March 31, 2006

Allergies reach epidemic levels in Europe -experts

BERLIN (Reuters) - Allergies such as hay fever are reaching
epidemic proportions in Europe and a failure to treat them
properly is creating a mounting bill for society and the
healthcare system, experts said on Friday.

Around one third of the European population has some kind
of allergy, while one in two children in Britain will have
allergies by 2015, costing millions of euros in medical bills,
lost work days and even impaired concentration in school

Experts say various factors such as air pollution, animal
fur and dust mites could act as triggers for allergies but that
the levels of allergic reaction vary from country to country.

"There is an epidemic of allergic disease in Europe and
elsewhere in the world," Peter Burney, vice president of
research at the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network
(GALEN), told reporters on Friday.

Allergies were most prevalent in Britain and Ireland, as
well as other English speaking countries like Canada, Australia
and the United States, Burney said, adding they were also
becoming more widespread in new European Union member states.

"It's not a problem which is going to go away soon," he
added, noting that as allergy sufferers get older the
complications resulting from their condition tend to get worse.

"We have data showing that up to the age of 55, people do
not lose their allergies, but that the complications are
greater," he said. "This is a serious problem."

Failure to treat allergies could also increase the risk of
patients developing asthma later in life, GALEN's general
secretary Torsten Zuberbier said, calling for early diagnosis
and treatment of sufferers.

"We have valid data that one third of European Union people
have allergies but only 10 percent of these millions of people
are treated well," Zuberbier said, adding that around 40
percent of children with untreated hay fever will develop

"We need early treatment in children and we can avoid the
large burden of social and economic costs," he said.

The GALEN network has established standard practice across
Europe in diagnosing allergies and it has now begun to draw up
guidelines on how best to treat the conditions.