Racial disparities in allergic outcomes in African Americans emerge as early as age 2 years


  • The work was performed at Henry Ford Hospital.


Ganesa Wegienka, 1 Ford Place, 3E, Detroit, MI, 48202. E-mail: gwegien1@hfhs.org



Racial disparities in allergic disease outcomes have been reported with African Americans suffering disproportionately compared to White individuals.


To examine whether or not racial disparities are present as early as age 2 years in a racially diverse birth cohort in the Detroit metropolitan area.


All children who were participants in a birth cohort study in the Detroit metropolitan area were invited for a standardized physician exam with skin prick testing and parental interview at age 2 years. Physicians made inquiries regarding wheezing and allergy symptoms and inspected for and graded any atopic dermatitis (AD). Skin testing was performed for Alternaria, cat, cockroach, dog, Dermatophagoides farinae (Der F), Short Ragweed, Timothy grass, egg, milk and peanut. Specific IgE was measured for these same allergens and total IgE was determined.


African American children (= 466) were more likely than White children (= 223) to have experienced any of the outcomes examined: at least 1 positive skin prick test from the panel of 10 allergens (21.7% vs. 11.0%, = 0.001); at least one specific IgE ≥ 0.35 IU/mL (out of a panel of 10 allergens) (54.0% vs. 42.9%, = 0.02); had AD (27.0% vs. 13.5%, Chi-square < 0.001); and to ever have wheezed (44.9% vs. 36.0%, = 0.03). African American children also tended to have higher total IgE (geometric means 23.4 IU/mL (95%CI 20.8, 27.6) vs. 16.7 IU/mL (95%CI 13.6, 20.6 IU/mL), Wilcoxon Rank Sum = 0.004). With the exception of wheezing, the associations did not vary after adjusting for common social economic status variables (e.g. household income), environmental variables (endotoxin; dog, cat and cockroach allergen in house dust) or variables that differed between the racial groups (e.g. breastfeeding). After adjustment, the wheeze difference was ameliorated.


With disparities emerging as early as age 2 years, investigations into sources of the disparities should include the prenatal period and early life.