Allergies Facts and Statistics: What You Need to Know

Allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness, with more than 50 million people in the United States experiencing allergies yearly.

An allergic reaction can occur when your immune system responds to something you have eaten, touched, inhaled, or injected. There are many types of allergens and reactions to allergens, depending on the individual.

Allergies may peak during certain seasons of the year, too. For example, people with environmental allergies may experience more symptoms in the fall and spring when trees, grass, and pollen are more potent throughout the air.

This article will highlight important facts and statistics you should know about allergies.

Woman blowing her nose in a field of flowers

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What Is an Allergy?

An allergy occurs when the immune system responds to an allergen (such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, food, or medications) by creating antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The body portrays the allergen as a foreign invader causing the immune cells to release chemicals. One of these chemicals is called histamine, which produces various effects throughout the body, including symptoms of the nose, lungs, throat, skin, sinuses, ears, or stomach lining.

How Common Are Allergies?

Allergies are common, affecting more than 50 million people each year. Common allergies and allergic diseases include hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and food, drug, environmental, and insect bite allergies.

As of 2018, around 19.2 million adults and 5.2 million children in the United States had seasonal allergies. Just over 9 million children had skin allergies. Food allergies affected about 26 million adults and 5.6 million children.

Food allergies are on the rise—specifically sesame. Sesame was added as the ninth most common food allergy on the major allergen list and must be labeled on packaged food starting in January 2023. The other most common food allergies are eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.

Allergies and Ethnicity

Certain ethnicities may be more likely to experience different types of allergies. For example, White children are more likely to have hay fever (allergic rhinitis) than Black children. Yet, Black children are more likely to have respiratory, food, and skin allergies.

Allergies by Age and Gender

Allergies can occur at any age and gender; however, they tend to be more common in children. Allergies can also change throughout a person's life. For example, children with food allergies may grow out of them later in childhood. Allergies may also disappear and then reappear later in life.

Specific types of allergies may be more common in certain age groups. For example, children ages 0 to 4 are more likely to have skin allergies. Some studies have found that before the age of 15, boys are more affected by skin reactions to one or more allergens, asthma and food allergies. Females ages 13 to 21 may exhibit more allergies, likely due to hormones, gender-specific behavior, perception of risk, or intake of medications.

Drug allergies appear more common in young-to-middle-aged people and occur more often in women than men. Researchers suggest this may be due to genetics and a history of viral infections.

Causes and Risk Factors

There is no universal reason as to why allergies develop, and there are hundreds of substances that can cause an allergic reaction.

However, there are many factors that can increase your risk. People with a family history of allergies are more likely to develop them. In addition, environmental and food exposure, hormones, stress, and smoke may also be contributing factors.

What Are the Mortality Rates for Allergens?

Fatalities due to allergies are rare and occur secondary to anaphylaxis reaction, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Estimates suggest that about 5% of people with allergies are at risk of anaphylaxis, yet fatal anaphylaxis results in less than 1% of total mortality (subject to death) risk.

Researchers suggest that fatal food anaphylaxis is more common in people in the second and third decade of life with certain risk factors, such as delayed epinephrine administration. An important reminder to keep your EpiPen on you at all times if you have an allergy.

Drug allergy fatalities are more common in people with previous heart disease and older age. In addition, risk factors for fatal venom anaphylaxis (by insect sting or bite) include middle age, male sex, Caucasian race, and cardiovascular disease.

Screening and Early Detection

Screening and early detection of allergies can help identify the severity of your allergy and whether you're at risk of anaphylaxis. Typically people are screened for allergies when they are experiencing some sort of reaction, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, or skin rash.

Suspicious and ongoing symptoms should warrant a trip to the healthcare provider. There is no need to "power through" symptoms. Some treatments, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines, and lifestyle changes can help you feel better.

Early detection is also important to prevent deaths to unknown allergens. In the United States, older adults and Black people have the highest death rates due to allergic reactions to medications, foods, or other allergens. Additionally, identifying insect allergies—especially stinging insects such as bees, wasps, yellow jackets, or fire ants—has reduced mortality by anaphylaxis due to improved diagnosis and upgraded treatment procedures called venom immunotherapy.

To diagnose allergies, your healthcare provider may conduct an exam and/or use different allergy tests. The diagnostic process may include a skin prick test, skin patch test, blood test, oral food or medication challenges, physical examination, and/or personal explanation of symptoms. Results from these tests can be complex and should be interpreted by an experienced allergist. They can help determine the severity of the allergy and the best course of treatment.


Allergies are very common among children and adults. Common allergies and allergic diseases include hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and food, drug, environmental, and insect bite allergies.

The severity of allergies can range from mild symptoms, such as itching, to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Your type of allergy and your risk for a severe reaction will determine your treatment plan. While there is no cure for allergies, there are many ways to manage and prevent symptoms.

If you or someone you love is experiencing an allergy, a physical examination and allergy testing (if needed) by a licensed allergist can help you determine your risk and provide you with strategies to manage symptoms. However, you should not have to suffer through symptoms. Instead, get relief by seeking out medical treatment.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN
Barbie Cervoni MS, RD, CDCES, CDN, is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist.