The “allergy epidemic” of the last 60 years now affects 1 billion people worldwide and is predicted to quadruple by 2050, affecting half of the European population by 2025.
Asthma, allergic rhinitis and hayfever, atopic eczema and food allergy are all related allergic diseases, caused by an abnormal immune system reaction to normal substances in the environment or to foods, or to stinging insects or drugs, such as antibiotics. Reactions are usually rapid and can cause irritation and rashes, inflammation and swelling of airways, eyes and skin or vomiting and diarrhoea. Symptoms may be intermittent, moderate or even life-threatening.
Most worryingly, it is the increasing severity and duration of allergy disease that is of huge concern, with 8% (1 in every 12) young children having food allergies. These children usually start life with severe eczema and feeding problems and are later likely to develop asthma and rhinitis (hay fever). Increasingly, babies are developing many food allergies which they do not outgrow.
Many of you reading this will have respiratory problems or eczema that may be allergy related. Some people think that they “always have a cold” but seasonal allergies, such as pollens and moulds and indoor allergens, can affect you at different times of the year. It is important to control hay fever as it can lead to asthma exacerbations, sometimes needing hospital admissions.
It is essential to find out what allergens trigger asthma symptoms, as it may not be allergic asthma. Other conditions, such as COPD, can give similar symptoms as well as also affect those with chronic asthma. Anaphylaxis is a most severe allergic reaction that rarely can be fatal and those with asthma are at greater risk if their asthma is not well controlled.
If your treatment does not relieve your symptoms, even when taken correctly and as prescribed, then you may need a referral to an appropriate allergy specialist. Allergy UK have Helpline Advisors who can guide you (01322 619898) or a website full of useful information www.allergyuk.org.