Hayfever plagues so many people at this time of year, but what are the consequences of not treating it properly?
A new report released today, supported by Allergy UK in partnership with MEDA Pharma, warns that the ineffective management of ‘serious’ hay fever, as defined by moderate-to-severe symptoms, is causing thousands of avoidable asthma-related emergency hospital admissions every year.
One Airway, One Disease: An expert report into the true impact of hay fever and asthma reveals that over 50,000 people with hay fever – also known as allergic rhinitis – are being admitted to hospital with asthma every year. The report also warns that over 15 million people whose hay fever symptoms are not controlled are up to three times more likely to develop asthma.
New research in the One Airway report demonstrates that while effective hay fever treatment reduces the risk of asthma-related hospital admissions, 63% of patients surveyed are not being treated for both conditions in parallel, in line with official British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI) guidelines. In a survey of over 2,000 hay fever sufferers, 41% of people with hay fever and asthma had never received a dedicated consultation to discuss hay fever and asthma symptoms together, and a further 22% of sufferers had never discussed both conditions at the same time in a consultation, even if the subject had come up.
Commenting on the report, Consultant Paediatric Allergist, Dr Adam Fox said: “Allergic rhinitis is the root cause of thousands of asthma attacks every year, but often neither the health service nor patients are tackling these conditions in parallel. The effective management of ‘serious’ hay fever could significantly reduce the number of people hospitalised with asthma attacks, and reduce the substantial financial burden this places on the NHS.”
The research also found that the majority of people with hay fever suffer moderate-to-severe symptoms. However, the most commonly used treatment – oral antihistamine tablets available over-the-counter in pharmacies – are only recommend as standalone treatment for people suffering mild symptoms.
The report found that hay fever sufferers’ routine tendency to ‘self-treat’ the condition is to blame, with a 85% of sufferers admitting to not changing their approach to treatment for three years or more, with the average patient spending at least £40 on pharmacy treatments every year.
GP and allergy specialist Dr Dermot Ryan commented: “Too many people are buying their treatment without expert advice from a GP or pharmacist. This is a key contributor to the widespread problem of uncontrolled hay fever symptoms, which for people with more severe hay fever can be very serious when asthma comes into play.”
Up to 40% of hay fever sufferers have or will develop asthma, representing approximately 6.4 million people in the UK. It is estimated that every day in the UK, 200 people are hospitalised because of their asthma and three of these people will die as a result. Furthermore, an increasing number of people are reported to be developing hay fever, with some studies indicating that prevalence rates of the condition may have almost doubled in the last fifteen years alone.
Dr Jean Emberlin, Scientific Director of Allergy UK, commented: “While we are unable to put an exact figure on it, the evidence available indicates that the overall prevalence of hay fever in the UK has at least doubled over the last 30 years. Reasons for this may include increased awareness among hay fever sufferers and healthcare professionals, leading to improved identification and recording of cases. Also a hygiene hypothesis has been put forward. This theory suggests that as a result of cleaner living, the population is less exposed to endotoxins in early life leading to a greater tendency for allergies to develop. Furthermore, we are experiencing longer and more severe pollen seasons as a result of climate change.”
Maureen Jenkins, Clinical Services Director, Allergy UK, commented: “The vast majority of hay fever sufferers experience moderate-to-severe symptoms, yet spend hundreds of pounds on treatments that simply do not work for them. Meanwhile, they continue to suffer symptoms, and the connection with asthma is never made, even though allergic rhinitis can impact hugely on this chronic life-long disease.”
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