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Book and Media Reviews
May 10, 2006

Allergy, History

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;295(18):2187-2192. doi:10.1001/jama.295.18.2190

Hypersensitivities have become a significant health problem. Indeed, the global surge in allergic diseases over the past century has made the treatment of hay fever, asthma, food allergies, and eczema a growing concern, not only in terms of health care budgets, but as a medical enigma: Why are we witnessing the emergence of a new malady? Indeed, during the 19th century, hay fever was a rare disorder largely confined to the “cultivated” classes. Americans referred to them as “hayfeverites,” and, as Mark Jackson describes in Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady, “hay fever havens” (p 61) became the refuge from their scourge. By the 1930s, approximately one in 30 people living in developed countries suffered from major allergies, and hay fever had become the fourth most common form of chronic disease in the United States. A steady rise in prevalence occurred after World War II, and today as many as 20% of children exhibit some form of allergy.