SATURDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- It's a common belief that as you get older, your allergy symptoms will wane, but a new study suggests it's possible that even more older people will be experiencing allergies than ever before.
In a nationally representative sample of people, researchers found that IgE antibody levels -- that's the immune system substance that triggers the release of histamine, which then causes the symptoms of allergies like runny nose and watery eyes -- have more than doubled in people older than 55 since the 1970s.
IgE levels don't always directly correlate with the presence of allergies or consistently indicate their severity, but IgE is the main antibody involved in allergies, explained study author Dr. Zachary Jacobs, a fellow in allergy and immunology at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinic in Kansas City, Mo.
"With IgE levels, it's hard to make an inference for a specific individual, but we're reporting a population trend, and it looks like there's increased allergic sensitization. It looks like Americans have more allergies now than they did 25 or 30 years ago," Jacobs said.
And, he added, "People in their 50s almost certainly have more allergy now than they did 25 or 30 years ago, and more allergists will be needed for the baby boomers."
The findings are to be presented Saturday at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting, in Phoenix.
Jacobs and his colleagues noticed that no one had looked at levels of IgE in the population since the 1970s, when a large study called the Tucson Epidemiological Study was done.
The new study compared data from the Tucson study in the '70s to data from the more recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2005 to 2006.
There were 7,398 people enrolled in NHANES, while the Tucson study included 2,743 people. The demographic profiles f
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