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New Survey Suggests Cultural Ambivalence to Allergies Leaves Many Suffering Needlessly
Date:3/20/2008

Findings Suggest that Physical Effects are not the Only Way We Suffer -

Allergies Impact Mood and Self-Perception

KENILWORTH, N.J. and WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J., March 20 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Indoor and outdoor allergies affect about 50 million people in the United States.(1)(2) Yet, according to "Attitudes About Allergies," a national telephone survey, allergies are often disregarded as a nuisance: in today's society allergies get little respect. As a result, allergy sufferers continue to cope needlessly with not only the physical impact of allergies, but the emotional effects as well. The survey was commissioned by Schering-Plough/MERCK Pharmaceuticals and conducted by Harris Interactive(R). Three separate surveys were conducted: a survey of more than 1,000 consumers, which included allergy sufferers and non-allergy sufferers; a survey of more than 1,000 allergy sufferers only; and a survey of 300 physicians.

The survey of consumers found that they view diabetes (81 percent), hypertension or high blood pressure (76 percent) and arthritis (57 percent) as more serious than indoor and outdoor allergies. Twenty-nine percent of consumers said they view insomnia as more serious than indoor and outdoor allergies. In addition, while the survey of consumers found that seventy-eight percent feel sorry for allergy sufferers, more than a third (36 percent) believe that allergy sufferers overstate the severity of their symptoms and thirty percent say allergy sufferers use allergies as an excuse to get out of something.

"Allergies are often disregarded in our society, making it acceptable to tell allergy sufferers to 'get on with it' and not complain," said Belinda Borrelli, PhD, associate professor, department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown Medical School and The Miriam Hospital. "But allergies take an emotional toll on the sufferer. And despite that, sufferers persevere, going to work, school and social engagements as if nothing is wrong. Many don't feel like it would be acceptable to call in sick or change plans because of their allergies."

The survey of allergy sufferers found that about half (48 percent) feel their spouse or significant other does not view their allergies to be a serious health condition. Sufferers also perceive others as not taking their allergies that seriously, saying their relatives (81 percent), friends (86 percent) and co-workers (78 percent) view their allergies as a somewhat serious or not serious health condition. Even their physicians, they say, are ambivalent. The survey of allergy sufferers found that nearly three quarters (74 percent) believe that their doctor views their allergies as a somewhat serious or not serious health condition.

But clearly, that's not the case. According to the survey of physicians who treat allergies, a majority of physicians (84 percent) said in general, patients do not overstate allergy symptoms. In addition, most physicians view insomnia (83 percent) and osteoarthritis (69 percent) as being less serious or equally as serious as allergies. Physicians report they view diabetes (90 percent) and hypertension (84 percent) as being more serious than allergies.

"Societal ambivalence toward allergies has impacted the management of the disease," said David Lang, M.D., Section Head Allergy/Immunology Respiratory Institute at Cleveland Clinic. "It's true that allergies aren't life threatening, but they are quality of life-threatening on both physical and emotional levels."

According to the survey of allergy sufferers, only about a third (34 percent) go to see a doctor for treatment when their symptoms are bothering them.

"It's absolutely crucial for allergy sufferers to begin a dialogue with their physicians so that, together, they can address and overcome the barriers keeping them from finding effective relief," said Jennifer Derebery, M.D., clinical professor of otolaryngology at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

The survey of allergy sufferers also shed new light on the often hidden emotional impact of allergy symptoms. According to the survey, six in 10 sufferers (62 percent) report that their symptoms impact their mood. The sufferer survey also found that when experiencing symptoms about half (51 percent) say they feel annoyed; forty-eight percent say they feel irritable (48 percent); forty-two percent say they feel frustrated. And, two in 10 (22 percent) report that their allergy symptoms make them feel less attractive; nineteen percent feel self-conscious (19 percent).

"We need to empower people with allergies to speak up and treat their allergies as what they are -- a medical condition that can have difficult and sometimes debilitating effects," said Mike Tringale, director of external affairs, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). "Allergy sufferers should feel comfortable talking about their symptoms with their family, friends and healthcare providers."

For complete survey results, please visit http://www.AttitudesAboutAllergies.com.

About Allergic Rhinitis

Allergic rhinitis affects more than 50 million people in the United States(1)(2) and accounts for more than 14 million physician office visits each year.(3) It is one of the most costly chronic illnesses in the United States(4) and is estimated to cause 100 million days of lost work per year.(5)

There are two forms of allergic rhinitis: seasonal and perennial. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (often referred to as "hay-fever") occurs only during certain times of the year and is commonly caused by allergies to tree, grass and weed pollen. Perennial allergic rhinitis can occur throughout the year and is caused by frequent exposure to allergens such as animal dander, indoor mold spores or house dust mites.(6)

Allergic rhinitis results when the immune system comes in contact with an allergen, such as dust mites, animal dander or pollen, and mistakenly identifies it as an intruder.(7) An allergic reaction results, involving the body's release of various inflammatory mediators, such as histamine and leukotrienes, as a defense against the allergens, causing allergy symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, and itching of the palate, eyes and nose.(8)

About the Attitudes About Allergies Steering Committee

Guidance to the development of the survey was provided by the Attitudes About Allergies Steering Committee including Belinda Borelli, PhD, associate professor, department of psychiatry and human behavior, Brown Medical School and The Miriam Hospital; Jennifer Derebery, M.D., clinical professor of otolaryngology at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; David Lang, M.D., Section Head Allergy/Immunology Respiratory Institute at Cleveland Clinic; and Mike Tringale, director of external affairs, Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America.

About the Attitudes About Allergies: Omnibus Survey

This survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Schering- Plough/MERCK Pharmaceuticals and is based on telephone interviews conducted January 10 - 20, 2008 with 1,007 adults 18 years or older throughout the United States including 551 with indoor or outdoor allergies and 454 without indoor or outdoor allergies. Two adults reported they did not know if they had either indoor or outdoor allergies and were excluded from the results. All telephone interviewing was conducted using random digit dialing (RDD) methodology. The data are weighted to be representative of U.S. adults 18 years of age or older. The sampling error for this survey is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

About the Attitudes About Allergies: Allergy Sufferer Survey

This survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Schering- Plough/MERCK Pharmaceuticals and is based on telephone interviews conducted January 8 - 23, 2008, with 1,006 adults 18 years or older throughout the United States who suffer from indoor or outdoor allergies. All telephone interviewing was conducted using random digit dialing (RDD) methodology. The data are weighted to be representative of U.S. adults 18 years of age or older who have indoor or outdoor allergies. The sampling error for this survey is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

About the Attitudes About Allergies: Physician Survey

This survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Schering- Plough/MERCK Pharmaceuticals and is based on telephone interviews conducted January 8 - February 1, 2008, with 302 physicians who treat patients with allergic rhinitis. The physician sample included 102 primary care physicians, 100 allergists, and 100 otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists). The total sample of physicians was weighted to be representative of the population of physicians in the U.S. who treat patients with allergic rhinitis. The sampling error for this survey is plus or minus 5.8 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

About Harris Interactive(R)

Harris Interactive is one of the largest and fastest-growing market research firms in the world. The company provides innovative research, insights and strategic advice to help its clients make more confident decisions which lead to measurable and enduring improvements in performance. Harris Interactive is widely known for The Harris Poll(R), one of the longest running, independent opinion polls, and for pioneering online market research methods. The company has built what it believes to be the world's largest panel of survey respondents, the Harris Poll Online. Harris Interactive serves clients worldwide through its North American, European and Asian offices, and through a global network of independent market research firms. More information about Harris Interactive may be obtained at http://www.harrisinteractive.com.

References:

1 American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Topic of the Month:

March 2007: Spring & Allergic Rhinitis. Available at

http://www.aaaai.org/patients/topicofthemonth/0307/ Accessed August 1,

2007.

2 American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Tips to Remember:

Rhinitis. Available at

http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/rhinitis.stm. Accessed

August 1, 2007.

3 CDC. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2004 Emergency

Department Summary. No 372. June 23, 2006. Available at

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/ad/ad372.pdf

4 Goetzel R, et al. Health, absence, disability, and presenteeism cost

estimates of certain physical and mental health conditions affecting

U.S. employers. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

2004;46:398-412.

5 Bellanti JA, Wallerstedt DB. Allergic rhinitis update: epidemiology and

natural history. Allergy Asthma Proc 2000;21:367-370.

6 American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Tips to Remember:

Rhinitis. Available at

http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/rhinitis.stm. Accessed

July 25, 2007

7 American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Tips to Remember:

Rhinitis. Available at

http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/rhinitis.stm. Accessed

July 25, 2007


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SOURCE Schering-Plough; Merck
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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