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Asthma Fact Sheet | Basic Asthma Information
Allergy Fact Sheet | Basic Types and Prevalence

Allergy Fact Sheet

Prevalence and Morbidity

  • More than 50 million Americans have some type of allergy, the body's overreaction to something that doesn't cause a problem for most people.
  • There are hundreds of ordinary things that can trigger an allergic reaction. The most common 'allergens' are plant pollens, molds, dust mites, insect stings or food.
  • More than half of all adults and children test positive to one or more allergens.
  • Allergic diseases, which include asthma, are the fifth most prevalent chronic diseases in all ages, and the third most common in children.

Types of Allergic Diseases

  • Allergic rhinitis, often called hay fever, is the general term used to describe the allergic reactions that take place in the nose and nasal passages. The condition affects as many as 10 percent to 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children and common symptoms include sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, watery eyes and itching of the nose, eyes or the roof of the mouth.
  • Allergic skin reactions such as contact dermatitis, eczema and hives can be caused by allergens and other irritants. Common allergens and irritants include plants such as poison ivy, medicines, insect stings, foods, animals and chemicals.
  • Allergic eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is one of the most common rashes. It affects more than 15 million people in the United States, including 20 percent of infants and young children. Symptoms include red, itchy, irritated skin. Sometimes there are small fluid-filled bumps that ooze.
  • Hives, or urticaria, cause red bumps or welts and affect 10-30 percent of Americans at some point of their lives.
  • Food allergies affect approximately 12 million Americans, including 3 million children. Although food allergy occurs most often in infants and children, it can appear at any age and be caused by foods that have been eaten for years without problem.
  • Almost any food can cause an allergy, but the most common culprits are eggs, cow's milk, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.
  • Many parts of the body may be affected by food allergy, and the frequency and severity of symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening. Among the symptoms of food allergy are vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, hives, skin rash, headaches, asthma and respiratory symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing and runny nose. In rare cases, food allergies cause anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
  • An estimated 31 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with sinus infections, called sinusitis, each year. Symptoms include a runny nose with thick discharge, cough, and sometimes pain in the forehead, around and in between the eyes, and in the upper jaw, cheeks and teeth.
  • People with asthma are more likely to have chronic sinusitis -- between 40 percent and 75 percent of those with asthma have sinusitis.
  • Anaphylaxis is rare allergic reaction that affects many parts of the body at the same time. If not treated quickly, it can be fatal.
  • About 500 to 1,000 people die each year from severe allergic emergencies.
  • The most frequent anaphylaxis triggers are food, insect stings, medication and latex.
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