We’ve never had it so bad, apparently.

Around a third of people living in the UK will develop a serious allergy in the near future and yet we have fallen way behind the rest of Europe in diagnosing, understanding and treating such ailments, according to a House of Lords report.

Allergic diseases have trebled in the last 20 years and the UK now has one of the highest incidences in the world.

Allergic food reactions can kill, while hayfever, asthma and other debilitating conditions can hold children back at school and cause lifelong difficulties, says the Lords’ science and technology committee. However, we have failed to adopt treatments that can cure some allergy sufferers and are also suffering from a chronic shortage of allergy specialists.

The committee is particularly critical of the current advice given to pregnant women and children not to eat peanuts and claim it should be withdrawn immediately.

They point out that evidence the peanut advice is based on is now nine years old and further investigation was long overdue as in some parts of the world ground nuts are an important staple ingredient in rusks. There are also suggestions that actually depriving children of peanuts at a very early age contributes to the development of an allergy as they get older.

It is unsurprising to hear claims from Allergy UK that the developing world, particularly Western Europe, is in the grip of an allergy epidemic at present.

As certain allergies rise rapidly in wealthy nations, they are almost unheard of in the developing world. One theory is that we are living in an environment that is too clean – the hygiene hypothesis claims that the immune system over-reacts to pollen and dust.

The most common allergens are pollen from trees and grasses, house dust mites, moulds, cats and dogs, insects such as wasps and bees, chemicals, medicines and food such as milk and eggs. Less common allergens include nuts, fruit and latex. The most serious allergies, often to particular foodstuffs or to wasp or bee stings, throw the sufferer into anaphylactic shock which can lead to death.

So it seems to be official.

We are allergic to modern life.


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