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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Why has there been such an increase in potentially fatal allergies?

Global intolerance has risen by up to 400 per cent, doctors warn. We need to understand what is driving such a spike

Children often outgrow their allergies. Getty Images
Children often outgrow their allergies. Getty Images

Whether it’s gluten, dairy, nuts or any one of countless other categories, food allergies continue to rise around the globe.

As The National reported, doctors have said that the number of children presenting with intolerances has risen by up to 400 per cent worldwide over the past decade, warning parents that they must be on alert for their children displaying reactive symptoms, which can range from blotches on the skin to shortness and constriction of breath.

Severe reactions are a terrifying ordeal for parents, as some allergic reactions can be life-threatening. One parent told The National that she "lived in fear" for her child coming into contact with the wrong food: "We tell the children to eat only the food we give them and their school is doing a good job in educating other parents." And yet, many continue to underplay the problem that allergies pose. As one medical professional said: "Some parents still don't appreciate how serious contact allergy can be."

The question on many people's minds will be why has there been such a significant rise in those suffering with food allergies? Have our lifestyles and diets changed so dramatically to prompt such a shift?

The truth is we don't know. Research on allergies is far from establishing any definite patterns on allergic reactions versus age and food groups, but several studies, the most recent conducted by the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology last month, have concluded that it is, indeed, possible to outgrow allergies. Other recommendations include modifying diet during pregnancy to reduce the likelihood of children rejecting certain food groups and some even suggest that removing entire food groups definitively may not be the answer.

In other words, the battle against allergies is complex and one that is unlikely to be won without a further and lengthy commitment to research. Awareness, understanding and vigilance can and will act as a first line of defence, but for us to truly understand why more of us are more allergy prone today, a larger data pool will have to be put together and analysed.