Allergic rhinitis is a common condition throughout the United States. It is estimated that 15-40% of the population suffers from inhalant allergies. It is more common in children and is often present before age 6 years. There is good evidence that indicates that nasal allergies are increasing. People with allergies have more medication cost since antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays are now over the counter and not covered by insurance. As a result, there is a considerable economic impact among allergy sufferers since allergies typically run in families.
Indirect costs of allergic rhinitis are often overlooked when the impact of allergic rhinitis is considered. These costs include quality of life (QOL) and loss of productivity. Studies of learning in school children over the past 20 years have documented emotional and behavioral effects of allergies. Sleepiness, irritability and fatigue leads to inattentiveness and difficulty focusing. Studies have shown that untreated allergic rhinitis impairs short term memory, knowledge acquisition, and performance on standardized tests in both children and in adults. Treatment with older antihistamines (such as Benadryl) actually worsens these learning problems. Adults with pollen and mold exposure show reduced quality and quantity of work during pollen season and may even develop mild sleep apnea during the pollen season. Among working adults, allergic rhinitis is the most common reason for work-related absence, ahead of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Altogether, there is loss of productivity at work or school, more restricted days of activity, and more absences related to the nasal allergies when left untreated. Aside from the negative impact on QOL, untreated allergic rhinitis lays the groundwork for asthma, sinus infections, nasal polyps and sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.