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Why the amount of kids with allergies has soared in past 15 years

Doctors are struggling to keep up with the crisis.

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A medium shot of a young girl blowing her nose while standing in a field of wildflowers.
(Juice Verve via Shutterstock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

The number of children seeking treatment for allergies has soared seven-fold in just 15 years, according to new research.

Clinics are struggling to keep up with the crisis - with only four times as many as there were in 2006.

In the UK, 40 percent of children have been diagnosed. The four most common are food allergy, eczema, asthma and hay fever.

Most outpatients' departments are relatively small - and vary in offering services such as allergen immunotherapy.

In immunotherapy, people are given a small amount of the substance they are allergic to - such as peanuts, for instance - every day.

Corresponding author Dr. Michael Perkin, of the University of London, said: "Our findings emphasize the need for national standards, local networks and simulation training to
ensure consistent and safe service provision."

The shock findings are based on a survey of all 450 UK hospitals - of which 229 reported providing pediatric allergy services.

Some trusts provided them in more than one, resulting in detailed questionnaires being sent to 154.

Dr. Perkin said: "Paediatric allergy services increased four-fold between
2006 and 2020 in the United Kingdom.

"Most pediatric allergy services are relatively small, suggesting a need for national standards and networking.

"There is significant regional variation in provision of some pediatric allergy services such as allergen immunotherapy."

Portrait of Little kid girl wipe the mucus and looking at camera with blurred background
(Blue Titan via Shutterstock)

A leading theory behind rising allergy and asthma diagnosis rates is the 'hygiene hypothesis.' Living conditions in much of the world might be too clean. Germs train immune systems to tell the difference between harmless and harmful irritants.

Increasing use of antibiotics, obesity, Vitamin D deficiency due to too much time spent indoors and even Caesarean births have also been linked to the phenomenon.

Dr. Perkin said allergies affect more than one-in-three British youngsters - costing the NHS over £1 billion a year.

The UK has one of the highest rates in the world. While the prevalence of hay fever and eczema has plateaued or decreased hospital admissions for acute reactions to foods, for instance, have increased significantly.

In 2003, the seminal Royal College of Physicians' report "Allergy: the Unmet Need" and a series of subsequent ones highlighted concerns about the paucity of pediatric allergy services.

The British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) undertook a survey of allergy services for a House of Commons report in 2006.

It was based on data from its website's clinic finding service - but is neither complete nor up to date.

Dr. Perkin said: "We have therefore undertaken the first comprehensive survey of every UK hospital to establish which are providing a pediatric allergy service
and what that service consists of.

"The intention of the survey is to also act as a repository so that health professionals and patients and their families can identify the location of services appropriate to
their needs.

"Furthermore, by identifying areas where inconsistencies exist, the information may be used to help drive publication of national standards for pediatric allergy services, similar to those in adult allergy services.

"The results will also allow individual services to benchmark themselves against other pediatric allergy services and may help inform decisions regarding the structure and development of services and networks."

Based on the data, the researchers produced an interactive online map showing the location of and services provided by the 154 hospitals seeing pediatric allergy patients.

The map, intended for use by healthcare practitioners and the public, is available
by Googling Paediatric Allergy Services Map

Dr. Perkin added: "There has been a welcome increase in pediatric allergy service provision, but much of this is provided in small services. Increased clinical case exposure brings with it increased clinical experience.

"The need for quality standards for pediatric allergy services, similar to those produced recently for adult allergy services, endorsed by both the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and BSACI, is recognized.

"Quality standards already exist for other pediatric subspecialties, such as gastroenterology, and the production of similar standards and accreditation for pediatric allergy will ensure that children with allergic diseases receive high-
quality and consistent care, regardless of their geographical location."

The study was published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy.

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