1 in 3 of the UK population are affected by an allergy at some point in their life.
The numbers are rising yet few national resources are allocated to the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. Each year the numbers increase by 5% with up to half of those affected being children.
What is an Allergy?
The term allergy was first coined by Clemens Von Pirquet, an Austrian paediatrician in 1906. The word is used to describe a bodily response to a substance which, although not necessarily harmful in itself, results in an immune reaction that causes symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system. This reaction can be fatal in extreme cases.
What causes an Allergic reaction?
Allergic reactions are caused by 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 by inhalation, swallowing, injection, or contact with the skin, eyes or airways.
The World Allergy Organisation (WAO) estimate of allergy prevalence of the whole population by country ranges between 10 - 40%.
In the UK
The UK has some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, with over 20% of the population affected by one or more allergic disorder.
A staggering 44% of British adults now suffer from at least one allergy and the number of sufferers is on the rise, growing by around 2 million between 2008 and 2009 alone. Almost half (48%) of sufferers have more than one allergy.
In the 20 years to 2012 there was a 615% increase in the rate of hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK.
More than 150 million Europeans suffer from chronic allergic diseases and the current prediction is that by 2025 half of the entire EU population will be affected.
With a life time prevalence of 15-30% in children and 2-10% in adults, the incidence of Atopic Eczema has increased by two to threefold in industrialised countries during the past three decades.
In 45% of children, the onset of Atopic Eczema occurs during the first 6 months of life; during the first year 60% of these children are affected, and 85% are affected before the age of five.
It is estimated by the World Health Organisation that 300 million individuals have asthma worldwide, and that with current rising trends this will reach 400 million by 2025. Approximately 250,000 people die prematurely each year from asthma; almost all these deaths are avoidable.
5.4 million People in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12). (Asthma UK, 2017)
Anaphylaxis-type reactions occur in approximately 1 in 1000 of the general population. Anaphylaxis during general anaesthesia occurs in 1 in 10,000–20,000 anaesthetics. These patients may be denied general anaesthesia in the future unless a safe combination of drugs can be identified.
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 prevalent.
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 2,641 BC.
There are 8 primary foods that are commonly associated with allergic reactions; eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat.
25% of the UK population has hayfever, rising to around 38% in teenagers.
Some allergies cause sneezing but did you know a sneeze travels approximately 100 mph 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.
A child is admitted to a UK hospital every 17 minutes as a result of their asthma.
The NHS spends around £1 billion per annum on the treatment and care of people with asthma.