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Thorax 62:91-96 doi:10.1136/thx.2004.038844
  • Review

Time trends in allergic disorders in the UK

  1. R Gupta1,
  2. A Sheikh2,
  3. D P Strachan3,
  4. H R Anderson3
  1. 1Lung and Asthma Information Agency, Division of Community Health Sciences, St George’s, University of London, UK
  2. 2Division of Community Health Sciences: GP Section, University of Edinburgh, UK
  3. 3Division of Community Health Sciences, St George’s, University of London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    MsR Gupta
    Division of Community Health Sciences, St George’s, University of London, London SW17 0RE, UK; rgupta{at}sgul.ac.uk
  • Received 7 January 2006
  • Accepted 21 July 2006
  • Published Online First 1 September 2006

Abstract

Background: Allergic disorders are common in the UK. This study reviews recent UK time trends in the prevalence, morbidity and mortality for allergic disorders, excluding asthma.

Methods: A trend analysis was performed over recent decades of national, representative or repeat surveys, primary care consultations, prescriptions, hospital admissions, and mortality.

Results: Serial surveys showed that the prevalence of diagnosed allergic rhinitis and eczema in children have both trebled over the last three decades. While these long term trends were paralleled by the prevalence of disease symptoms, more recent symptom prevalence data suggest a decline. Similarly, GP consultation rates rose by 260% for hay fever and by 150% for eczema overall during the period 1971–91, but rates have stabilised over the past decade. Hospital admissions for eczema have been stable since 1995, and hospital admissions for allergic rhinitis have fallen to about 40% of their 1990 levels. Since 1990, admissions for anaphylaxis have increased by 700%, for food allergy by 500%, for urticaria by 100%, and for angio-oedema by 40%. Prescriptions issued for all types of allergy have increased since 1991.

Conclusions: The prevalence and healthcare usage for eczema and hay fever have increased substantially over recent decades, but may now be stabilising or even falling. In contrast, admissions for some systemic allergic diseases have risen sharply in the last decade which may indicate a rising incidence of these conditions. Although changes in treatment and other healthcare factors may have contributed to these trends, there may also be a change in the aetiology of allergic disease in the UK.

Footnotes

  • Competing interests: None.


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