Our immune system provides protection from bacteria and viruses. When our body meets harmful substances, we produce immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, which then cause the release of chemicals like histamine, causing swelling and inflammation. In people with allergy and asthma, the immune system not only reacts to fights against bacteria and viruses, but also against harmless substances such as pollen, cat hair or dust in a person’s nose, lungs, eyes, and under their skin. This can lead to symptoms as itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing as the body tries to eliminate the allergen.

Asthma is a condition in which a person’s airways narrow and swell and produce extra mucus which makes breathing and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, difficult. Asthma as such cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be controlled.

Allergies and asthma often occur together. The same substances that trigger hay fever symptoms may also cause asthma signs and symptoms. In some cases, skin or food allergies can cause asthma symptoms. These are known as allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma.

Asthma and allergy numbers in Europe and beyond are alarming:

  • In the European Region 70 million people suffer from asthma, the countries with the highest prevalence of asthma and symptoms of allergy include Finland, Germany, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Romania.
  • Allergy is the most common chronic disease in Europe. 100 million Europeans suffer from allergic rhinitis and 7 million Europeans live with a food allergy
  • Failure to diagnose asthma and allergic diseases leads to inadequate disease control and, consequently, higher treatment costs. Many studies have shown that asthma is under-diagnosed, which often leads to delayed treatment
  • Asthma and allergic rhinitis alone are estimated to result in more than 100 million lost workdays and missed school days in Europe every year
  • If patients were treated appropriately with available cost-effective treatments, an average savings of €142 billion per annum could be realised
  • The avoidable indirect costs of failure to properly treat allergy in the EU is estimated to range between €55 and 151 billion per annum
  • In 2015, approximately 6.5 million in-patients with diseases of the respiratory system were discharged from EU hospitals
  • The average stay in hospital for in-patients being treated for asthma varied considerably across the EU Member States, from a high of 13.8 days in Germany to less than 3 days in Sweden and Denmark
  • Asthma has become the most common chronic disease among children and is one of the major causes of hospitalization among those younger than 15 years of age
  • Up to 20% of patients with allergies live with a severe debilitating form of their condition, and struggle daily with the fear of a possible asthma attack, anaphylactic shock, or even death from an allergic reaction
  • Diseases of the respiratory system are one of the main causes of death in the EU and include conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia or asthma
  • Failure to adhere to appropriate treatment can lead to death. Through appropriate treatment such as using inhaled corticosteroids to ease bronchial inflammation, the number of asthma exacerbation and asthma-related deaths can be reduced
  • In 2014, there were almost 382 thousand deaths in the EU-28 resulting from diseases of the respiratory system, equivalent to 7.7 % of all deaths
  • The EU-28’s standardised death rate for diseases of the respiratory system was 78.3 deaths per 100 000 inhabitants in 2014