Food allergy in South African children with atopic dermatitis

Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2014 Oct;25(6):572-9. doi: 10.1111/pai.12270.


Background: The prevalence of food allergy in South Africa is unknown, but previously thought to be rare in black South Africans. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of, and risk factors for, IgE-mediated food allergy in South African children with atopic dermatitis (AD).

Methodology: This was a prospective, observational study in a paediatric university hospital in Cape Town. Children with AD, aged 6 months to 10 yrs, were randomly recruited from the dermatology clinic. They were assessed for sensitization and allergy by questionnaire, skin prick tests, Immuno Solid Phase Allergen Chip (ISAC) test and incremental food challenges.

Results: 100 participants (59 black Africans and 41 of mixed race) were enrolled, median age 42 months. There were high overall rates of food sensitization (66%) and food allergy (40%). Egg (25%) and peanut (24%) were the most common allergies. Black participants had comparable sensitization (69% vs. 61%) but lower allergy rates (34% vs. 46%) than mixed race participants. This was especially evident for peanut allergy (15% Blacks vs. 37% mixed race allergic to peanut, p = 0.01). Early-onset AD (<6 months), severe eczema, and young age <2 yrs were significant risk factors for food allergy.

Conclusion: The prevalence of food allergy is unexpectedly high in South African children with AD, and comparable with food allergy rates in patients with AD in developed countries. There are ethnic differences, with significantly lower peanut allergy rates in Blacks compared to mixed race patients. These results are not generalizable to an unselected South African population, which requires further study.

Keywords: IgE-mediated; atopic dermatitis; black Africans; food allergy; food sensitization; incremental food challenges; peanut allergy.

MeSH terms

  • African Continental Ancestry Group*
  • Age of Onset
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Arachis / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / complications
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Food Hypersensitivity / complications
  • Food Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Tests
  • South Africa


  • Allergens
  • Immunoglobulin E