SATURDAY, Feb. 23, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Race and possibly genetics play a role in childhood allergies, according to a new study.
Researchers at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit skin-tested more than 500 children, all of whom were 2 years old, for three food allergens -- egg whites, peanuts and milk -- and seven environmental allergens.
The tests showed that about 20 percent of black children and 6.5 percent of white children were sensitized to a food allergen, while nearly 14 percent of black children and 11 percent of white children were sensitized to an environmental allergen.
Black children with an allergic parent were sensitized to an environmental allergen about two and a half times more often than black children without an allergic parent, according to the study, scheduled for Saturday presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, in San Antonio, Texas.
Sensitization means that a person's immune system produces a specific antibody to an allergy -- not that a person will experience allergy symptoms, the researchers pointed out.
"Our findings suggest that African-Americans may have a gene making them more susceptible to food allergen sensitization or the sensitization is just more prevalent in African-American children than white children at age 2," allergist and study lead author Dr. Haejim Kim said in a Henry Ford Health System news release.
"More research is needed to further look at the development of allergy," Kim added.
Studies presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about food allergies.