Sharp Rise In Fatal Allergies
Worrying trend sees increasing numbers of older adults developing
allergies for the first time.
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.
soya allergies increase dramatically - GM soya is suspect - March
New research obtained by the Observer from the NHS Information
Centre reveals the number of emergency adrenaline injectors issued
by doctors to combat severe allergies rose by 112% in 2008. The
tables show that a record 211,040 injectors were issued, compared
with 101,032 in 2003 and just 25,320 in 1995 a rise of
more than 700% in 13 years.
But although the number of prescriptions has accelerated to a
record high, there has also been an increase of more than a quarter
in the number of emergency hospital admissions of people suffering
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."
Ewan said adults who develop allergies for the first time are
more likely to suffer extreme reactions if their sensitivity is
to eggs, milk or nuts, particularly hazelnuts. Bee and wasp
stings are also likely to catalyse a severe reaction. "Adults
also seem more likely than children to develop allergies
to fruit and vegetables," she added.
Tina Dixon, a consultant allergist at the Royal Liverpool and
Broadgreen University hospital, said: "Older adults
coming to my clinic suffering late sensitisation to fruit
and vegetables were a rarity in the 1980s."
Dixon believes adults could develop severe allergies if they
have unusual exposure to something. "The evidence suggests
that if you absorb something in an unnatural way, you could develop
an allergy after years of exposure," she said. "So,
for example, I treat a chef for late onset egg allergies because,
I think, he has spent years absorbing egg through his skin and
breathing it in through his nose, as he cooks with it."
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.
February 10, 2010