Tike-sized allergy sufferers as common as adults

4/21/2008

SAN DIEGO —Allergies are prevalent among children, according to a recent survey, titled Pediatric Allergies in America, sponsored by Sepracor. According to the survey, conducted by Schulman, Ronca and Bucuvalas, 14 percent of all children reported symptoms of hay fever (of that population, 33 percent had a diagnosis of hay fever), nasal allergies (74 percent diagnosed) or allergic rhinitis (26 percent, which equates to about 3.1 million U.S. households with at least one child diagnosed with allergic rhinitis).

And those children suffer from the sniffles and sneezes as much as their parents do. Allergy symptoms were reported to have at least a moderate effect on the lives of 25 percent of children with nasal allergies. At least 60 percent of children reported missing school because of nasal allergies, and allergies interfered with performance at school in more than 40 percent of children. Parents of children with nasal allergies (in interviews with their parents) reported a 30 percent decrease in productivity when allergy symptoms were at their worst.

Allergies impact kids in more ways than just suffering from symptoms, said Dr. Eli Meltzer, who assisted with the survey as part of the Allergy and Asthma Medical Group and Research Center in San Diego. “It’s affecting their sleep, their performance at school and their sports activities,” he said. “It’s more than just a runny nose; it’s a disease.… Clearly this [survey] is an announcement that we need to intervene; we need to recognize these children and be more aggressive in our interventions to make them feel better.”

Comparatively, children are more impacted by allergies than adults—a prior survey of allergies in adult populations found that only half of employed adults with nasal allergies reported lost workdays or impaired work performance because of nasal allergy symptoms.

Childhood allergies’ worse symptoms* Either all days or most daysSource: Pediatric Allergies in America 2007 survey
SymptomPercent responded symptom prevalent*
Dry cough19%
Post-nasal drip30
Runny nose34
Facial pain7
Ear pain4
Headache10
Itching27
Troubled sleep15
Stuffed up nose52
Red, itchy eyes29
Watery eyes34
Repeated sneezing46

The majority of parents, 63 percent, said that their child’s nasal allergies occurred on a seasonal basis, while 37 percent described it as a year-round condition. Even if the symptoms were considered chronic throughout the year, 87 percent of all parents reported seasonal spikes—allergy symptoms were most prevalent in the spring (76 percent) and least prevalent in the winter (13 percent). Approximately 16 percent of children suffered from symptoms in the summer and 34 percent in the fall. “Lots of kids with seasonal allergies also had year-round allergies—they’re allergic to cats, dust mites and mold, which are present all the time,” Meltzer said.

Nasal congestion was the most frequent and bothersome symptom for children with allergies—52 percent of parents said their children suffered from a stuffed-up nose either most days or every day. Repeated sneezing and watery eyes were also prevalent—with 46 percent and 34 percent, respectively, of parents reporting those symptoms as occurring most days or every day. And while headaches were the least reported symptom associated with allergies—only 10 percent of parents identified headaches as prevalent—that children were having allergy-related headaches at all was significant, Meltzer said. “The number of children who complained of headache is much higher than we thought,” he said.

The majority of the children diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, 76 percent, were on a chronic treatment program for their allergies, with 48 percent reporting use of prescription medicines in the prior four weeks and 54 percent reporting use of an over-the-counter remedy in that time.

The national telephone survey polled 500 children between the ages of 4 and 17 diagnosed with allergies, as well as their parents, out of a total population of more than 30,000 people.

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