Allergies can be frustrating, debilitating and even life threatening. From food allergies to skin allergies, the impact on the wellbeing of those who suffer can be immense. As part of World Allergy Week (April 22-28) we’re shining a light on allergic rhinitis, a common allergy that affects between 10-30% of the global population, with prevalence rates increasing worldwide1.
Claudia, 29, from the U.K was no stranger to seasonal allergic rhinitis symptoms. It was when she was on her dream European holiday that she’d officially had enough with her allergies. Holed up in her hotel room while her friends took in the sites of Copenhagen, her eyes were red raw, her nose was stuffy and chapped and she felt as though she were ill with the flu, not just suffering from allergies. Worst of all, she felt she was missing out on life.
Claudia used to dread spring each year it rolled around. The sound of a lawnmower or the scent of flowers made her run indoors to seek refuge from the dreaded pollen that had become her nemesis.
“Even though I love the warmer weather and being outdoors, I would fear spring every year. My allergic rhinitis symptoms were horrible – it made me miss friends’ birthdays in the park, stopped me from playing outdoor sports and just made me feel really unwell and miserable,” recalls Claudia.
“After my trip was ruined by my allergies, I decided that enough was enough and I didn’t want my life restricted anymore. I went home and saw my GP to discuss different treatment options and finally found something that worked for me. It might sound cliché but after this I celebrated reclaiming my life from allergies by rolling around in the grass! It felt so good to be able to enjoy spring and now I no longer feel a sense of dread when the seasons change.”
Allergies can also be exacerbated by living in highly polluted cities and sufferers in these cities can experience increased symptoms in accordance with the pollution levels.
According to Professor Ignacio Ansotegui, President of the World Allergy Organization, allergic rhinitis is a chronic disease and can be terribly debilitating.
“Respiratory allergies impair everyday activities such as sleep, mood, physical and social activities, work and school performance, leisure, sports and personal relationships,” says Professor Ansotegui.
“Allergies result in an increased use of health services, hospitalization and pharmaceutical costs, as well as causing billions of days of lost productivity through sick days or people going to work but being unable to perform,” he explains.
Ben, 43, from Australia recalls how his allergies resulted in a negative impact on both his work and personal life. When his allergies hit he couldn’t think clearly and wasn’t able to concentrate.
“I’ve had minor allergic rhinitis for years, mostly brought on by dust mites and pollen, until I moved to a new city and it turned into a major barrier for my day to day getting around,” says Ben.
“Each year it was getting progressively worse, contributing to major sinus infections, and while it wasn't stopping me from getting outdoors to exercise or ride, I felt miserable.”
In addition to the physical symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis, such as blocked or runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and headache, the psychological symptoms can be just as bad.1 Like Ben, people who suffer from allergic rhinitis can feel miserable, as well as tired, irritable, and embarrassed.1
While there is no cure for allergic rhinitis, Professor Ansotegui advises some strategies to take control of your symptoms:
- Understand what triggers your allergies and avoid situations where you will be exposed.
- If you are unable to avoid situations where your allergies are set off, have oral antihistamine on hand to control your symptoms.
If you fear spring, speak to your healthcare professional about how you can take control back from your allergies.
- World Allergy Organization. ‘White Book on Allergy: Update 2013’.