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America Fails National Allergy Awareness Test

Most Allergy Sufferers Don't Know Basic Allergy Facts
WebMD Health News

March 23, 2004 -- Allergy sufferers may know it is allergy season, but that's about as far as their allergy awareness goes, according to the first national allergy awareness test.

The test shows allergy sufferers may think they know enough about their allergies, but there's a gap between what they know and the impact allergy symptoms have on their lives.

For example, the allergy report card surveyors found that most allergy sufferers say their symptoms are controllable, but eight out of 10 also say allergy symptoms disrupt their lives.

And when it comes to prevention, allergy sufferers got an "F" because nearly half say they wait until symptoms occur before taking action, rather than taking advantage of therapies that can prevent symptoms from occurring.

"When it comes to our health, we need to strive to do better than average," says Mike Tringale, director of marketing and communications at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, which conducted the test, in a news release. "To raise the allergy grade, Americans need to learn how to manage symptoms so allergies do not impact their quality of life, by disrupting daily activities or preventing attendance at important events."

Allergy Report Card

For the survey, researchers interviewed 1,000 men and women about their knowledge of allergy triggers, symptoms, prevention, and treatment.

About half of those surveyed were seasonal allergy sufferers, who were also asked additional questions about their management of their allergies.

Allergy sufferers scored poor marks in many areas of allergy knowledge, including:

  • Awareness, "F": Only 28% said they were very knowledgeable about allergies. In addition, only one in five knew that having a family history of allergies increases their risk of allergies.
  • Triggers, "C": Most could identify common triggers such as pollen, pet dander, and mold. But awareness was lower for other triggers such as cockroaches.
  • Symptoms, "F": 80% said allergy symptoms, such as stuffy nose, congestion, itch, and watery eyes, or a runny nose, disrupt their lives.
  • Prevention, "F": Most fail to act before allergy symptoms occur.
  • Treatment, "D": Many are aware of over-the-counter allergy medications, but many aren't treating their symptoms because of fears about side effects.

Create an Allergy Plan

Researchers say it's important to increase allergy awareness and develop a personal allergy action plan to help prevent allergies year-round based on your own triggers.

For example, some steps to avoid spring allergy triggers include:

  • Check your local allergy forecast to know when pollen counts are elevated.
  • When your allergy forecast is high, try to spend more time inside -- especially in the morning when the outdoor pollen levels are highest.
  • If you must go outside or work outdoors, wear a facemask to limit the amount of pollen you inhale and change your clothes when you go inside.
  • Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter when doing your spring cleaning and keep windows closed. Dusting with a damp cloth will also help keep dust mites at bay.

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