Spring is in the air and may be creeping into your home. For those who suffer from known seasonal allergies, spring's onslaught of pollen and other airborne allergens may bring misery. The most common seasonal allergy is allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, which affects 15 to 30 percent of Americans. An allergy is defined as a "harmful, increased susceptibility to a specific substance," also known as hypersensitivity. Allergic diseases are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States. Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population suffers from allergic diseases and it is estimated that in 2000, increased absenteeism and reduced productivity due to allergies cost U.S. companies more than $250 million. (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.)
Allergens are defined as airborne irritants that trigger the release of histamine, a body chemical, which in turn causes an allergic reaction. Anything can trigger that reaction, but the most common allergens are: pet dander, mold, pollen, tobacco smoke (including cigar smoke) and dust mites. These allergens may be invisible, but those who suffer from allergies know when they are present.
The following article examines the prevalence of allergies among adults (18+) and children (0-17) in Southeastern Pennsylvania using data from PHMC' s 2004 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey.
Allergy Prevalence Among Adults In SEPA
· In Southeastern Pennsylvania, one-third (31.1%) of adults have self-reported allergies, representing approximately 910,800 adults.
· The percentage of allergic adults has increased from 25.5% in 1991 to 31.1% in 2004.
· The percentage of adults with allergies is largely the same in each of the Southeastern Pennsylvania counties (approximately 30%), with a slightly higher percentage in Philadelphia County (32.3%).
· White (31.3%) and African American (32.7%) adults are more likely than Latino (26.7%) and Asian (24.6%) adults to have allergies.
· Poor adults are more likely to have allergies compared to non-poor adults (36.5% versus 30.8%).
· Adults with allergies (22.6%) are more likely than those without allergies (17.2%) to report that their health is fair or poor.
· Nearly one-quarter of a million (217,500) Southeastern Pennsylvania adults who have allergies also have asthma.
Allergy Prevalence Among Children In SEPA
· In Southeastern Pennsylvania, about one-quarter (23%) of children have self-reported allergies, representing approximately 910,800 children.
· The percentage of children with allergies has increased from 19.4% in 1991 to 23% in 2004.
· Among children with allergies, more than half (53%) take medication to help them control their allergies.
· Asian (17.2%), white (22.2%) and Latino (21.2%) children are less likely to have allergies compare to African American (26.5%) children.
· About one in five children have allergies in each of the Southeastern Pennsylvania counties with a slightly higher percentage in Montgomery County (27.5%). Delaware County (18.8%) has the lowest percentage of children with allergies.
· Boys and girls are equally as likely to have allergies (23.9% versus 22.1%, respectively.)
· Poor children are more likely to have allergies compared to non-poor children (25.7% versus 22.7%, respectively.)
· Children with allergies are more likely than those without allergies to report that their health is fair or poor; 13.5% of children with allergies are in fair or poor health.
· Among children with allergies, nearly 7% do not participate in any regular physical activities for exercise.
· Four in ten children with allergies also have asthma (43%); this percentage represents 92,700 children.
· More than seventeen percent of children in the region have been told at some point that they have asthma, representing 166,800 children in the region.
· Boys are slightly more likely to have asthma compared to girls (18.8% versus 16.6%, respectively.)
· Poor children are also more likely to have asthma compared to the non-poor (27.3% versus 16.4%, respectively.)
· Approximately three-quarters (71.3%) of children with asthma are taking prescription medication to help control their condition.
As the above findings indicate, the prevalence of allergies has increased among adults and children in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Although treatable, allergies can cause health and financial problems and often coexists with asthma. This is especially true for individuals who are poor and uninsured and less likely to receive the quality and continuity of care needed to monitor and treat chronic health conditions. If you would like additional information on allergies, you can visit The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology at http://www.aaaai.org/patients.stm
As a special note to our readers, your pets can suffer from allergies too! Pet allergy is similar to hay fever that humans suffer. The animal reacts to inhaled particles such as mold, pollen, and dust. But instead of sneezing, pets typically have itchy skin and will persistently scratch, lick and bite to get relief. Like in human sufferers, the allergy is an inherited predisposition. For more information regarding pet allergies visit: http://www.healthypet.com/library_view.aspx?ID=24&sid=1
For more information about the above findings, contact Francine Axler at Francine@phmc.org