Survey Links Allergies to Quality of Life, Occupational Consequences

NEW YORK — Initial data from a survey endorsed by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology suggests an overwhelming trend linking allergy (allergic rhinitis) symptoms to serious quality of life and occupational consequences that are largely ignored in the management of allergy patients — most of whom have symptoms year-round.

"Allergies in America: A Landmark Survey of Nasal Allergy Sufferers" reveals that, at their peak, symptoms leave allergy patients feeling tired (80 percent), miserable (65 percent) and irritable (62 percent); and most patients (52 percent) say symptoms hurt them on the job: decreasing job performance, interfering with work and causing them to miss work. Nasal allergies are a year-round problem for 56 percent of patients.

The survey — encompassing more than 2,500 nasal-allergy patients and 400 health care providers — also uncovered a suboptimal lack of communication between doctors and patients.

"Nasal allergies are a serious problem in the United States. The results are eye-opening and should encourage doctors and patients to change the way they think about and treat allergies," according to Michael Blaiss, M.D., past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"This data reveals the need for further investigation into the behavioral, psychosocial and economic impact of allergy symptoms on public health," said Jeremy J. Nobel, M.D., M.P.H.

According to allergists, 59 percent of their patients have missed work due to allergy symptoms, and allergists believe that their patients work productivity is at 60 percent when symptoms are at their worst.

In the United States, the economic burden of allergy is estimated at $18 billion.

Other survey highlights include:

  1. Only 41 percent of patients who have seen a doctor follow their health care providers' instructions on the management and treatment of nasal allergies all of the time, while 45 percent say they follow advice most of the time.
  2. 100 percent of allergists, 94 percent of ENTs, 92 percent of nurse practitioners/physician assistants, and 88 percent of primary cary physicians believe that medical treatment does affect patient's quality of life.
  3. Health care providers overestimate the percentage of patients very satisfied with their management nasal allergies.
  4. An overwhelming majority of patients (89 percent) and health care providers (95-100 percent) agree there is a need for better education of people with nasal allergies about their conditions and treatments.

"The disparity between patients and physicians in perception of successful disease management is just one of the troubling signals that lack of communication that could be dangerous — especially when it comes to addressing how allergies affect patients' everyday lives," according to Dr. Blaiss.

The independent poll was commissioned by Altana Pharma Group and conducted by Schulman, Ronca and Bucuvala Inc., a full-service global strategy and research organization with a specialty in public policy and opinion surveys.

This article originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of HME Business.

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