Allergic conditions: Statistics and Epidemiology

Allergy type United States United Kingdom
Allergic rhinitis 35.9 million (about 11% of the population) 3.3 million (about 5.5% of the population)
Asthma 10 million suffer from allergic asthma (about 3% of the population). The prevalence of asthma increased 75% from 1980-1994. Asthma prevalence is 39% higher in African Americans than in Europeans. 5.7 million (about 9.4%). In six and seven year olds asthma increased from 18.4% to 20.9% over five years, during the same time the rate decreased from 31% to 24.7% in 13 to 14 year olds.
Atopic eczema About 9% of the population. Between 1960 and 1990 prevalence has increased from 3% to 10% in children. 5.8 million (about 1% severe).
Anaphylaxis At least 40 deaths per year due to insect venom. About 400 deaths due to penicillin anaphylaxis. About 220 cases of anaphylaxis and 3 deaths per year are due to latex allergy. An estimated 150 people die annually from anaphylaxis due to food allergy. Between 1999 and 2006, 48 deaths occurred in people ranging from five months to 85 years old.
Insect venom Around 15% of adults have mild, localized allergic reactions. Systemic reactions occur in 3% of adults and less than 1% of children. Unknown
Drug allergies Anaphylactic reactions to penicillin cause 400 deaths per year. Unknown
Food allergies About 6% of US children under age 3 and 3.5-4% of the overall US population. Peanut and/or tree nut (e.g. walnut) allergy affects about three million Americans, or 1.1% of the population. 5-7% of infants and 1-2% of adults. A 117.3% increase in peanut allergies was observed from 2001 to 2005, an estimated 25,700 people in England are affected.
Multiple allergies (Asthma, eczema and allergic rhinitis together) Unknown 2.3 million (about 3.7%), prevalence has increased by 48.9% between 2001 and 2005.

Although genetic factors fundamentally govern susceptibility to atopic disease, increases in atopy have occurred within too short a time frame to be explained by a genetic change in the population, thus pointing to environmental or lifestyle changes. Several hypotheses have been identified to explain this increased prevalence; increased exposure to perennial allergens due to housing changes and increasing time spent indoors, and changes in cleanliness or hygiene that have resulted in the decreased activation of a common immune control mechanism, coupled with dietary changes, obesity and decline in physical exercise. The hygiene hypothesis maintains that high living standards and hygienic conditions exposes children to fewer infections. It is thought that reduced bacterial and viral infections early in life direct the maturing immune system away from TH1 type responses, leading to unrestrained TH2 responses that allow for an increase in allergy.

Changes in rates and types of infection alone however, have been unable to explain the observed increase in allergic disease, and recent evidence has focused attention on the importance of the gastrointestinal microbial environment. Evidence has shown that exposure to food and fecal-oral pathogens, such as hepatitis A, Toxoplasma gondii, and Helicobacter pylori (which also tend to be more prevalent in developing countries), can reduce the overall risk of atopy by more than 60%, and an increased prevalence of parasitic infections has been associated with a decreased prevalence of asthma. It is speculated that these infections exert their effect by critically altering TH1/TH2 regulation.Important elements of newer hygiene hypotheses also include exposure to endotoxins, exposure to pets and growing up on a farm.

Food Allergy