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Children with African Ancestry at Higher Risk....

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Children with African Ancestry at Higher Risk....

Potentially life threatening food allergies affect around 3% of the US populations children.  This is HUGE because many of these children are exposed to their food allergens early in life, completely by accident, and can cause major damage to their heart, lungs, and cause psychological damage, if not lead to death. There are eight major foods that cause 90% of allergic reactions in children: milk, soy, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, wheat, and eggs. Some are easier to avoid than others, but eggs, milk, soy, and wheat are in many commercial foods.

Why is this important?
Research has been ongoing to try to pinpoint what causes these extreme allergies and if certain populations are more at risk than others.  So far, nothing has really been found as definitive reasons for the increase of anaphylactic reactions to foods, but there have been plenty of suggestions made by pediatricians to try to decrease the risk, such as not introducing foods like tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish before the age of 3 and breastfeeding for 4-6 months minimum.  A study from 6 months ago showed that there was a decrease in allergic food allergies when children were introduced to solid foods before 6 months old, and closer to 4 months.  Although, these tips also do not completely prevent food allergies.

What is New?
A recent study looking at 1104 children with an average age of 2.7 and from lower socio-economic status populations of African and Hispanic ancestry, looked at the rates of food allergies within this population.  What they found was pretty interesting; 35.5% of the children studied had a food allergy.  And of these children, the children of African Ancestry had much higher rates of multiple food allergies and had much higher rates of peanut allergies; in many of the children that had allergies, peanuts were what their body reacted most to.
Now, they are not sure if there are genetic factors that may affect these outcomes or if there are any environmental factors that also could increase these rates of allergen sensitivity, so further studies need to be performed, but it is an interesting alternative theory that these rates of allergic reactions in kids may be more genetic, as opposed to what foods children are exposed to at different ages.

How does this affect me?
Really, it is just something to be aware of.  Clearly, this topic needs further studies but it is an interesting idea, and because the risk of an allergic reaction from food at an early age can be so devastating physically and mentally to children, if there is a genetic/ancestral link, it is a way to be aware of possible food allergies.   If you have food allergies, and many people in your family do, you might be more apt to assume that your child has the same allergies, and if it is linked to your heritage, then you would do the same!

Always try to eat healthy and feed the same to your children, limit the amount of preservatives and fast foods, and hope for the best!  If you do feed your child something and they start having a skin reaction, wheezing, vomiting, and/or diarrhea then you should assume they have a food allergy, and with any form of wheezing or breathing difficulties you should call your HCP immediately and if they have increased breathing trouble, call emergency services in case your child is having a life threatening reaction.

Yours in Good Health
B

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