• Why Are So Many Adults Getting Allergies? Maybe We're Not Eating Enough Dirt

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    When Edwina Galloway started to feel a strange knot in her throat
    after eating some peanuts, she tried to ease it by drinking tea.

    But within minutes her throat was constricting and she was struggling
    to breathe. Her husband bundled her into their car and rushed her
    to hospital.

    Fortunately, it was only a mile from their home in Sevenoaks, Kent;
    had it been much further, Edwina could have died.

    ‘By the time I got there, I was shivering and shaking as my body
    was going into shock,’ says Edwina, 48, who runs her own administration
    business. ‘It was terribly frightening.’

    Edwina was suffering from anaphylactic shock – an allergic reaction
    which causes puffy lips and eyes, other symptoms such as vomiting
    and breathing difficulties as the air passages swell. Untreated,
    it can prove fatal within minutes.

    Edwina was immediately given antihistamine, which eased her symptoms.
    She later underwent tests to see what had brought on such a violent
    reaction; the results couldn’t have been more surprising.

    ‘I was told I’d developed an allergy to peanuts and hazelnuts,’
    Edwina recalls.

    ‘It was a real shock, as there is no history of allergies in my
    family, and I certainly had never had an allergy before.

    ‘In fact, my husband is a vegetarian and so nut roast had been
    a staple of our diet. This allergy just came on out of the blue.

    ‘Now I have to carry an adrenaline jab with me at all times in
    case I have a really bad reaction.

    ‘Luckily, that hasn’t happened yet, but the allergy has changed
    my life. I have to be incredibly careful about what I eat because
    it takes only a trace of nut to set me off.

    ‘I went to a friend’s house for lunch a year ago, and although
    she was very careful to prepare food without nuts there must have
    been a tiny hint somewhere because I took a mouthful and blotches
    started to come up on my face.’

    Over the past decade there has been a huge rise in the number of
    Britons suffering from hay-fever and eczema as a result of allergies.

    As many as one in four people is affected, and the incidence continues
    to rise. A report published last month found the number of children
    with allergies had tripled in the past decade to 40 per cent.

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    18, 2009

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