Do non-allergic homes miss the point?
A growing number of us are living with an allergy. Figures from US cities show a 20-fold increase in hospitalisations for asthma since 1960. In the UK, one in 3 people suffers from an allergy and the number is rising, a British child goes to hospital with asthma every 19 minutes.
Conventional wisdom leads us to blame house dust mites, central heating, air pollution and other side-effects of modern life. Some scientists however have come to a different conclusion.
Researchers at the University of Virginia point out that while asthma rates are increasing, air pollution is falling and the number of houses with central heating as not increased significantly since 1975. So what’s driving the rise in allergies?
According to the US researchers, there have been three big changes in lifestyle that have led to the increase in allergies over the last 40 years:
1: Improvements in the quality of drinking water and the migration of people to cities and suburbs has dramatically reduced gut infections. This in turn was a strong factor in initiating widespread allergic disease.
2: The rise of computers, television and video games means children now spend many more hours indoors than they used to. This means they are spending more time in contact with potential allergens.
3: By spending so much time indoors, children are losing out on the beneficial effects of outdoor play. According to the researchers, regular full expansion of the lungs actually works to prevent wheezing.
So, according to this research, the key to allergy prevention may not be to allergy-proof your home. Rather the answer might be to spend less time in the home and more time outside.
Allergy facts from the NHS (http://www.nhs.uk/Pages/homepage.aspx)
· One in three Britons has an allergy.
· A child goes to hospital with asthma every 19 minutes.
· 40,000 children born each year have a nut allergy.
· Hospital admissions for anaphylaxis have risen fivefold since 1990.
· Between 1990 and 2003, 49,000 people were admitted to hospital with severe allergic reactions.
· There are 15 million hayfever sufferers in UK.
· There are 20 confirmed cases of Aquagenic Urticaria (severe allergy to water) in the UK.
· There are 100 confirmed cases of Human Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity (allergy to sperm).
· Eight foods account for 90% of allergic reactions. They are: peanuts, tree nuts (including walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios and pecans), fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, wheat and soy.
· An estimated 10% of people in the UK suffer from some degree of Polymorphic Light Eruption (allergy to the sun).