Allergies result in chronic inflammation affecting a significant portion of individuals of all ages.
Often, when allergies are diagnosed, they are only considered a minor or temporary condition. However, allergic rhinitis (hay fever, runny nose and sneezing around animals and/or dust and mold) causes significant nasal and lung congestion, increased susceptibility to other chronic medical and psychiatric diseases, limitation of daily activities, and impaired concentration. A previous work productivity study done for various health conditions in the United States showed allergic rhinitis as the most common chronic health condition. Employees average over 3 absent days per year for allergic complications and experience decreased productivity an average of over 2 hours per working day. The loss of productivity estimates for allergies exceeds that of headaches, mood disorders, hypertension, diabetes, and various infections.
Individuals with moderate to severe allergies experience limited abilities to do many activities, such as outdoor exercise during particular seasons, being in environments with certain animals, as well as being significantly limited in what foods they may eat. The respiratory abnormalities and chronic inflammatory molecules and chemicals involved in the allergic response often result in sleep disturbance. This contributes to the impairment of learning and attention during the day and increased risk for other chronic medical conditions, such as obesity. Patients may feel ostracized, isolated and exhausted contributing to chronic mood disturbances.
Over the counter medications often cause intolerable adverse effects such as daytime somnolence, mouth dryness, nasal irritation, hyperactivity and may, ironically, induce reactions to the medications themselves (Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin, etc.). Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) has been in use for over 100 years. Sublingual allergy “drops” (under the tongue) have been used for the management of allergic conditions for over 30 years. Studies examining the benefits of allergy management using immunotherapy show decreased overall health-related costs and complications, such as asthma and sinusitis.
Denise M. Kearney, MD, MS