Achooo! Did you know that seasonal allergies affect about 50 million people in the US, penicillin kills about 400 people/year, and some people are allergic to cockroaches?! Learn all about allergies in this episode.
A note about this episode’s content:
Most of the allergy information in this episode is very short statistics that were commonly repeated in several sources. In many cases, I simply collected these statements and presented them below. Unless specifically noted below, please consider all the information as referenced from another source. See list of sources at the bottom of the show notes.
An allergy is when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance, called an allergen. It could be something you eat, inhale into your lungs, inject into your body or touch. This reaction could cause coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose and a scratchy throat. In severe cases, it can cause rashes, hives, low blood pressure, breathing trouble, asthma attacks and even death.1
There is no cure for allergies. You can manage allergies with prevention and treatment. More Americans than ever say they suffer from allergies. It is among the country’s most common, but overlooked, diseases.1
Who is affected?
- In about 50% of all homes in the U.S., there are at least 6 detectable allergens present in the environment.
- Nasal allergies affect about 50 million people in the United States. (30% of adults, 40% of children)
- Odds that a child with one allergic parent will develop allergies: 33%.
- Odds that a child with two allergic parents will develop allergies: 70%.
- Allergies are increasing and have been steadily for the past 50 years
- Most common health issue for kids
- Percentage of the U.S. population that tests positive to one or more allergens: 55%
- Females are slightly more likely to have food allergies than males with percentages of reported reactions at 4.1 and 3.8 respectively.
- Non-Hispanic white children have the highest percentage of reported food allergies at 4.1, non-Hispanic blacks at 4.0, and Hispanic children at 3.1.
- The most common triggers for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction, are medicines, food and insect stings.
- Medicines cause the most allergy related deaths.
- African-Americans and the elderly have the most deadly reactions to medicines, food or unknown allergens.
- Deadly reactions from venom are higher in older white men.
- Over the years, deadly drug reactions have increased a lot.
It ain’t cheap
- In 2010, Americans with nasal swelling spent about $17.5 billion on health costs.
- They have also lost more than 6 million work and school days and made 16 million visits to their doctor.
- Food allergies cost about $25 billion each year.
Heyyyyy… Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
- Worldwide, allergic rhinitis affects between 10 percent and 30 percent of the population.
- 7.8% of adults get hay fever
- In 2010, white children were more likely to have hay fever than African-American children.
- Global warming may have added four weeks to pollen season in the last 10-15 years
Allergies around the US
The Eczema-Allergy Connection9
Eczema can flare up when you are around allergies. Children with eczema are also more likely to have food allergies, such as to eggs, nuts, or milk. They often make eczema symptoms worse for kids but not for adults.
- Genes – a gene flaw that causes a lack of a type of protein, called filaggrin, weakens that skin barrier and makes it easier for allergens to get into the body.
- How the body reacts to allergens – people with eczema may have small gaps in the skin that make it dry out quickly and let germs and allergens into the body. Allergens cause inflammation and lead to eczema.
- Too many antibodies – people with eczema have above average levels of Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of antibody that plays a role in the body’s allergic response.
Tips to avoid Hay Fever8
- Reduce your stress – less stress = milder symptoms
- Exercise more – a survey found that people who exercise have the mildest symptoms and this reduces stress, too. However, avoid exercising outdoors when the pollen count is high (early morning and early evening). Better yet, exercise indoors if symptoms are severe.
- Eat well
- Healthy diets = milder symptoms.
- However, foods that can worsen hay fever symptoms for some people include apples, tomatoes, stoned fruits, melons, bananas and celery.
- Eat foods rich in omega 3 and 6 essential fats which can be found in oily fish, nuts, seeds, and their oils. These contain anti-inflammatory properties, and may help reduce symptoms of hay fever.
- Cut down on alcohol – beer, wine and spirits contain histamine, the chemical that sets off allergy symptoms in your body. Alcohol also dehydrates you, making your symptoms seem worse.
- Sleep well = mildest symptoms. People who get seven hours of sleep or more report less symptoms than those getting five hours sleep or less a night.
- Get pricked – Immunotherapy (allergy shots) helps reduce hay fever symptoms in about 85% of people with allergic rhinitis.3
Skin in the game
Skin allergies include skin inflammation, eczema, hives, chronic hives and contact allergies. Plants like poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are the most common skin allergy triggers. But skin contact with cockroaches and dust mites, certain foods or latex may also cause skin allergy symptoms.
- In 2012, 8.8 million children had skin allergies.
- Children age 0-4 are most likely to have skin allergies.
- In 2010, African-American children in the U.S. were more likely to have skin allergies than white children.
That PB&J that is to die for…literally. (Food Allergies)
Children have food allergies more often than adults. Eight foods cause most food allergy reactions. They are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.
- Percentage of the people in the U.S. who believe they have a food allergy: up to 15%.
- Percentage of the people in the U.S. who actually have a food allergy: 3% to 4%.
- Peanut is the most common allergen. Milk is second. Shellfish is third.
- Peanut and tree nut allergies affect about 1% of the US.
- In 2014, 4 million children in the US have food allergies.
- 8% of children have a food allergy
- Also, 38.7 % of food-allergic children have a history of severe reactions.
- 30.4% are allergic to multiple foods.
Bad medicine (Drug Allergies)
- Penicillin is the most common allergy trigger for those with drug allergies. Up to 10 percent of people report being allergic to this common antibiotic.
- Penicillin kills about 400 people / year.
- Bad drug reactions may affect 10 percent of the world’s population. These reactions affect up to 20 percent of all hospital patients.
No glove love
- Only about 1 percent of people in the U.S. have a latex allergy.
- However, health care workers are becoming more concerned about latex allergies. About 8-12 percent of health care workers will get a latex allergy.
- Approximately 220 cases of anaphylaxis and 3 deaths per year are due to latex allergy.
Bug me not
People who have insect allergies are often allergic to bee and wasp stings and poisonous ant bites. Cockroaches and dust mites may also cause nasal or skin allergy symptoms.
- Insect sting allergies affect 5 percent of the population.
- At least 40 deaths occur each year in the United States due to insect sting reactions.
- Adults are about 4x more likely to die from an insect sting than a kid. Basically, if you still have a reaction when you’re an adult, it affects you hard.
- Venom immunotherapy is 97% effective in preventing insect sting reactions in sensitive patients