About Allergies

In the UK over the last 20 years, the incidence of allergic diseases has approximately trebled, giving this country one of the highest rates of allergy in the developed world.

In any one-year, 12 million people in the UK (one-fifth of the population) are likely to be seeking treatment for allergy (Royal College of Physicians, 2003). Children are particularly likely to be affected by allergies, increasing from 13% at the age of 12 years, to 19% at the age of 18 years (Kaila et al 2009), and previously rare life-threatening allergies, such as peanut allergy, now affect one in 70 children (Brunetto et al 2009).

Despite the relatively low mortality rate of allergic diseases, allergy represents a growing socio-economic burden on the developed world and, for successful long-term management of allergic patients, it is essential to identify and reduce exposure to relevant allergens (Milian et al 2004).

  • 1 in 3 infants and young children with eczema has underlying allergy
  • 1 in 3 pre-school children with recurrent wheeze/coughing has underlying allergy
  • 2 of 3 school children with recurrent wheeze/coughing have underlying allergy
  • 7 of 10 children with rhinitis have underlying allergy
  • 1 in 5 adults with eczema has underlying allergy
  • 6 of 10 adults with seasonal rhinitis have underlying allergy
  • 1 in 2 adults with chronic rhinitis or nasal congestion has underlying allergy.


ImmunoCAP® allergy blood testing: Why, who and what difference it makes.

Signs and symptoms

Allergic diseases present with many signs and symptoms, which are often very difficult to distinguish from other clinical conditions that are non-allergic in origin. Testing to determine if allergy is the cause of an illness is essential before treating and managing these individuals. Individuals with recurrent or persistent ‘allergy-like’ symptoms can have their symptoms investigated with the help of ImmunoCAP® specific IgE blood testing.

Allergy can both cause and contribute to the symptoms that lead to upper or lower respiratory tract problems, skin problems or gastrointestinal problems. However, in some cases symptoms similar to those of an allergy may not be caused by an allergy at all. 

At any one time, up to 50% of the population have symptoms associated with allergy, but only about 1 in 4 suffer from IgE-mediated allergy (many unknowingly). People with recurrent or persistent episodes of the following symptoms should be considered for allergy testing:

  • blocked or running nose
  • nasal catarrh
  • itchy running eyes
  • cough
  • breathing difficulties
  • dry itchy skin
  • diarrhoea
  • stomach pains.

The substances to which a patient is exposed will generally dictate the allergens to test. Nevertheless, some substances or allergens are more common as causes of allergy than others. Additional parameters to consider are:

  • the patient’s age 
  • the symptoms
  • home environment (pets, hobbies, etc.) 
  • where the patient lives geographically.

Specific IgE symptom profiles help doctors identify those patients whose common, everyday symptoms are caused or contributed  to by allergy. Spire Pathology Services have developed disease specific profiles to aid diagnosis.


1. Ahlstedt S, Murray CS. 2006. In vitro diagnosis of allergy: how to interpret IgE antibody results in clinical practice. Prim Care Respir J. Aug;15(4):228-36.

2. Niggemann B, Nilsson M, Friedrichs F. (2008) Paediatric allergy diagnosis in primary care is improved by in vitro allergen-specific IgE testing. Pediatr Allergy Immunol: Jun;19(4):325-31.

3. Pfiffner P, Truffer R, Matsson P, Rasi C, Mari A, Stadler BM. (2010) Allergen cross reactions: a problem greater than ever thought? Allergy. 2010 Dec;65(12):1536-44.

4. Schroeder A, Kumar R, Pongracic JA, Sullivan CL, Caruso DM, Costello J, Meyer KE, Vucic Y, Gupta R, Kim JS, Fuleihan R, Wang X. (2009) Food allergy is associated with an increased risk of asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2009 Feb;39(2):261-70.