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Health

Gap Watch: Food Allergy risk in children tied to race and ethnicity

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Royal Oak based Beaumont Children's Hospital is trying to raise awareness about a kids health disparity that until now has not gotten much attention, the gap in food allergies. 

Food allergies in children are rising across the board, says Devang Doshi, the chief of Pediatric allergy and immunology at Beaumont Children's Hospital. "We used to see about 3% in the nineties, but now we're up to 6-8% of pediatric patients that have food allergies." says Doshi. 

Not all children are affected by food allergies at the same frequency. Doshi points to a recent study in the journal of pediatrics that found African American children are even more likely to have serious food allergies to foods like milk, eggs, soy peanuts and shellfish. 

For African American boys, the risk of food allergy is four times higher than for other children. Even so, African American children are less likely to be diagnosed as having allergies, putting them at risk for serious effects like anaphylaxis, which can cause a person to stop breathing.  

Latino children, according to a CDC study are less likely than other children to have allergies. They have a lower rate of food allergies, skin, and environmental allergies for reasons that are as of yet unexplained.

It is likely the cause of all these allergy disparities is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. When talking about the Pediatrics study in particular, Doshi explained, "This study shows that there is a genetic pre-disposition in African American to food allergy versus Caucasians." Doshi also says that environmental factors may pay a role in the expression of allergic reactions and hopes more studies will give kids and families trying to cope with these allergies more information. 

Childhood food allergies can have serious consequences like missed school, emergency room visits and even death. Doshi says parents need to take children's adverse reactions to food, like a rash, stomach aches, or a shortness of breath, very seriously and recommends talking to a pediatrician.

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