Food allergy prevalence and symptomatology in inner city African Americans

African American children treated at a center in Brooklyn, NY, have an eight-fold increase in the prevalence of peanut allergy, compared with the general American  pediatric population.

There has been a documented increase in the incidence of food allergy and severe allergic reactions to food in that country, where 6% of children and 3.7% of adults have food allergy.  The prevalence of peanut allergy in American children has doubled; but that of African American children and adults is not well documented.

Mario Rodenas, MD, of the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, and colleagues, performed a retrospective chart analysis of inner city African American pediatric (n=102) and adult (n=173) allergy outpatients. The investigation focused on epicutaneous skin tests (SPT), serum IgE levels, and history of respiratory and dermatologic allergy. Criteria for food allergy included a clinical reaction after ingestion and a positive SPT or presence of food specific IgE in serum.

Dr. Rodenas and colleagues found that approximately one third of their African American patients had food allergies (32.7%). It was 50% more common in children than adults. The three most common food allergies were fruits/vegetables (12%), shellfish (9.4%), and peanut (9.1%). In adults, the ranking of food allergy prevalence (fruits/vegetables [14.5%], shellfish [13.9%], and peanut [5.2%]) was similar to that of the general adult US population. However, peanut allergy prevailed in African American allergic children (15.7%), followed by dairy products and eggs (13.7% and 11.8%, respectively). In contrast to the general population, in which respiratory symptoms predominate, peanut allergy most commonly manifested as hives in both children (37.5%) and adults (45.5%).