This has triggered much study on the relationship between the environment and health and illnesses caused by modern industrialized living. The impact of allergies has resulted in new diagnostic procedures and therapeutic treatments and it has created a new market for the pharmaceuticals and food industries. Prescription and over-the-counter anti-allergy medications are one of the most common drugs purchased.

Allergies and Asthma Increase in Industrialized Society

Allergies and related diseases have become a global problem with the progress of industrialization, pollutions pumped into the air and the increased use of chemicals in both the developed and developing world. By the mid-1900s, asthma had become an epidemic among children living in many major North American cities and there were rising rates of hay fever, asthma and eczema in most industrialized areas. A wide variety of immunological sensitivities continue to emerge as scientists and clinicians struggle to understand the causes and mechanisms of allergic and autoimmune reactions. Disorders involving food intolerances are also steeply rising as our food becomes more and more processed and laden with additives. Food and cosmetic companies have used the public awareness to market items in sometimes less than accurate methods.

Increase in Mortality Due to Asthma in Children

Preventable deaths from asthma occur due to a lack of awareness of the seriousness of the disease and its triggers, particularly in children. Since 1960, rates of deaths caused by asthma has risen steadily in all age groups, though it is highest among children. By 1966, in the US had become the fourth most common cause of death among children, after vehicle accidents, cancer and respiratory infections. Some researchers linked the increase in cases of deaths due asthma among children to the popularity of the medication corticosteroids, which suppresses the immune system, nine years earlier.

Although not all asthma is caused by allergies, the rise in asthma caused doctors to reconsider the severity and nature of allergic diseases at that time. In Western Europe, the prevalence of asthma, hay fever, allergic dermatitis and drug allergies doubled in the early 1980s. Comparisons between countries is difficult due to varying health care systems and socio-economic organization, similar patterns of asthma and other allergic diseases are reported in diverse areas of the world from Nigeria to Japan and Kuwait.