Survey Uncovered Negative Impact Of Allergy Symptoms On Children

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Data from the largest survey of its kind suggested there's a silent epidemic among our nation's children. U.S. children are suffering with allergies and not getting the treatment they need, according to the Pediatric Allergies in America survey, which is the largest and most comprehensive national survey of parents of children under the age of 18 who suffer from allergic rhinitis. The survey results were presented today at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 2008 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia. More than 500 parents who had a child with allergies were interviewed about severity and effects of allergies on their child's life, and their responses were compared to more than 500 parents of children without allergies.

"We have known anecdotally that children are affected by allergy symptoms similarly to adults, but Pediatric Allergies in America offers the first data quantifying the scope of how allergies interrupt a child's productivity, sleep cycle, and daily functioning," said Jay M. Portnoy, MD, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Quality of Life Findings

More than three quarters of parents (76 percent) reported Spring to be the worst time of year for their children's nasal allergies. Allergy symptoms cause children to feel tired, miserable and irritable. Many children with allergies reported experiencing symptoms every day this time of year. Key findings included:

-- Allergy symptoms are interfering with children's sleep. Forty percent of parents indicated that their child's allergies interfere a lot or somewhat with their sleep. Only eight percent of parents of children without allergies indicated their child's health interferes with their sleep.

-- Allergy symptoms are limiting children's activities. Twice as many parents (21 percent) said allergies limit their children's activities, compared with only 11 percent of parents whose child did not suffer from allergies.

-- Allergy symptoms interfere with children's education. Forty percent of parents of children with allergic rhinitis report their condition interferes with their performance at school compared to only 10 percent of parents of children without allergic rhinitis who attribute lower performance at school to health issues.

-- Although the most bothersome symptom is a stuffed up nose (27 percent), almost half (46 percent) of parents of children with allergic rhinitis reported serious symptoms - such as headache and ear and facial pain.

Treatment Experience Findings

The survey found that there is room for improvement in the management of allergic rhinitis and that new therapies could help fill some of the current treatment needs. Healthcare professionals overestimate their patients' satisfaction with allergy medicines.

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"Similar to what we have learned about adults, many children with nasal allergies are not satisfied with current treatments. This dissatisfaction is one reason why nasal allergy sufferers sometimes discontinue or switch medications," said Michael Blaiss, MD, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the University of Tennessee. "We have information that tells us how, in fact, children suffer with this condition, how it truly affects their quality of life and that there is a need out there for better treatments to control allergies in the pediatric population."

-- Nearly half (48 percent) of the children in the study are currently using prescription medication to treat their nasal allergy symptoms; but of those, more than half (57 percent) have changed their medication, with parents citing the medication was not effective enough as the number one reason for the switch. Patients' dissatisfaction with effectiveness of nasal allergy medicines caused them to ask their doctor to change medication (26 percent) or to simply stop taking them (15 percent).

-- Bothersome side effects of prescription nasal allergy sprays were a key reason reported when parents were asked why their child is not satisfied with their medication. Cited most often are products dripping down the throat and bad taste, which were also seen as most bothersome when compared to other side effects including burning (15 percent), drying feeling (14 percent), and headaches (13 percent).

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the nasal mucosa causing sneezing, itching, nasal congestion and discharge. Some patients with allergic rhinitis have systemic symptoms, including malaise, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and decreased appetite.

Allergic rhinitis is the most common allergic disease in the U.S. affecting about 40 million people, specifically 10 percent to 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children. It is associated with direct costs of about $4.5 billion annually and indirect costs that reflect approximately four million days of lost time and productivity at work and school.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis is caused by substances typically outdoors (i.e., pollen) that set off allergies and is sometimes referred to as "hay fever." Symptoms may vary in occurrence and intensity during the day or from season to season. Symptoms are often worse in the morning even when the exposure occurred on the previous day.

Perennial allergic rhinitis is a chronic condition caused by triggers such as pet dander and dust. Symptoms of perennial allergic rhinitis are very similar to those of seasonal allergic rhinitis, yet perennial is persistent and chronic.

About the Survey

A national probability sample of 500 adults, aged 18 and older, who had at least one child who had been diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, nasal allergies or hay fever, and who had nasal allergy symptoms or had taken prescription medicine for allergies in the past 12 months, were interviewed by telephone about their condition and treatment.

More than 35,000 households in the United States were screened to identify nasal allergy sufferers between ages 4 and 17. Individual screening was conducted with a parent in the household to confirm that their child had been diagnosed with nasal allergies and suffered from them or been treated for them in the past 12 months. Parents of children without allergies (N=504) were also interviewed as a comparison group. A third parallel survey was conducted among 501 healthcare practitioners, including a national sample of 401 doctors in direct patient care in outpatient settings: 100 in family practice specialties, 101 allergists, 100 otolaryngologists, and 100 pediatricians. In addition, 50 nurse practitioners and 50 physician assistants were interviewed as part of the survey.

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