Why are allergies on the rise in the UK?

Cause of allergies

Why are allergies on the rise in the UK?

In the UK, the number of people with allergies grows by 5% every year, and half of these people are children. Research from 2007 indicated a 500% increase in food allergies since 1990. Hay fever, asthma, and eczema have been rising for 3 decades and continue to do so. These are only two of the statistics that highlight the trend in increasing allergies in the UK. There is much more research to support this. But what we don’t know is what the actual cause of allergies is. There are many theories about this, but scientists are finding it hard to settle on just one. The most popular theories include the hygiene hypothesis, the mother’s diet during pregnancy, allergen exposure and atmospheric pollution. Each theory has its own unique points on why allergies may be increasing in the UK.

The cause of allergies?

The hygiene hypothesis suggests that exposing a child to potentially harmful bacteria can aid immune system development. As a society, we focus on creating clean environments for our children. This creates a lack of exposure to dirt and bacteria and could impede immune system development. Research has shown that children have higher rates of hay fever, asthma, and other allergies when they live in very clean environments.

Other research suggests that the mother’s diet may influence a child’s likelihood of developing allergies. Researchers from Imperial College London recently found that when mothers took fish oil supplements during pregnancy, in combination with breastfeeding, their children were 30% less likely to be allergic to eggs and 22% less likely to develop eczema. This study focuses on very specific allergies. But, evidence exists to suggest linkages between prenatal diet and other allergies in children.

No smoke without fire?

One study found that mothers who ate more tree nuts during pregnancy were less likely to have a child with a nut allergy. Yet, the research into the relationship between a mother’s diet and allergies is inconclusive. It can only suggest a relationship between the two factors, rather than causality. You should always talk to your GP before taking supplements and changing your diet during pregnancy.

Some suggest that the increased prevalence of allergies in the UK is a result of increased exposure to allergens. This contradicts the idea that increased exposure to allergens could reduce sensitivity. However, it supports the idea that increased atmospheric pollution could cause more asthma. Two-thirds of people in the UK report that poor air quality worsens their asthma. Also, research shows that children living in more polluted areas have a higher chance of developing asthma.

Despite each having research to support them, these ideas surrounding the causes of allergies in the UK are still theoretical. The evidence that does exist remains inconclusive. There could be some truth to them all but what the evidence does highlight, is a need for further research.

If you think you are suffering from an allergy and would like to get tested, you can book an appointment with us online or by phone or request an allergy test.

Copyright 2024. All Rights Reserved