Rise in allergies linked to modern living

MORE evidence linking a rise in allergies with modern living emerged from research in Greenland yesterday.

Scientists found the frequency of positive reactions to eight common allergy triggers almost doubled between 1987 and 1998 among a group of 850 Greenland people aged 15 to 80.

Greenland has undergone a major transition from a traditional to a modern and westernised society in recent decades.

Allergic diseases are known to be on the increase in western populations, but the reason why is not clear.

This week research from the United States showed that growing up in a household with dogs and cats can halve a child's chances of developing common allergies such as those which trigger asthma attacks.

The findings appeared to support the "dirty hypothesis", which suggests that being in too clean an environment early in life can make a child prone to allergy.

But the trend seen in Greenland applied across the full range of age groups, not just young children.

Dr Tyra Krause, from the Statens Serum Institute, Copenhagen, who reported the findings yesterday in the Lancet medical journal, said: "The fact that the increase in allergy has occurred in all age groups speaks against a general held belief that risk factors responsible for the epidemic increase in western countries operate only in childhood."

Dr Krause's team looked for a positive immune response to eight common inhaled allergens grass, birch, mugwort, dog, cat, horse, the fungus Cladosporium herbarum and house-dust mite.

The blood samples had been taken during screening programmes for sexually transmitted infections in 1987 and 1998.

In 1987, the frequency of positive allergen results was 10%. By 1998 this almost doubled to 19%.

The increase was largest in 15 to 19-year-olds, but occurred in all of the age groups.

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