Almost 1 in 3 people are affected by an allergy-related problem and the figures are on the increase.
Doctors that specialise in allergy estimate that in less than 10 years, 1 in 2 people will suffer with allergies
Over the past 15 years the amount of allergic people has doubled, especially those in industrialised countries. This is a significant comparison to only 5% in the early 1970's.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified allergy related diseases as fourth and those even more pessimistic forecast it to be 3rd by the end of the next decade.
- Allergies have taken different forms in the last twenty years:
- The specific allergens are increasing in number.
- Allergic people present with different symptoms during their life.
- The age of occurrence of allergies now spans from birth to more than 80 years old.
- As well as an increase in people suffering with allergies, there has been an increase in the severity of symptoms, with number of people needing to consult with a doctor urgently, multiplying by 40 over the last 10 years.
- 400 million people in the world suffer from allergic rhinitis.
- 300 million people in the world suffer from asthma.
However, more than 50% of people with allergies are not diagnosed as such , and do not receive a proper treatment and live with uncomfortable and sometimes disabling symptoms which worsen with time.
This explosion of allergy related problems can be attributed to changes in our environment; housing, use of cars and their pollution, obsessional about cleanliness in the home and a completely different diet from 30 years ago introducing more refined and processed foods and finally the increased use of antibitics and other new medicines. .
Since the 1974 oil crisis, our way of life in industrialised countries has changed: improved construction of housing including; insulation, more sophisticated heating systems and the introduction of air-conditioning. However, this in turn has created and increased the amount of confined humidity in our homes, which provides an ideal breeding environment for dust mites
, which are one of the known biggest allergens to allergic people.
In addition, the amount of pets we keep at home have increased. More than ten million dogs, as many cats and birds, hamsters, rats, guinea-pigs, rabbits and other exotic animals, have become part of our lives. It is thought that 1 in 2 homes owns a pet which as a result contributes to the increase in the number of people with allergies.
Pollen is on the increase with many new pollens being found and in large quantities.
Our eating habits
Major changes in our diet play an important part in the growing allergy epidemic. We enjoy different foods from Asia and exotic fruits like kiwis, mangos, papaw are more available to us.
Foods are more processed and refined, with the choice of tinned, frozen and packet foods. During the processing of such foods, many preservatives, proteins, colourants and flavours are added, all of which can cause allergy.
Being obsessed with germs, cleanliness and disinfectent - over doing it has destabilised our immune system, which has not managed to adapt to the major changes in our environment. Our bodies are used to fighting bacteria and viruses and the use of vaccines and antibiotics has decreased the number of infections. This destabilisation of the immune system is causing us to be more sensitive to inoffensive particles such as , pollens or dust mites.
This explanation has been called thehygiene
theory, and has been proven by many independent studies highlighting that children living on farms in contact with animal bacteria, develop less allergies than those living in cities. In the same way, children living in large families, frequently in contact with bacteria, develop fewer allergic symptoms.