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    2022 – 2023 UK Allergy Statistics, Facts, And Research

    2022 – 2023 UK Allergy Statistics, Facts, And Research
    November 14, 2023 Vitality Pro

    If you suffer from an allergy, you’re not alone. In the UK, allergies have become something of a modern plague, with an increasing number of children and adults affected annually. A quick glance at some of the allergy statistics for 2022 and 2023 reveals exactly how dire the situation is:

    • One-third of the UK population (20 million people) is living with an allergy
    • 5 million people’s allergies are severe enough to require specialist care
    • 150 million Europeans have allergies
    • By 2025, it’s estimated that 50% of Europe’s population will suffer from allergies
    • British children suffering from allergic rhinitis and eczema have trebled in the last 30 years
    • 600,000 Britons suffer from Coeliac Disease
    • 49% of Britons suffer from seasonal hay fever
    • Allergies cost the NHS about £900 million annually
    • 2023 is considered to be the worst year for allergies to date

    In 2023, the theme of Allergy Week (held 24th-28th April) was managing allergic diseases amidst climate change. The week focused on creating awareness around allergies and educating people about the connection between climate change and worsening allergies. After this week, the matter was brought before the UK Parliament in May, and it was revealed that a shocking one-third of the UK population—20 million people—are living with an allergy. Of those, 5 million people’s allergies are severe enough to require specialist care. 

    The impact of this is enormous, not just socially but economically too. Allergies are no longer a problem for the minority, they’re something that a growing number of people are dealing with, and in some cases, they pose a threat not just to a person’s health but to their lives too.

    To get the full picture of the current state of allergies in the UK, we’ve delved deeper into the matter and looked at the 2022 and 2023 statistics to confirm that allergies are a growing concern.

    What Is An Allergy?

    An allergy is when your body’s immune system overreacts to a perceived threat. The ‘threats’ are  substances such as pollen, animal dander, dust mites, or pollution, or a specific food. These substances and foods don’t bother people with no allergies. However, they can trigger symptoms of varying severity in people with allergies.

    We all have antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). When a person with an allergy comes into contact with the allergen, the allergen binds with the IgE antibodies. This causes our mast cells (a type of white blood cell) to release histamine and other chemicals. This results in inflammation, and triggers symptoms usually affecting the skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and cardiovascular system. The usual symptoms are itchy eyes, running nose, sneezing, hives, and difficulty breathing.

    Allergies come in many forms. Asthma, food allergies, hay fever from pollen (environmental), allergies to dust mites in homes, and drug allergies are typically the most common. Many people are also allergic to penicillin, originally derived from a type of mould. When it comes to food, common triggers are tree nuts, peanuts, soya, wheat (gluten), milk (lactose), shellfish, sesame, and eggs. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), more than 170 foods have been identified as causing allergic reactions, and the list is growing. 

    According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), more than 170 foods have been identified as causing allergic reactions, and the list is growing.

    Allergic reactions vary in severity, from the relatively mild sneezing fits and runny nose of pollen allergies to life-threatening reactions such as Anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical attention. Anaphylaxis is when the body goes into a state of shock accompanied by dizziness, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Blood pressure drops, the pulse can slow down, and airways close or clamp down.

    In 2020, a large-scale review of hospital admissions data found that anaphylaxis cases were on the rise in Europe, Australia and the US, as well as in other regions in the world. In the UK alone, there was a 72% increase in 6 years in children being admitted to hospital due to anaphylaxis. 

    Allergy Statistics

    According to the European Association of Allergy and Immunology, allergies are among the most common chronic diseases in Europe. 150 million Europeans currently have allergies, and by 2025, it is estimated that 50% of the population of Europe will suffer from some or other sensitivity or aversion. 

    The UK is no exception. Britain has very high prevalence rates for allergic conditions. Up to 44% of British adults have allergies, with almost half of those having more than one allergy. This makes Britain one of the most “allergic” countries globally. 

    Another alarming statistic is the percentage of British children suffering from allergic rhinitis and eczema. The number of sufferers has trebled in the last 30 years. There’s also been a marked increase in allergies since the Covid-19 pandemic. Data published by the NHS in late 2022 revealed that hospital admissions for allergic reactions rose sharply from March 2021 – March 2022.

    Food Allergy Statistics

    There are 7 billion people in the world, and it’s estimated that between 240-550 million people suffer from food allergies globally. According to Allergy UK, around 26 million Europeans suffer from food allergies, and this number has increased in the last few years.

    Many researchers have noted that there has been a huge uptick in the number of young children suffering from food allergies. Allergies affect 3-6% of children in the developed world. According to the British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the prevalence of food allergy in breastfed infants is 7.1%. One in 40 develop peanut allergy, and 1 in 20 develop allergies to eggs. The prevalence of peanut allergy among children in the West has doubled in the past decade, and peanut allergy has reared its head in Asia and Africa, both areas where peanuts feature strongly in diets. Another very common allergy is lactose intolerance or cow’s milk allergy. It is also the most common allergy found in infants.

    The UK government’s think tank on food estimates 2 million people in the UK have an allergy, and around 600,000 have been diagnosed with Coeliac Disease (gluten allergy).

    Skin Allergy Statistics

    A staggering 60% of Britons are living with a skin disease, according to the British Skin Foundation.

    These include Atopic Eczema, which often occurs in infants and toddlers. About 40% of infants and young children with Atopic Eczema have food allergies, with eggs, cow’s milk, soy, and wheat accounting for about 90% of allergenic foods.

    Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever) Statistics

    Allergic rhinitis (AR) is the most common form of non-infectious rhinitis; a reaction to pollen in the air. A whopping 49% of Britons have suffered from seasonal hay fever.

    Hay fever season in the UK usually falls between March to September. At the height of the season in June 2023, ITV news reported that the pollen count was particularly high this year, with many putting it down to high rainfall leading to rampant growth in trees and grasses. Scientists are putting the longer hay fever season down to climate change, which is predicted to only get worse in the future.

    Countries that enjoy the lowest prevalence of AR include Georgia, Greece, Indonesia, Albania, and Romania. The highest prevalence of AR is in Australia (the world’s allergy capital), the UK, and New Zealand.

    Australia wears the global allergy crown. 10% of Australian babies develop food allergies, in children, the percentage is lower at 4-8%. Hospital admissions have doubled in the last decade in Australia for anaphylaxis, increasing the burden on the country’s health system twofold.

    “A whopping 49% of Britons have suffered from seasonal hay fever.”

    Asthma Statistics

    There are 300 million people suffering from asthma globally, and its prevalence doubles every decade. Clinicians often refer to it as a global health burden. According to Asthma and Lung, a UK charity, there are 136 million women suffering from asthma in the world. The charity also states that asthma is worse for women, as many suffer asthma attacks around menstruation. Not being able to breathe is frightening enough as it is. For women who suffer from menstruation-related asthma, every month is even more stressful.

    Drug Allergies

    The most common drug allergy is to penicillin or penicillin-based drugs. Many people are also allergic to anesthetic. Other allergy drugs include antibiotics containing sulfonamides, aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy drugs, and anticonvulsants.

    Additional Allergy Statistics and Figures

    Allergiesnot only impact the people living with them, but also the medical industry, including hospitals, clinics, and other related services. According to the Allergy Clinic in London, allergies cost the NHS about £900 million annually, and 200,000 people hold prescriptions for the adrenaline EpiPen.

    Parents of children living with an allergy also report being more stressed and anxious than parents whose children have no allergies.

    The increase in anaphylaxis-related deaths has led to some legal changes in the UK. The UK government estimates there are around 20-30 deaths a year resulting from anaphylaxis. That’s around 1 in 100,000 patients. However the source document acknowledges this is probably an underestimate.

    In 2021, a new law enacted in the UK requires businesses selling pre-packaged foodstuff to provide full ingredient lists on the packaging. Known as Natasha’s Law, the law applies to any food business producing PPDS food. This includes pubs, coffee shops, restaurant chains, independent restaurants, and supermarket and department store cafés.

    Why The Rise In Allergies?

    In a nutshell, it’s complicated, and there are no easy answers. But one point experts all agree on is that food allergies are on the rise.

    There are a few theories as to why.

    One is the hygiene hypothesis which posits that we keep ourselves and homes so clean that children’s immune systems are not exposed to allergens. In other words, their immune systems have not been educated or trained to recognise triggers as “normal”.

    But is it that simple?

    Contemporary knowledge of the importance of a person’s microbiome in their gut adds another factor to the hygiene debate. It’s more about asking whether your gut is encountering as many beneficial microbes as possible, rather than how clean your environment is. This accounts for the notion that babies born by cesarean section rather than a natural birth through the birth canal do not absorb their mother’s beneficial microbes.

    Interestingly, a Danish study showed that the more household pets you have, the less likely you are to develop an allergy

    “Interestingly, a Danish study showed that the more household pets you have, the less likely you are to develop an allergy”

    Modern lifestyles and the built environment these days mean we are not meeting the microbes of old, which trained our immune systems on how to deal with foreign substances. 

    While researchers and immunologists continue to study the causes behind the rise in allergies, some are concentrating on immunotherapy in which the allergy sufferer consumes or is exposed to minuscule amounts of allergenic foods, with the amount being gradually increased as a tolerance builds.

    The theory is that doing this will educate your immune system. The results of immunotherapy studies are looking very encouraging. One source puts the success rate of immunotherapy for allergies as high as 80-90%.

    Looking Into The Future of Allergies

    The future of improving allergy treatments and efforts to alleviate the negative impacts of allergies appear to be multi-pronged.

    Over in the US, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that some cities burdened by allergies have planted low pollen trees. The cities and states include Richmond, Virginia, New Orleans, and Louisiana.

    In May 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed an application to pass a new nasal spray for allergies called neffy®. The FDA delayed its decision to September 2023. The spray contains epinephrine.

    A biotech company Allergy Therapeutics has started clinical trials on a peanut vaccine. If successful, the vaccine could help millions with an allergy to peanuts.

    But we’ve only reached the halfway mark for the 2023 allergy season in the northern hemisphere. A new report explains why 2023 is considered to be the worst year for allergies. Like the UK, America and many parts of the world are experiencing unseasonal weather events. Temperatures have warmed (the UK, Europe, and the US are experiencing some of the hottest temperatures on record) as more CO2 is released into the atmosphere. There appears to be no doubt that climate change is contributing to lengthening the annual allergy season, making it more intense.

    Where To Get Help For Allergies

    If you’re one of the many people suffering from allergies, there is help readily available. 

    There are many allergy support groups in the UK, such as Allergy UK, which has a helpline, online support, community forums, and resources for sufferers and parents of sufferers. There is also an Anaphylaxis Campaign which assists people and families affected by severe, life-threatening allergies, as well as Asthma Uk and The National Allergy Strategy Group (NASG). 

    Additionally, there are multitudes of apps that can help allergy sufferers avoid high pollen areas, weather events, and other triggers. These apps can also track flare ups and offer help in an emergency.

    While the allergy statistics for 2022 and 2023 are alarming, awareness around allergies and their triggers is growing. This can help sufferers cope and avoid triggers wherever possible. However, looking at the statistics, it’s clear that allergies are certainly here to stay.