The prevalence of children’s food allergies are gradually increasing. But for one group, black children, the rates of occurrence have doubled in the last 23 years.

Reason for increase unknown

“Our research found a striking food allergy trend that needs to be further evaluated to discover the cause,” stated Corinne Keet, MD, MS, lead study author and assistant professor pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University. “Although African Americans generally have higher levels of IgE, the antibody the immune system creates more of when one has an allergy, it is only recently that they have reported food allergy more frequently than white children. Whether the observed increase is due to better recognition of food allergy or is related to environmental changes remains an open question.”

Rates among black children double that of white, Hispanic

The research pool was large. Data from over 450,000 children from 1988 to 2011 was analyzed. It was found that food allergy increased among black children over 2% per decade, about twice that of white and Hispanic children.

Self-reported allergies may increase the numbers

“It is important to note this increase was in self-reported allergy,” explained Dr. Keet. “Many of these children did not receive a proper food allergy diagnosis from an allergist. Other conditions such as food intolerance an often be mistaken for an allergy, because not all symptoms associated with foods are caused by food allergy.”

Symptoms and allergies change over time

Further complicating the findings is that food allergies can change over time. “Those allergic to milk, egg, soy and wheat are more likely to tolerate these allergens over time, than those allergic to peanuts and tree nuts,” noted allergist Wesley Burks, MD, lead author and ACAAI fellow.

Allergies are serious, consult a doctor

While there is no speculation as to why there would be an increased occurrence of food allergy among African-American children, the symptoms should be taken seriously. “If you think you have symptoms of a food allergy, you should see an allergist for proper testing, diagnosis, and treatment,” urged allergist Marshall Gailen, Md, Annals editor. “You should never take matters into your own hands, whether it is self-treating your allergy or introducing an allergenic food back into your diet to see if you’re still allergic.”

Source: Annals of Allergy, American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), ScienceDaily

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