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Food Allergy In Black Children Doubles In Last Quarter Century

Update Date: Mar 03, 2014 07:23 PM EST

Food allergies have nearly doubled among black children over the last 23 years, according to a new study.

"Our research found a striking food allergy trend that needs to be further evaluated to discover the cause," lead researcher Dr. Corinne Keet, MD, MS, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, said in a news release. "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".

The latest study involved 452,237 children from 1988 to 2011. The findings revealed that 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 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."

Researchers said the latest findings are important because food allergy is a serious disease that can lead to a fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

"If you think you have symptoms of a food allergy, you should see an allergist for proper testing, diagnosis and treatment," allergist Dr. Marshall Gailen, an Annals editor, said in a statement. "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."

The findings are published in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

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