Allergies in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Allergies occur when a person is hypersensitive to something in the environment, causing their immune system to perceive the substance as harmful and therefore overreact to it. Symptoms vary in degree depending on the seriousness of the allergy, but often include a runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, a rash, swelling and trouble breathing. Common allergens include pollen, dust, cats and dogs, different foods and drugs, latex, and insect stings. A Statista survey from 2017 found that approximately 20 percent of adults in the U.S. suffered from allergies or food intolerances.

One of the most common types of allergies is allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, which results from allergens in the air. As of 2015, an estimated 7.9 percent of adults in the U.S. had been told by a doctor they had hay fever in the past year, while almost 11 percent of those aged 12 to 17 years were told they had such an allergy. As hay fever is caused by allergens in the air, geographic differences occur in prevalence rates, with the West reporting higher instances than other regions.

Skin allergies can be caused by such things as metals, some medications, latex, soap, laundry detergent and fabric softeners and affect around 12 percent of all children under the age of 18 years. Allergic reactions to food and medications can also cause skin symptoms such as itching, redness, and bumps. A recent survey from Statista found that around 25 percent of adults in the U.S. had drug intolerances. Among the drugs most commonly associated with allergies were penicillin or antibiotics and aspirin.

Allergies are often associated with asthma as the same substances can trigger both allergies and asthma. There is even a type of asthma known as allergic asthma that is triggered by an allergy, for example pollen and mold. In 2016, around 8.4 percent of the U.S. population currently had asthma with rates highest among those aged 5 to 14 years.

Given the high number of people who suffer from allergies, it is unsurprising that the market for allergy medication and relief products is sizable. In 2016, an estimated 86.72 million people in the U.S. bought medications because of allergies. In 2016, Allegra, one of the leading OTC brands for cough, cold, allergy and sinus problems, earned over 220 million dollars in revenue. An epinephrine autoinjector or EpiPen is a medical device used to treat severe allergic reactions that could possibly lead to death. In 2016, the pharmaceutical company Mylan, came under fire for the unjustified and unreasonable rise in the cost of the EpiPen which increased from around 106 U.S. dollars in 2014 to over 600 dollars in 2016. This price increase raised concerns from the public and congress as the medication is an important tool in saving the lives of those with extreme allergies.

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