Green USNearly half of all Americans have allergies – 44.6% of those over age 6, and 36.2% of children aged 1 to 5 – and there is no “allergy free” region of the country you can move to.

In addition, almost one-third of all Americans – 30% of people over the age of 6 – are allergic to at least one indoor or outdoor allergen, no matter what part of the country we live in. The most common allergies were to grass, ragweed and dust mites. Children under five are more likely to have a food allergy – 28% were sensitive to at least one food.

These statistics come from the largest government study of its kind, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006 (NHANES 2005-06), which is being examined for many health and nutritional trends, in addition to allergy. Allergy statistics were published in March in The Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

Darryl Zeldin, MD, scientific director of NIEHS and a lead author of the JACI study, told The Network what the study means to people with allergy: “The take-home message is that allergy is common in the United States and the prevalence of allergy is the same in different regions of the country. People who are allergy prone will become allergic to whatever allergens happen to be present in their environment. Depending on where you live, you may be exposed to different allergens and that exposure will determine what allergies you develop, but the environment doesn’t determine whether or not you develop allergies in the first place.”

Florida allergist Dana Wallace, MD, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, says this data disproves the old theory about moving across the country to “get away” from your allergens. “This simply doesn’t work,” says Dr. Wallace. “If you move to a new area where the pollen count is lower for one item, you will likely within two years develop new allergies to pollens found in high levels in the new area.”

More than 9,000 people provided blood samples for allergy tests in the NHANES 2005-2006 survey, and the data was analyzed according to age groups and census areas of the country: West, South, Midwest, and Northeast. If you wonder where you fit in, here are a few statistics:

  • People who live in western states (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico on west) are most likely to be allergic to plant pollens, such as trees and grass

  • Those in southern states (West Virginia and Virginia on south and west as far as Texas) tend to be more allergic to indoor allergens such as dust mites and cockroach

  • Cat and dog allergies, as well as peanut and shrimp allergies, are equally common across the country

  • People in metropolitan areas are more likely to be allergic to outdoor allergens (pollens and mold) than those in rural areas