A recent epidemic of potentially life-threatening food allergies is affecting one in 10 Australian infants, according to a new book by Winthrop Professor Susan Prescott from The University of Western Australia.
Professor Prescott, a renowned paediatric allergy and immunology expert, said the latest generation of young Australian infants was bearing the brunt of a new global allergy epidemic.
The World Allergy Organization (WAO) now estimates that up to 40 per cent of the world's population suffers from one or more allergic diseases, such as asthma, eczema, food allergy and allergic rhinitis.
Australia has one of the highest allergy rates in the world, with an annual health spend over AUD$8 billion. This figure includes a 5-fold rise in serious anaphylactic food allergies in preschoolers in the past 10 years. The burden of allergic diseases will only increase as these younger generations reach adulthood.
In The Allergy Epidemic: A Mystery of Modern Life, published by The University of Western Australia Publishing (UWAP), Professor Prescott draws on the latest research to promote awareness of the rising spate of allergies.
"The alarming and unprecedented rise in allergies and immune diseases has been getting worse with each generation," says Professor Prescott.
"These potentially life-threatening allergies were rare in their parents."
Allergy is part of an even bigger problem, coinciding with a global rise in virtually all immune diseases. Professor Prescott suggests that in order to reverse the epidemic and prevent allergies from originating, environmental strategies need to be defined that restore an optimal ‘immune balance' during early development.
"Allergies may not have been taken seriously in the past, but the scale and impact of this problem is now undeniable, and there has never been a more important time to promote awareness and to take action to solve this mystery," says Professor Prescott.
Professor Susan Prescott is a paediatric allergist and immunologist at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth. She is internationally recognised for her research in the area of allergy and early immune development.