Why are allergies on the rise and what to do about it

Image Courtesy: Lukasz Szmigiel

There is no doubt that more people are suffering from allergies.

In the UK, twenty-one million adults have at least one allergy.  The number of people with allergies is growing by 5% every year, and half of these people are children. Research from 2007 indicated a 500% increase in food allergies since 1990. Hay fever, asthma, and eczema have been rising for 3 decades and continue to do so.  Allergic reactions can range in severity from mild to life-threatening and everything in between.

Allergy is the most common chronic disease in Europe. Up to 20% of patients with allergies struggle daily with the fear of a possible asthma attack, anaphylactic shock, or even death from an allergic reaction (EAACI, 2016)

So, just what is causing these allergies?

There are many theories and scientists are finding it hard to settle on just one. Each theory suggests different reasons why allergies may be increasing in the UK.  Here are the most common explanations:




Image Courtesy: Matteo Vistocco

  • Genetics play a part

A child in the UK has a one in five chance of having an allergy – this chance doubles if their parent has one and this chance increases to 60 to 80% if both parents have one.  You may have heard that individuals or families can be atopic: this is problem with your immune system that makes you more likely to develop allergic diseases and is linked to your genetics.

  • Maternal diet

Professor Graham Devereaux has linked maternal diet including the importance of Vitamin D & E to avoiding asthma in babies and young children.  There are other studies that confirm that prenatal diet can influence a baby’s chance of having allergies.

  • Environmental pollution

Allergy UK explains that there is a proven link between the quality of the air we breathe and the health of people living with allergic disease. Pollutants in the air can trigger coughing, breathing difficulties or wheeze in some people. These exposures can impact on allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma and other allergic disorders.  Lots of factors affect air pollution but traffic and diesel exhaust in urban areas are very significant. Burning fossil fuels, ammonia from farming, wood burning stoves and pollen levels also contribute to poor air quality outside.

  • Inside our homes

We spend around 90% of our time indoors so good indoor air quality is essential for good health. It is particularly important for vulnerable groups including babies, the elderly and those with allergies or respiratory illnesses.  Concentrations of toxins can be up to 10 times greater inside than outside, so it is important to ensure that allergens such as house dust mite, pet dander, moulds and spores are kept to a minimum.  Regular ventilation – opening doors and windows is the easiest way to flush out toxins and is recommended unless you live on a main road.

Cleaning products can have a serious impact on allergies and there are many chemicals in conventional products that irritate airways.  VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) are often present as solvents or fragrances and other chemicals such as SLS and SLES are common ingredients in most household products that can irritate eyes, skin, and lungs, especially with long-term use. SLES may also be contaminated with a substance called 1,4-dioxane, which is known to cause cancer in laboratory animals.

  • Hygiene hypothesis

Some scientists believe that being too house proud can increase your risk of allergies. The argument is that the immune systems of young children need to come into contact with micro-organisms and bacteria to avoid allergies in later life.  Most of us live in a cleaner environment than ever before and inadequate exposure to allergens as infants may trigger allergic responses later in life.

This is one of the reasons why natural cleaning products made from organic ingredients are best for human health.  If you have allergies or want to reduce the risk of allergies, we always recommend our Nonscents range which is fragrance free.  Look out for the little blue heart on our labels.

Our new surfactant mix is made from organic soap nuts and shikakai pods.  It forms the basis of many Greenscents products.  Soap nuts (which are not nuts but dried berries) are considered to be hypoallergenic so this base is ideal for allergy sufferers.  Check out the ingredients listed on our product labels or our website for more details.

To keep VOC’s to a minimum, organic essential oils in our fragranced products make up no more than 1% of the formula.  This means if you are not prone to allergies you can enjoy the therapeutic effects of our organic fragrances without exposure to higher levels of VOC’s.

Keeping up with a regular cleaning routine can be a challenge, but one thing that makes it easier is knowing that the products you are using aren’t harming your health, or the health of your family. Some chemicals used in household cleaners have been shown to cause allergic reactions in both children and adults. In addition to allergies, some people may experience headaches, irritated eyes and throat, and potentially even cancer from toxic ingredients in cleaning products.

Protect yourself and your family from allergies and toxins from cleaning by purchasing certified organic household products from Greenscents.

Further Reading




Allan KM, Prabhu N, Craig LCA, McNeill G, Kirby B, McLay J, Helms PJ, Ayres JG, Seaton A, Turner SW, Devereux G. Maternal intakes of vitamin D and E during pregnancy are associated with asthma in children. Eur Resp J 2015; 45:1027-1036








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