aged 12 and under, who'd been diagnosed with a food allergy. Of those, 36% were Black and 64% were white.

Compared to white kids, Black children were more likely to have shellfish and fin fish allergy, and to have a wheat allergy, the investigators found.

Cockroach exposure can trigger shellfish and fin fish allergy in children, and there are higher levels of cockroach allergens in poorer inner-city neighborhoods where many Black children live, the study authors noted.

The findings support the importance of reducing Black children's exposure to cockroaches, the researchers said.

According to study co-author Susan Fox, an allergy and immunology physician assistant at Rush, "This information can help us care for not only a child's food allergy, but all of their allergic diseases, including asthma, allergic rhinitis [hay fever] and atopic dermatitis [eczema]."

The study also found that Black children with food allergies were more likely to have asthma than white children with food allergies, and that children with a shellfish allergy were more likely to have more severe asthma.

Asthma accompanies about 70% of deaths from severe allergic reactions [anaphylaxis] to food, the study authors said.

"African American children are at a two- to threefold risk of fatal anaphylaxis compared to white children," Mahdavinia said. "By knowing this information, it can identify most at-risk patients."

The report was published in the February issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on food allergies.

SOURCE: Rush University Medical Center, news release, Jan. 27, 2021

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