After having risen year on year in recent decades, the rates of eczema and hay fever seem to have stabilised, and may even be falling, suggests research published ahead of print in Thorax.
But the rates of systemic allergic reactions, such as anaphylaxis and those related to food have soared, the data suggest.
The research team carried out a time trends analysis on the rates of illness and death for allergic disorders, excluding asthma.
They used national representative data and information from national surveys, consultations with primary care health practitioners, prescriptions, hospital admissions, and deaths.
Diagnoses of allergic rhinitis and eczema in children have trebled over the past three decades, but the prevalence of symptoms seems to have fallen recently.
Hospital admissions for eczema have also stabilised since 1995, while those for allergic rhinitis have fallen to about 40% of their 1990 levels.
Similarly, consultations with a family doctor for hay fever rose by 260%, and for eczema by 150%, between 1971 and 1991. But once again, rates have stabilised in the past decade, the figures indicate.
However, hospital admissions for anaphylaxis (serious allergic reaction in several areas of the body) have risen by 700%, those for food allergy by 500%, and those for the skin allergy urticaria by 100%.
Rates of angio-oedema, in which an absence of a specific protein promotes tissue swelling, leading to difficulties breathing, also rose by 40%.
Prescriptions for all types of allergy have also increased since 1991, the data show.
The findings suggest that while eczema and hay fever may have peaked, systemic allergies may be on the increase, say the authors.
They speculate that some of the trends could be explained by changes in medical practice and care, but they could also be attributable to changes in the sources of allergic disease.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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