No, I haven’t gone all flaky or new-age on you. Below is a very serious report from today’s Observer about the rise of serious allergic reactions in the wrong people! Certainly not what we were taught in the seventies. The consultant mentions the possibility of environmental causes, so we should watch that space!
In the past year alone, there were more than 30,000 admissions to hospital of those suffering anaphylaxis. Medications for allergies cost almost £1bn annually, 11% of the total NHS drug budget.
In the past seven years, there has been a fourfold increase in all allergies, according to the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI), the national allergy body.
Moira Austin, helpline manager at Anaphylaxis Campaign, said she has noted an increase in the number of women seeking help for allergies. "It tends to be women who become allergic around the time of the menopause or after a stay in hospital. It comes on suddenly and involves foods they have eaten happily for their entire life," she said.
Experts say that a large proportion of these admissions involving "new onset" patients, who are experiencing a severe reaction to a food, medication or drug with which they have never previously had a problem, or never come into contact before.
Pam Ewan, a consultant allergist at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge, and a member of the National Allergy Strategy Group, said: "The rise in numbers is to do with a raised general awareness of allergies, but we are, as a population, becoming more allergic overall.
"What I have very certainly seen over the past three to five years is an increase in the number of older adults developing allergies for the first time," she added. "Allergies usually start in childhood and young adulthood, so this is a very surprising new trend and very hard to explain. It is so new, however, and there are so few allergists in the UK, that we have not yet even started collecting data, much less analysing it.
"It could be to do with changes in our environment, a change in allergen exposure, pollution or diet. The only thing we know is that it is clearly related to modern, western ways of living."
The number of people at risk from severe and fatal allergic reactions has increased sharply every year for the past 15 years, according to new NHS figures. The number of adults developing potentially lethal new allergies for the first time has also accelerated dramatically.
The figures reveal an unprecedented year-on-year increase in the number of prescriptions issued to those at risk of the most serious allergic reaction, known as anaphylactic shock. The most common triggers are allergies to eggs, nuts, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and latex. Potentially fatal reactions to insect stings are also increasingly common, as are dramatically adverse reactions to drugs and medication.
Emergency drug use has shown a rise of more than 700% in 13 years.