Allergen immunotherapy improves the quality of life of people who are allergic to grass pollen and house dust mites, reveals a study in the open access World Allergy Journal. With less time taken off work, the therapy yields economic as well as patient benefits.
Around a quarter of adults in Europe suffer from respiratory allergies. Symptoms can include asthma and / or rhino-conjunctivitis, inflammation of the inner nasal lining which causes a runny, stuffy nose. Treatment is usually with drugs, such as antihistamines, which manage the symptoms.
Allergen immunotherapy, however, seeks to treat the underlying cause. Subcutaneous immunotherapy, the type used in this study, involves regular injections with increasing doses of a specific allergen vaccine, then less frequent 'top-up' injections over several years.
Karin D Petersen and colleagues observed 248 allergy patients prospectively as they received the treatment for one year. As expected, disease severity lessened, but critically, this translated to significant improvements in quality of life. Sufferers experienced fewer symptom-filled days -- 145 instead of 189 days per year -- and took fewer sick days from work -- 1.2 instead of 3.7.
This is likely to have knock-on effects for patients, employers and society, the team say. One US study found that allergic rhino-conjunctivitis causes an annual at-work productivity loss of around $2.5 billion. A separate study showed employees with allergic rhino-conjunctivitis suffer a productivity loss of around $593 per year.
But the real burden is personal, an element that is difficult to measure using traditional methods. Clinical symptoms, for example, correlate only modestly with everyday functional capabilities and patients' perceptions of their condition. The methods used in this study successfully measure personal quality of life as well as disease severity, highlighting the clinical and personal benefits to be gained from subcutaneous allergen immunotherapy.
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