Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Allergies Health Center

Font Size

Allergies Are on the Rise

Allergies to Pollen, Dander, and Dust Are Up, but the Reason Is a Mystery
WebMD Health News

April 15, 2005 -- April truly is the cruelest month for allergy sufferers, bringing nasal-assaulting tree pollen along with all those lovely spring flowers.

If you live in a current pollen hot spot like Atlanta; Austin, Texas; or Hartford, Conn., it may seem like more people than ever are sniffling, sneezing, and suffering because of spring allergies.

Now new research confirms that this is the case, suggesting that people have become more sensitive to environmental allergic assaults over the last 25 years.

Using blood samples provided over time by British men, the study showed that allergies to pollen, pet dander, and other common allergy triggers have increased by nearly 5% per decade since the mid-1970s.

Allergy Mystery

But a researcher on the study says he doesn't know why.

"There seems to be something that is making people more sensitive to these allergens," epidemiologist Malcolm Law, MD, tells WebMD. "It is probably something to do with Western lifestyle, but what it is we don't know."

Law and colleagues analyzed blood samples from 513 middle-aged men attending a medical center in London between 1996 and 1998. They then matched the blood to stored samples taken from 513 men between 1981 and 1982 and to 513 samples taken between 1975 and 1976.

All the samples were tested for sensitivity to 11 allergy triggers including grass and tree pollens, household dust mites, and pet dander. Positive samples were retested for specific immune-allergy responses to inhaled grass and tree pollen, and cat dander.

The researchers reported "highly significant increases" over time in the proportion of men testing positive for the allergy triggers, with specific increases in antibodies to the three inhaled allergens.

No Decline With Age

The average rate of increase was equivalent to an additional 4.5% of men developing allergies each decade. There was also no evidence that allergic reactions declined as the men grew older, as has been reported in other studies.

The findings are reported in the April 15 online edition of the British Medical Journal.

Allergy and asthma specialist Pramod Kelkar, MD, tells WebMD that the strength of the study is its length.

"This study spanned several decades, and we haven't seen that before," he says.

The researchers conclude that the increase in susceptibility is not likely to be due to increased environmental exposures or to a decline in childhood infections in recent decades -- two popular theories for why allergic diseases are on the rise.

"We just don't have the answers," Law says.

Today on WebMD

man blowing nose
Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
Allergy capsule
Breathe easier with these products.
cat on couch
Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Which ones affect you?

blowing nose
woman with sore throat
lone star tick
Woman blowing nose

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

cat lying on shelf
Allergy prick test
Man sneezing into tissue
Woman holding feather duster up to face, twitching