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Allergies Curb Kids' Daily Activities

Nasal allergy symptoms in children may severely affect daily activities such as sleep and schoolwork, according to two new studies.

The impact of nasal allergy symptoms is well documented in adults but not in children. This is the largest U.S. study to examine severity of allergic rhinitis (nasal allergy) symptoms and the impact on quality of life in children.

The studies analyzed a national telephone survey of 35,757 parents. The parents were asked about the effect of allergy symptoms on their children's daily activities, productivity, and sleep patterns.

Five hundred children between ages 4 and 17 with nasal allergy symptoms were compared with 504 children who do not have nasal allergies.

Nasal Allergies Disrupt Sleep
The first study, headed by Jennifer M. Derebery, MD, of the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles, showed that the rate of sleep problems in children with nasal allergies is 2 1/2 times that of children without allergies. Parents reported allergy symptoms caused their children to have difficulty falling asleep (32 percent), staying asleep (26 percent) or getting a good night's (29 percent).

The parents rated their children's productivity at 97 percent on symptom free days, compared with 68 percent on days when allergies are the worst.

The percentage of children with allergies that have difficulty with daily activities or accomplish less than expected was more than double that of children without allergies, note the researchers.

Nasal Allergy Symptoms Affect Daily Activities
The second study, presented by Michael S. Blaiss, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, looked at how severe symptoms affect children's daily activities.

Symptoms reported as moderate to severe included nasal congestion (75 percent); postnasal drip (70 percent); runny nose (65 percent); headache (59 percent); and red, itchy eyes (56 percent).

Similar to adults, the most bothersome symptoms affecting daily life, however, were nasal congestion and headache. Twenty-seven percent of parents reported nasal congestion as the most bothersome symptom in their children, and 13 percent reported headache.

Parents reported a 29 percent decrease in their children's productivity on days when nasal allergy symptoms were their worst, Blaiss reports.

Nasal Allergy Complaints Common
George McCrary, MD, a general practitioner from Fayetteville, Ark., says the loss in productivity is not surprising: "If you can't breathe, you're not going to be very productive."

He says complaints of coughing and trouble sleeping due to postnasal drip are common among both adults and children.

"I see kids every day where the teacher has told the parent to get the child treated because of coughing in school," McCrary says.

The studies were presented at The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting in Dallas.

By Patricia Kirk
Reviewed by Louise Chang
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