Children's food allergies are gradually increasing, but they may be as much as doubling among black children. According to a study published today in the March issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific publication of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), self-reported food allergy nearly doubled in black children over 23 years.
"Our research found a striking food allergy trend that needs to be further evaluated to discover the cause," said Corinne Keet, MD, MS, lead study author and assistant professor of 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".
Researchers analyzed 452,237 children from 1988 to 2011. Of these children, it was found food allergy increased among black children at a rate of 2.1 percent per decade, 1.2 percent among Hispanics and 1 percent among whites.
"It is important to note this increase was in self-reported allergy," said Dr. Keet. "Many of these children did not receive a proper food allergy diagnosis from an allergist. Other conditions such as food intolerance can often be mistaken for an allergy, because not all symptoms associated with foods are caused by food allergy."
Another Annals paper, also released today, notes many allergists can often determine which children may outgrow their food allergy, and which might have a lifelong condition.
"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," said allergist Wesley Burks, MD, lead study author and ACAAI fellow. "No single test alone can predict eventual food tolerance, but when patients are under the regular care of a board-certified allergist they can be re-evaluated and tested in different ways."
Food allergy is a serious disease that can lead to a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. When food allergy isn't properly diagnosed, the chance of anaphylaxis increases and many time patients undergo unnecessary dietary exclusions which can lead to malnourishment.
"If you think you have symptoms of a food allergy, you should see an allergist for proper testing, diagnosis and treatment," said 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: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology