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Allergies equally prevalent throughout U.S.

Woman with allergies sneezingDespite the widely held belief that certain regions are more likely to trigger allergic responses, a comprehensive new study has found that allergy prevalence is relatively the same throughout different U.S. regions. The only exception, according to researchers from the National Institutes of Health, is in children five and younger.

“Although sensitization to different allergens shows regional variation, the overall prevalence of allergic sensitization does not vary across the nation,” said Dr. Paivi Salo, an epidemiologist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. “People who are prone to develop allergies tend to become allergic to whatever is in their environment.”

In other words, it’s what triggers an allergic reaction that varies throughout different regions. For example, outdoor allergies were more common in the West, while indoor allergies were more prevalent in the South. Sensitization to food allergies in those over six were highest in the South, as well.

The study represents the largest look at allergy prevalence from childhood through old age. The only group to show a regional response to allergens were children aged one to five living in the South. This response was observed across Texas to Florida and as far north as West Virginia.

“Sensitivity to cockroaches and dust mites seems to be more prevalent in the South,” said Salo, whose team is unsure of why this is. “However, our future research will focus on the allergen exposure data in this large representative sample of the U.S. population.”

The study was wide-reaching, analyzing nine different antibodies in children up to age five and 19 antibodies in participants six and older. The findings suggest that males, non-Hispanic blacks and those who avoided pets were the most at risk for developing allergies among the subjects over the age of six. According to researchers, people with higher socioeconomic status were most commonly allergic to dogs and cats, while people with lower socioeconomic status were typically allergic to shrimp and cockroaches. However, socioeconomic status was not able to predict allergies.

By Marianne Hayes