Is the Impact of Living With Allergies Often Underestimated?
Last updated: July 2023
My family and I attended the Legislative Briefing for Allergy & Asthma Day on Capitol Hill. We visit our DC representatives each May to advocate for allergies and asthma. Our representatives can't advocate for patients with allergies and asthma if they don't know the problems we face.
And do we have stories to tell!
How do people with allergies rate quality of life?
While in Washington, DC, I heard a quote from Dr. Mark Corbett, current President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), that almost made me fall out of my chair!
Dr. Corbett talked about the latest research and insights in the world of allergies, asthma, and eczema. When he was talking about allergies, he said that most of the focus is on life-threatening food allergies. As it should be, right? Those of us with food allergies are always on high alert whenever we are dining out.
So I was fascinated when Dr. Corbett said, "If you do surveys on quality of life with allergies [allergic rhinitis], these patients score as poorly as patients with heart disease."1
Wait, what? I had to grab my phone and jot that quote down. Finally, some validation!
How would you rate your quality of life with allergies?
Chronic allergies can make life miserable
Dr. Corbett cited that the effects of chronic allergic rhinitis are often underestimated. You know what he's talking about for those of you with allergies! And so do I!
I buy tissues, allergy pills, and allergy nose sprays in bulk at the warehouse store. I am not kidding! I store tissues like a squirrel stores nuts! I've tried every allergy pill, and nose spray on the market, and all 3 of my adult children had allergy shots for 5 years each.
It's not "just" allergies
In my family, all 5 of us have year-round allergies, and we are miserable. Friends without allergies will say, "So? What's the big deal? It's just allergies."
It is incredibly frustrating when I hear people downplaying my experience with allergies. I say, "Imagine having a cold. You experience a runny or congested nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, sinus headaches, lack of sleep, or drowsiness." Then I tell them, "Now imagine feeling like that every day of your life."
The underestimated impact of allergies
The public health nerd that I am, I had to research a study about the impact allergies have on other aspects of life. I found a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Their global survey found that allergy patients seemed to struggle with things like:2
- Alertness and vitality
- Emotional and cognitive functioning
- Psychomotor function
- Poor work performance
- Lower grades in school
The survey participants also reported feeling frustration, fatigue, discomfort, irritability, and stress.2
As I tell my friends who do not have allergies, this is what we feel like every day of our lives!
Patients and providers might have conflicting perspectives
A concerning finding of the NIH study is that patients and doctors view allergic rhinitis differently. Although patients report that allergies significantly impact their quality of life, doctors don't view it that way. A majority of doctors consider allergies as a chronic but non-serious medical problem. This difference of opinion means doctors may not treat allergies as aggressively as they should.2
Finding a compassionate allergist
Lucky for our family, we have seen an allergist for the last 22 years. For each of us, our allergist kept trying different combinations of allergy nose spray, allergy pills, allergy shots, and even re-testing my kids to adjust their serum during allergy shots. After all of that, our allergies are manageable but still impact us daily.
How do your allergies affect your quality of life? Do you feel like you are getting the help you need?
How often do you connect with others who have food allergies?