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.
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.
Allergies – Q&A
How Many People Do Allergies Affect?
- Researchers think nasal allergies affect about 50 million people in the United States.
- Allergies are increasing. They affect as many as 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children.
- Allergic disease, including asthma, is the fifth leading chronic disease in the U.S. in people of all ages. It is the third most common chronic disease in children under 18 years old.
How Many People Get Sick from Allergies?
- Allergic conditions are the most common health issues affecting children in the U.S.15
- In 2012, 11.1 million people were diagnosed with allergic rhinitis.
- People visit the emergency room about 200,000 times each year because of food allergies. Almost 10,000 people stay in the hospital each year because of food allergies.
How Many People Die from Allergies?
- The most common triggers for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction, are medicines, food and insect stings.4 Medicines cause the most allergy related deaths.
- African-Americans and the elderly have the deadliest reactions to medicines, food or unknown allergens.
- Deadly reactions from venom are higher in older white men.12 Over the years, deadly drug reactions have increased a lot.
What Are the Costs of Allergies?
- 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.6
- Food allergies cost about $25 billion each year.
What Are Indoor and Outdoor Allergies?
Types of indoor and outdoor allergies include sinus swelling, seasonal and returning allergies, hay fever and nasal allergies. Many people with allergies often have more than one type of allergy. The most common indoor/outdoor allergy triggers are: tree, grass and weed pollen, mold spores, dust mites, cockroaches, and cat, dog and rodent dander.
- In 2012, 17.6 million adults and 6.6 million children had hay fever.
- Worldwide, allergic rhinitis affects between 10 percent and 30 percent of the population. In 2010, allergic rhinitis was diagnosed during 11.1 million doctor visits.
- In 2010, white children were more likely to have hay fever than African-American children.
- The same triggers for indoor/outdoor allergies also often cause eye allergies.
How Common Are Skin Allergies?
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.
How Common Are 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.
- Peanut is the most common allergen. Milk is second. Shellfish is third.
- Researchers think about 6 million children in the U.S. have food allergies. Most of them are young children.
- Also, 38.7 percent of food-allergic children have a history of severe reactions.
- In children with food allergies, 30.4 percent are allergic to multiple foods.
How Common Are 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.
- Bad drug reactions may affect 10 percent of the world’s population. These reactions affect up to 20 percent of all hospital patients.
How Common Is Latex Allergy?
- About 1 percent of people in the U.S. have a latex allergy.
- Health care workers are becoming more concerned about latex allergies. About 8-12 percent of health care workers will get a latex allergy.
How Common Is Insect Allergy?
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.
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