Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic disease in the United States, costing the health care system $18 billion each year (compared to $6 billion spent in 2000). Between 9% and 15% of all Americans have hay fever–and this promises to be a bad year for them. Because of the mild winter and the early onset of warm weather, pollen levels are expected to be at an all-time high and it is expected that people with hay fever will really suffer from their symptoms this year.
In general, allergies are on the rise. More that 50 million Americans suffer with allergies and nearly 55% of Americans test positive for one or more allergens. Research appearing in the August, 2005 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that of 10,500 subjects tested, more than 50% were sensitive to at least one of ten common allergens. This is double the percentage of individuals tested for allergies 30 years ago.
Medical treatment of allergies is directed at symptoms, but they may undermine the general health and make the underlying cause of the allergy worse. Nasal sprays, for example, irritate the mucus membranes. They actually create the problem that they are designed to solve. Side-effects of the common antihistamines include fatigue, dry mouth and headaches.