All children in the U.S. are more vulnerable than ever to food allergies, as the incidence of these continue to rise. One of the few food allergy studies to include specific information about Asian Americans, which was published in Pediatrics in 2011, shows that these children are 40 percent more likely to have food allergies as compared to the general population. Parents and doctors alike need to be more aware of this increased risk to better protect vulnerable and at-risk children.
Asian American Children and Food Allergies
The only survey or study to include significant demographic information about this population of children uncovered some troubling facts. The first is that Asian American children have a significantly greater risk of having food allergies. The second fact is even more troubling, which is that this group of children is also less likely to be diagnosed with a food allergy. This means that a significant portion of American children are living with undiagnosed, and possibly life-threatening, food allergies. They are not getting the preventative epinephrine injectors they need or the information about what foods to avoid and how.
Why Are Asian American Children so Vulnerable?
Because there is limited data about Asian Americans and food allergies, coming up with an explanation for the increased risk and prevalence is challenging. Some information from Asia shows that allergy rates are rising there, but this does not necessarily explain the situation in the U.S. We do know that Asian Americans have higher rates of peanut and shellfish allergies than other Americans. Until more research is done to specifically look at allergies in this population, it will be impossible to say why they are developing more food allergies.
Cultural Stereotypes Cause Harm
There is currently no definitive answer as to why Asian American—and African American—children are more prone to food allergies. There is, however, a possible explanation for why these children are underdiagnosed. There seems to be a misconception or a cultural stereotype that food allergies primarily or only affect affluent white children, as if it were an illness of privilege.
This is a dangerous misconception because it means that parents and even doctors don’t consider certain children to be at risk. Those children then may not get a diagnosis or the subsequent education needed to help them prevent dangerous allergic reactions. Asian American parents likely have limited experience with food allergies, because they are not prevalent in their generation, and may not take minor reactions in their children seriously or seek a diagnosis.
Food allergies are affecting more children than ever in the U.S., but certain demographics are suffering more and getting recognized less. It is so crucial to bring more awareness to the fact that food allergies don’t discriminate by race or socioeconomic status and that anyone could develop an allergy that could be fatal.