In the guide, Making Sense of Allergies, allergy specialists and charities warn that essential information and life-saving actions are being diluted in a sea of over diagnosis.
There has been a rapid rise in allergies across developed countries. The percentage of children diagnosed with allergic rhinitis and eczema have both trebled in the last 30 years. Allergies are now better diagnosed and their incidence in populations has risen. But there is concern that allergy has also become a catch-all diagnosis for unexplained symptoms, and this rise has been accompanied by a lot of non-medical diagnosis and treatment.
Most allergy tests and natural treatments offered on the high street and online have no scientific basis. These ineffective tests and other kinds of self diagnosis are creating a large proportion of people who think they have an allergy when they don’t. One study found 34% of parents reported food allergies in their children but only 5% actually had an allergy. Myths about artificial additives, junk food and immunisations causing allergies are also contributing to self diagnosed allergy.
The result is that people are not getting other medical conditions diagnosed, taking useless treatments, and needlessly restricting diets, including for children where resulting cases of malnutrition have been observed by clinicians. Meanwhile dangerous allergies are trivialised. Seven times as many people were admitted to hospital with severe allergic reactions in Europe in 2015 than in 2005. UK hospital admissions for anaphylaxis increased 615% between 1992 and 2012.