Traffic pollution and cleaner homes mean HALF of us could have allergies by 2026

hayfeverWithin just a decade there could be up to half of the UK population suffering from hayfever, asthma, or another type of allergy, health experts are warning. The problems are mainly linked to an increasing amount of traffic pollution and much cleaner homes.

If current trends carry on at their current pace, millions more people will be reaching for their antihistamine or being prescribed asthma inhalers by the year 2026 to combat symptoms such as runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, sneezing (hayfever), and breathlessness (asthma).

Currently, around 1 in 4 people have at least 1 kind of allergy, with the number of people suffering going up by an additional 5% per year.

An estimated half of all sufferers are children. By 2025 asthma alone will likely become the most prevalent chronic childhood condition and have one of the largest healthcare costs.

A cleaner environment at home with less childhood infections, increasing traffic pollution and multiple types of pollen have been highlighted as factors behind the allergy rise.

Allergies of all kinds have soared in recent years. For example, in the last decade alone, cases of food allergies have doubled in number.

With regards to the most severe form of allergic reaction – anaphylaxis – there has been a massive 615% jump in hospital admissions between 1992 and 2012.

Sheena Cruickshank, senior lecturer in immunology at Manchester University, told the ESOF science forum: “Allergy is really common and it’s thought to be increasing.

“It’s not something we saw a hundred years ago and maybe in ten years’ time 50 per cent of us are going to be suffering from hay-fever, asthma, or food allergy.

“Basically we are looking at that kind of trend year on year. We are certainly seeing more young people affected by an allergy and we do see adults develop it in later life.

“Why is this happening? There are lots of theories, such as the fact we are very clean now so our immune system doesn’t get properly educated.

“Or the types of infection we get exposed to are very different, and again makes our immune system misfire.

“But of course the other thing is our atmosphere has very much changed.

“We are farming different crops and on a different scale so there are different pollens, and more of them. And there are the invisible pollutants we are exposed to.”

A new project known as Breathing Britain is attempting to determine the causes behind respiratory allergies by the use of a mobile phone app.

The app will pinpoint a person’s location, whilst analysing their symptoms, as well as pollen and pollution levels – particularly whilst at the time of an allergic attack.

Dr Cruickshank added: “The real issue in trying to understand the cause-and-effect is the lack of good quality data.

“If you think about the average person with hay-fever, the only time they will go a doctor or a hospital is when they are very unwell.

“We have no data whatsoever on the day-to-day symptoms people are living with. We don’t know when the symptoms are starting and when they are starting to have difficulties.

“The only way to get data is to work with the public, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Professor Gordon McFiggans, an atmospheric researcher, said: “Our work is all about finding the level of data needed to make good policy decisions.

“If we are going to tackle the issue of pollution, we need more integration between policy makers and scientists.

“And measurements of atmospheric pollutants on the ground and measurements of their impact on health is a hugely important part of that mix.”

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