Is the Medical Community Ignoring Allergies?

More than 90 percent of the nation’s allergy sufferers say their allergies are to blame for a lower quality of life. So why aren’t more doctors taking them seriously.

When it comes to its ranking in terms of research dollars and respect within the medical community, allergies rank right up there with pimples and toenail fungus.

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“We tend to minimize allergies because they’re so common,” says William Berger, M.D., president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “We only tend to take diseases seriously that are immediately life-threatening or rare.”

Yet 94 percent of adult allergy sufferers reported in a national survey that their quality of life is affected by their allergies. Despite this, only half of allergy sufferers consider the disease to be a serious medical condition and 64 percent did not see an allergist or other doctor the last time their symptoms acted up.

You don’t have to have allergies yourself to see how miserable they make children, and how they interfere with children’s ability to concentrate or even attend school.

Allergies also lead to more serious, even permanent, problems, says Dr. Berger. Nasal allergies, for instance, can result in ear infections and sinusitis, as well as asthma. The constant mouth-breathing such children practice can result in misaligned teeth from tongue thrusting against the front teeth, requiring orthodontia. These children also have what’s called the “allergic face,” with drawn-out faces, dark circles under their eyes, a permanent crease across their nose and an open, gaping mouth because they can’t breathe through their nose. Atopic dermatitis, a skin condition related to allergies, left untreated can lead to chronic changes, including the loss of pigment in the skin and permanent scarring.

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