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Allergy: A modern epidemic



The numbers are rising, yet few national resources are allocated to the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. Each year the numbers are increasing by 5% with as many as half of those affected being children.


The term allergy was first coined by Clemens Von Pirquet, an Austrian paediatrician in 1906. The word is used to describe a response, within the body, to a substance, which is not necessarily harmful in itself, but results in an immune reaction that causes symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system, which in turn can be life threatening.


Allergic reactions are caused by these substances in the environment known as allergens. Almost anything can be an allergen depending on a person's individual response. Allergens contain protein, which is often regarded as a constituent of the food we eat. Allergens are organic compounds of hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, the elements which form an important part of living organisms. They can enter the body either by inhalation, swallowing, injection, or contact with the skin, eyes or airways.


  • The UK has the highest incidence of allergies in Europe and is in the top 3 in the world.
  • The cost of allergy to the country, at GP level alone, is £900 million per annum.
  • Allergy to medicine is becoming much more common.
  • 4 in 10 UK school children have an allergic condition.
  • Around 45% of people suffer adverse reactions to certain types of food.
  • 7 out of 10 sufferers say their allergy has an adverse effect on their lives.
  • An extreme and acute allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. Allergic reactions are not a new phenomenon: King Menes, an Egyptian Pharaoh died from anaphylaxis in 2,641BC.
  • There are 8 primary foods that are generally behind an allergic reaction;Eggs, Fish, Milk, Peanuts, Shellfish, Soy, Tree Nuts and Wheat.
  • 25% of the UK population have hayfever, rising to around 38% in teenagers.
  • Some allergies cause sneezing but did you know a sneeze travels at approximately 100mph and each sneeze sends over 100 thousand germs into the air?
  • The longest sneezing spree recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records was 978 days, a record set by Donna Griffiths of Worcestershire.
  • 1.1 million children in the UK (1 in 11) are currently receiving treatment for asthma.
  • Every 17 minutes a child is admitted to a UK hospital as a result of their asthma.
  • The NHS spends around £1 billion per annum on the treatment and care of people with asthma.



Penicillin was the first antibiotic agent used to fight bacteria in humans to actually work.

It was discovered by the Scottish bacteriologist, Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928.

However, the first successful treatment of a patient with penicillin was in 1942 in New Haven, Connecticut, USA.

During the Second World War, penicillin was credited with saing the lives of between 10-15% of all those wounded in battle.


Wheat is the most widely grown arable crop in the UK covering 2 million hectares (almost 5 million acres) of land producing 16 million tonnes of wheat per year.

Gluten is the general term for the protein found in the majority of cereal grains.

Novak Djokavic, 2011 Wimbledon Champion is allergic to gluten.

Milk and Dairy

Dairy products are generally defined as foods produced from cows' milk. 

A cow has 4 stomachs.

Cows belong to a group of animals known as ruminants which are able to eat large quantities of herbiage quickly and then regurgitate the material at their leisure to allow it to be thoroughly chewed before re-swallowing. 

In 1863, French chemist and biologist Louis Pasteur invented pasteurisation, a method of killing harmful bacteria in food and drink products without spoiling the taste.

In 1884,·Doctor Hervey Thatcher, an American inventor from New York made the first glass milk bottle.


An average hen will lay about 250 eggs per year.

China produces the most eggs in the world, around 160 billion per year.

Oddly, the Black Leghorn chicken lays white eggs.

An egg shell has as many as 17,000 pores over its entire surface.


Fish have been around for more than 450 million years, long before dinosaurs roamed the earth.

The largest fish in the world is the whale shark which can grow to more than 50 feet long - the smallest is the Philippine goby, which is less than 1/3 inch long when fully grown.

There are more species of fish (25,000 identified) than all the species of amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals combined.

Some 40% of all fish inhabit fresh water, yet less than 0.01% of all the earth's water is actually fresh.

Tree Nuts

Tree nuts include: Brazil Nuts, Cashew Nuts, Chestnuts, Hazelnuts, Pistachios and Walnuts.

A tree nut is a hard shelled fruit from certain plants that have an indehiscent seed. This means it does not open naturally to release its seed but instead stays attached to its hard ovary shell.

Another tree nut is the Horse Chestnut which although not commonly eaten by human beings is well known to children as the shiny brown conker and is the cause of many a playground argument.

Note, Health and Safety dictates that you always wear goggles, gloves, a crash helmet, steel toed boots and a kevlar vest when playing conkers


A peanut is neither a pea nor a nut. A peanut is a legume which grows underground. Legumes are plants that bear their fruits in pods, which are casings with 2 halves.

Peanuts are known by many other colloquial names including, monkey nuts, earth nuts, ground nuts, goober peas and pygmy nuts.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the USA came from a family of peanut farmers.

The peanut originates from South America and it takes approximately 540 of them to make a standard jar of peanut butter.


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