Allergy is a very common ailment with an estimated prevalence between 10 – 40% and is increasing worldwide. 1,2

A leading theory behind the rising allergy and asthma diagnosis rates is the “hygiene hypothesis.” This theory suggests that living conditions in much of the world might be too clean and kids aren’t being exposed to germs that train their immune systems to tell the difference between harmless and harmful irritants. 3
Several studies have shown that in developed countries where there is better sanitation, water supplies, and children with fewer infections, there is a significant increase in allergy compared to populations in less developed areas. 4

Though sometimes a controversial issue, global climate change is also thought to be, in part, responsible for an increase in allergies, making the matter not only an environmental issue but also a health issue. This is due to allergen triggers such as ragweed that grows faster and produces more pollen under increased carbon dioxide levels. In addition, warmer conditions lead to expansions of allergenic trees, and also increase the number of fungal antigens in the air.  4

Other effects of climate change include the increase of allergic asthma attacks due to the exacerbation of air pollution and pollen production in cities that leads to the “Urban Heat Island Effect.” As a result of these environmental changes hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis lasts up to three weeks longer than it used to. 4

Food allergy affects 10% of children up to 1 year of age, between 4-8% of children aged up to 5 years of age and approximately 2% of adults. 5

Hospital admissions for severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) have doubled over the last decade in Australia, USA and UK. In Australia, admissions for anaphylaxis due to food allergy in children aged 0 to 4 years are even higher, having increased five-fold over the same period.  5

The most common food allergen triggers are egg, cow’s milk, peanut, tree nuts, seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat. The majority of food allergies in children are not severe and may be ‘outgrown’ with time. However, peanut, tree nut, seed and seafood allergies are less likely to be outgrown and tend to be lifelong allergies. 5

3 Factors which may contribute to the increase in food allergies:

  1. Delayed introduction of allergenic foods such as egg, peanut or tree nuts in children.5
  2. Methods of food processing, such as roasted versus boiled peanuts.5
  3. Development of allergy to food by skin exposure such as the use of unrefined nut oil based moisturisers.5

The increased frequency of food allergy is driving research into areas such as prevention, treatment and why it has become more common. Current areas of research include allergen immunotherapy (also referred to as desensitisation) to switch off the allergy once it has developed. Initial results are encouraging but it is not yet ready for routine clinical use. Research continues to explore new ways of more effectively treating this condition. 5

Most allergies are manageable with avoidance, medications, and lifestyle changes. Working with your doctor or allergist can help reduce any major complications and make life more enjoyable.

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Name and business address of the holder of the certificate of registration: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd,. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07, 15e Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. For further information, speak to your healthcare professional. Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN3002/18


  1. Allergy Foundation South Africa. Allergy. [online] [cited May 2019]; Available from URL:
  2. Allergy UK. Allergy Prevalence: Useful facts and figures. [online] 2016 [cited May 2019]; Available from URL:
  3. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Increasing Rates of Allergies and Asthma. [online] [cited May 2019]; Available from URL:
  4. Why are allergies increasing? [online] September 2016 [cited May 2019]; Available from URL:
  5. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and allergy. Food allergy. [online] 2016 [cited May 2019]; Available from URL:
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