The Connection of Race in Allergic Conditions

Allergic conditions may seem to affect people at random. Some people have allergies and some people do not. But the truth really is not that simple. Just as in many other health conditions, there are risk factors that can contribute to whether you will experience allergic conditions. Race is one of these factors. Recently, a panel of experts convened to tackle racial disparities affecting people with allergic conditions.

What is the connection between race and allergic conditions?

Both atopic dermatitis (AD), also known as eczema, and food allergies are more prevalent in people with skin of color than in White individuals. The allergic conditions tend to be more severe as well. One study found the prevalence of AD based on race as follows:

  • 5% among Asian individuals
  • 9% among Black individuals
  • 3% among White individuals
  • 7% among Hispanic individuals

Eczema is a complex condition and the exact cause is unknown. However, it appears that the prevalence of eczema is affected by both genetic factors and immune system factors, which may help explain why people of different races and ethnicities experience AD at different rates.

Researchers have also found that Black children have higher rates of food allergies. In particular, Black children have significantly higher rates of shellfish and fish allergies compared to White children. They also have higher odds of wheat allergy. This demonstrates that food allergies can also be affected by race.

How does race affect treatment for allergic conditions?

The group of experts convened to discuss the issue of racial disparities in allergic conditions identified several obstacles to care that may be experienced by people with skin of color. These obstacles include:

  • Access to care
  • Burden of costs
  • Policies and infrastructure that limit access to safe foods and patient education
  • Inadequate research involving people with skin of color

One example is the difficulty of correctly diagnosing AD in people with skin of color. Most medical textbooks describe eczema as an “itchy, red rash” and use photos of people with white skin as examples of AD. in people with skin of color, however, atopic dermatitis may present as purple, gray, or darker brown on the skin. Medical professionals must be educated on how AD and other conditions appear in people with all skin colors in order to provide accurate diagnoses and effective treatments.

How can racial disparities in allergic conditions be mitigated?

The panelists recommended 10 solutions to address racial disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of atopic dermatitis and food allergies in people of color. These solutions are:

  1. Explore ways to enroll more people of color in clinical trials.
  2. Recruit more people of color into medical school, and particularly into the specialty of allergy, asthma, and immunology.
  3. Increase outreach to high school students.
  4. Increase awareness and education among specialists.
  5. Increase awareness and education among primary care physicians — and leverage community outreach to educate patients.
  6. Advocate for revised WIC and SNAP policies to increase access to safe foods.
  7. Develop a photo library of atopic dermatitis in people of color.
  8. Create culturally appropriate patient education materials and partnerships to reach communities of color.
  9. Work toward longer appointment times for patients who need them.
  10. Leverage this research and the roundtable participants’ insight to increase awareness and create change.

The experts hope that these recommendations will mitigate the racial disparities in thediagnosis and treatment of allergic conditions. To learn more about these solutions and how race is linked to allergic conditions, we welcome you to contact us today at West River ENT & Allergy.


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