Summer is here and the dreaded headlines have started already. Just a few weeks ago the newspaper headlines screamed: 'SUPER ALLERGIES to hit Britain this summer hitting a record one in four sufferers'. Over 150 million people have allergies in Europe making it the most common chronic disease.
'Every season can be an allergy season, depending on what you're allergic to.' Clara Chung
From Serena Williams peanut allergy, to Kate Middleton's horse allergy and Nicole Kidman's eczema, allergies are a well-documented issue. However, allergy is not just the latest buzzword or trend: it is a chronic disease that is expected to affect more than 50% of all Europeans in 10 years' time. The chances are that if you're reading this, you suffer with (or know someone who does) an allergy. With this disease increasing more each day, I wonder what the effect on self-esteem and confidence is. Here in the U.K, the allergies are officially widespread. According to AllergyUK, an estimated 21million adults in the UK suffer from at least one allergy, with numbers continuing to sharply rise. Each year the number of allergy sufferers increases by 5%.
By 2025, asthma will represent the most prevalent chronic childhood disease and result in one of the highest causes of health care costs. There are a number of theories about why allergies are skyrocketing. An interesting one is the Hygiene Hypothesis. To sum this particular theory up, we may just be too clean for our own good! Doctors have pointed out that there are fewer allergies in Asia and Africa where parasites are more common. Babies are exposed to parasites and bugs at birth. In the modern age, however, exposure to germs, dirt, and infections with our cleaner lifestyles, hand sanitisers, vaccines, and antibiotics, is effecting our immune system's ability to fight.
People with skin allergies such as eczema and psoriasis suffer with embarrassment, worry and depression. Surveys of people with psoriasis revealed that many deliberately avoid swimming and few wear short sleeves, shorts or skirts because they feel that people regard them as 'contagious'.
Skin Doctor, Dr Clare Anyiam-Osigwe is the founder of Premae the world's first Multi-Award winning Allergy UK tested Vegan Natural beauty brand. She is very clear on the direct link between allergies and self-esteem: "The link between depression and skin disorders is more prevalent than ever. The number 1 reason for suicide in the USA is acne. Acne, a skin disorder. This is the reason why expanding onto Amazon Luxury is such an important step. It brings products straight to the global consumer within days. Availability and access bridges the gap between consumers who may continue to self-harm by buying steroid creams which worsen the skin because they can't get their favourite allergy-free products at their local chemist."
The psychological effects cannot be underestimated. As well as depression, there are psychosocial side effects such as social withdrawal, anger frustration, and lack of confidence.
Unbelievably, in England, adults with acne face higher rates of unemployment than the general population. Children with skin disorders suffer, too with many of them suffering with a psychosocial impairment. In an age when we are arguably more image obsessed than ever before, (according to Ofcom, here in Britain, between us we take 1.2 billion selfies per year) teenagers suffer with real psychosocial distress over their appearance. The UK is one of the top three countries in the world for the highest incident of allergy and yet there are only 30 allergy specialists in the UK, that's one for every 700,000 sufferers. If allergies don't affect you, it may be easy to brush them aside as a few sneezes, and a bit of a rash. Yet so many people with severe allergies and their families are forced to adapt quickly to living with this chronic condition. It has a major impact on quality of life. Last year it was reported by the British skin foundation that half of sufferers have been verbally abused.
Skin disease is often obvious and visible to others. The result is that those with skin diseases also have to cope with the reaction of others to their condition. The sad reality is that there is a great deal of stigma attached to skin diseases, despite the fact that they effect so many millions of people. So, what can we do about these ever increasing allergies? Companies like Premae develop luxury products for women, to reverse adult acne, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis to name just a few. GPs are also getting better and better at prescribing effective medication for allergies. I also believe that whilst issues such as these may not ever completely go away, we can learn to embrace our bodies. When so many millions of people are suffering from allergies, why hide it? I say, be proud of who you are, flaws and all. Firstly, my beginners step would be honesty. The more your friends and family understand about your allergy the better.
It takes so much energy to hide the truth. I say, free yourself from that burden and just be you. Secondly, never apologise for your body. Regardless of any allergy or condition, your body is an incredible machine. Concentrate on your best features (inside and out) and accept that we all have something we may not like but that does not define us; it's how you wear it that matters.