Have you heard of the Silent Epidemic?
In today’s post-Covid world, nearly everyone is familiar with terms like “pandemic” and “epidemic,” and one example of an epidemic that isn’t talked about enough is the huge portion of the U.S. population suffering from allergies.
Since most allergy cases are not deadly, people tend to write off just how much of an impact allergies can have on people, but once they understand just how widespread they can be, they tend to take allergies more seriously.
If you’re surprised to hear that allergies are an epidemic in America, you should know these five surprising stats.
1. Over 34% of the U.S. population suffers from some kind of allergy
Allergies are more common than many might assume, and that’s because there are quite a few different types of allergies that people can have, and they can vary drastically in severity of symptoms. Seasonal allergies and allergic rhinitis (symptoms concentrated in the nose) are the most common, followed closely by conjunctivitis (symptoms concentrated in the eyes), and dermatitis or eczema.
But, there are also food allergies, which affect approximately 33 million people, bringing the total number of diagnosed cases of all allergies in the U.S. to 129 million.
Even more shocking: this staggering number could even be an underestimate of the real number of people who suffer from allergies. Many people with allergies, especially milder, seasonal allergies confuse their symptoms for a mild cold or other illness and don’t seek help from a physician or allergist.
2. Allergies are the #1 chronic illness in the U.S.
Seasonal allergies are considered the 6th chronic condition in the U.S., but when food, drug, and other allergies are combined with seasonal allergies, allergic disease is the number one chronic condition in the U.S. — even more common than hypertension and diabetes.
According to the CDC, the definition of a chronic condition is, “a condition that lasts 1 year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living or both.” And, given that allergies rarely resolve without intervention, many people go years struggling with the same food or seasonal allergies with only antihistamines to relieve their symptoms.
3. Allergies have increased in prevalence by 35% over the past 50 years
If you’ve noticed a gradual increase in the number of people around you struggling with allergies, or if you feel like you’ve started feeling allergy symptoms yourself recently, then you’re not alone. Allergy cases have increased by 35% since the turn of the century, and there are a few different theories for why.
One theory is that our immune systems have weakened over time as society has started placing more emphasis on cleanliness and hygiene. We don’t expose our bodies to enough environmental germs and toxins to build up immunity to them, and so our immune system overreacts to things it shouldn’t, like some foods or pollen, causing allergic reactions.
Another theory is that our diet does not support a well-balanced and strong microbiome as it once did. Our guts are very connected to our immune system, and when we deprive ourselves of certain nutrients, it can become harder for our immune system to fight off the right things that are actually causing harm.
While allergies can be hereditary, they can also be developed later in life as our bodies are exposed to more of the environment, which is probably why many people suddenly notice seasonal allergy symptoms one Spring when they haven’t previously suffered from allergies.
4. 82% of allergy sufferers say that allergy symptoms impact their quality of life
Allergies can have more negative impact than just a runny nose or itchy eyes. In fact, a huge percentage of allergy sufferers find that their allergy symptoms impact their quality of life.
For those with food allergies, that may seem obvious. When you can’t have nuts or dairy or gluten for fear of a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, it can be emotionally tough living with those restrictions. On top of that, there’s always a hint of anxiety that an allergen will be in a food when it’s not labeled, triggering a reaction.
For those with seasonal allergies, the impact is both direct and indirect. Since allergies can trigger symptoms similar to a cold or flu, it can be hard to feel like you’re sick every single day without relief. And, these symptoms can certainly be severe enough to impact mental health, sleep, and the ability to live a full life.
While antihistamines can help, it can feel like there’s no end in sight when you struggle with allergies, and that can be emotionally draining.
5. Only 5% of Americans have tried allergy immunotherapy to treat their symptoms
Allergy immunotherapy is a preventative treatment for allergies that involves a gradual increase of exposure to an allergen in order to decrease the body’s sensitivity to it. Despite being introduced to the world over 100 years ago, many people have never heard of allergy immunotherapy, and an even smaller number (about 5% of Americans) have ever tried it.
Immunotherapy can be administered through regular injections or even sublingually in the form of allergy drops, and it’s currently the only disease-modifying treatment for allergies. But, many primary care providers don’t have a way to offer this treatment to their patients with allergies, causing it to go severely underutilized in the allergy community.
Those who are open to the idea of immunotherapy for their allergies may decide against the treatment because of accessibility or cost, as it’s much more convenient and much cheaper to take an antihistamine every day. But, it’s simply not a long-term solution that many allergy sufferers are looking for these days.
Antihistamines only provide short-term relief
When diagnosed with allergies for the first time, many people just accept the fact that they’ll have to take antihistamines regularly (if not daily) for the rest of their lives and don’t address the root cause of allergies.
While effective, antihistamines only mask the symptoms. In order to properly handle allergies and improve quality of life without reliance on medication, allergy immunotherapy is the best option.
Ready to take control of your allergy symptoms once and for all? Ask your doctor if they’re using Allercare’s innovative testing and treatment system or if they can refer you to an allergy specialist who does. And, if you’re a physician looking to support the millions of Americans suffering from allergies, reach out to Allercare today.
1. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI)
2. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA)
3. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, PubMed
5. Statistica & SingleCare