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Fears for nearly 30,000 hay fever sufferers in Exeter

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: May 07, 2014

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NEARLY 30,000 in Exeter are suffering from hay fever and may not be receiving satisfactory treatment for their condition.

The claim is made in a new report, supported by Allergy UK in partnership with MEDA Pharma, that warns that those whose hay fever symptoms are not controlled are up to three times more likely to develop asthma.

Research from the One Airway, One Disease: An expert report into the true impact of hay fever and asthma reveals that the ineffective management of ‘serious’ hay fever, as defined by moderate-to-severe symptoms, could be causing 50,000 people with hay fever – also known as allergic rhinitis – to be admitted to hospital with asthma every year.

The report demonstrates that while effective hay fever treatment reduces the risk of asthma-related hospital admissions, 58% of patients surveyed in Exeter are not being treated for both conditions in parallel, in line with official British Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology guidelines – that equates to 6,900 people in Exeter

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In a survey of over 2,000 hay fever sufferers, 33% of people with hay fever and asthma in Exeter had never received a dedicated consultation to discuss hay fever and asthma symptoms together, and a further 26% of sufferers had never discussed both conditions at the same time in a consultation, even if the subject had come up.8

Commenting on the report, 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 in Exeter suffer moderate-to-severe symptoms (79%). However, the most commonly used treatment – oral antihistamine tablets available over-the-counter in pharmacies – are only recommended 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 85% of sufferers in 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 said: “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.”

In Exeter, 29,000 people suffer from hay fever.Of these, up to 40per cent will also develop asthma, representing approximately 11,000 people.

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.2

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, although a hygiene hypothesis has also been put forward. This theory suggests that as a result of cleaner living, the population is more exposed to endotoxins and there is a greater tendency for allergies to develop. Furthermore, we are experiencing longer and more severe pollen seasons as a result of climate change, for example when pollen counts surge following periods of heavy rain.”

Maureen Jenkins, Clinical Services Director, Allergy UK, said: “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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