About 25% of all Europeans suffer some type of respiratory allergy (allergy affecting breathing, be it through the nose or lungs or both).
Recent studies suggest 15% of the population have very complex allergic problems and need specialist care.
Children are particularly affected with 1 in 50 having a life-threatening nut allergy, apart from other food allergies.
Also, allergy has become more complicated and severe and 10% of children and young adults have more than one allergic disorder.
The commonest disorder is rhinitis (nasal allergy) and sinusitis, however these two are interlinked and considered one condition. Conjunctivitis (eye allergy) is often linked with nose and sinus allergy and all three conditions should be tackled at the one time.
The link between untreated allergic rhinitis and asthma (especially in children) is well documented. Targeting co-existing rhinitis is now an accepted part of anti-asthma therapy.
Allergic (also called atopic) eczema (dermatitis) is a skin condition mainly affecting children that is also on the increase throughout Europe. More worryingly, there is a rise in the number of children with eczema having an associated and often dangerous nut allergy.
Ireland has the fourth highest asthma prevalence in the world.
The need for allergy investigation, diagnosis and treatment facilities is recognised at government and health service levels. Ireland, like the UK, is lacking in experienced and properly resourced allergy divisions.
In the UK a House of Commons parliamentary committee concluded there was an epidemic of allergy in Britain. Ireland is experiencing a similar epidemic but with even less resources to deal with it.