Survey finds allergies viewed as nuisance

KENILWORTH, N.J. According to "Attitudes About Allergies," a national telephone survey released Thursday, allergies are often disregarded as a nuisance.

A survey of consumers found that they view diabetes (81 percent), hypertension or high blood pressure (76 percent) and arthritis (57 percent) as more serious than indoor and outdoor allergies. In addition, while the survey of consumers found that 78 percent feel sorry for allergy sufferers, more than a third (36 percent) believe that allergy sufferers overstate the severity of their symptoms, and 30 percent say allergy sufferers use allergies as an excuse to get out of something.

"Allergies are often disregarded in our society, making it acceptable to tell allergy sufferers to 'get on with it' and not complain," stated Belinda Borrelli, associate professor at the department of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown Medical School and The Miriam Hospital.

A separate survey of allergy sufferers found that about half (48 percent) feel their spouse or significant other does not view their allergies to be a serious health condition. Sufferers also perceive others as not taking their allergies that seriously, saying their relatives (81 percent), friends (86 percent) and co-workers (78 percent) view their allergies as a “somewhat serious” or “not serious” health condition. Even their physicians, they say, are ambivalent. The survey of allergy sufferers found that nearly three-quarters (74 percent) believe that their doctor views their allergies as a “somewhat serious” or “not serious” health condition.

However, according to a survey of physicians who treat allergies, a majority of physicians (84 percent) said, in general, patients do not overstate allergy symptoms. In addition, most physicians view insomnia (83 percent) and osteoarthritis (69 percent) as being less serious or equally as serious as allergies. Physicians report they view diabetes (90 percent) and hypertension (84 percent) as being more serious than allergies.

The survey was commissioned by Schering-Plough/Merck Pharmaceuticals and conducted by Harris Interactive.   Three separate surveys were conducted: a survey of more than 1,000 consumers, which included allergy sufferers and non-allergy sufferers, a survey of more than 1,000 allergy sufferers only, and a survey of 300 physicians.

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