There's been a lot of reports in the media that there's been a large rise in the number of allergy-related health problems over the past decade. Some reports claim that there has been a 265% increase in the number of hospitalizations due to allergy related problems in the US over the past decade. Others say that certain allergies (such as peanut allergies) have doubled or tripled in recent years.
- "What's behind the rise in allergic reactions?", Independent, 2007
- "Allergies", Figures from a BBC Radio Program
- Robyn O'Brien, TEDx, 2011
But then there's evidence against this. For example, although a US study showed that peanut allergies in children had doubled between 1997 to 2002, further digging reveals a less clear picture. For a start, it's only the one study. Secondly, the study was a survey (no actual allergy tests were taken). Thirdly, the rise was from 0.4% to 0.8%, which may not even be statistically significant.
Also, there's lots of articles speculating that media hype is largely responsible for this "rise" in allergies, with some people claiming it is nothing more than public mass-hysteria. (To put it into perspective: Only 150 people die each year in the US from allergy related problems. Only 10 from peanut allergies. Despite this, there is a large amount of media attention given to allergies, which may have led to people becoming unduly concerned.)
- "Are Nut Bans Promoting Hysteria?", New York Times, 2006
- "Are the dangers of childhood food allergy exaggerated?", British Medical Journal, 2006
- "Expert sees peanut allergy solution within 5 years", Reuters, 2008
So where's the truth in all this? Has there been a genuine explosion in allergy related issues, is the public getting overly concerned due to irresponsible media reports, or has there been a change in how these issues are being treated by the medical profession?
Thanks for any solid answers!