x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Allergies hurt work productivity, study shows

A study on people with nasal allergies in the Middle East finds that the condition, if left untreated, can greatly reduce work productivity and could lead to depression and asthma.

DUBAI // A new study warns that ignoring persistent runny noses and sneezing could lead to longer term conditions such as asthma and depression.

The Allergies in the Middle East survey of five countries - the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and Iran - warned doctors and patients of the detrimental effects nasal allergies caused by dust and other environmental pollution were having on work productivity and academic performance.

The study by the pharmaceutical company Takeda was released to about 400 doctors, researchers and officials of pharmaceutical companies on the opening day of a three-day GCC symposium on ear, nose and throat (ENT) disorders.

"Nasal allergies are spreading within the community here because of dust, environmental pollution from industries and the humidity," said Dr Hussain Abdul Rahman, the chairman of the symposium and the ENT head at Dubai Hospital.

"It also increases here because of the closed environment of big buildings where people stay without proper ventilation. For small children, it can affect their hearing, so it affects learning and speech. For adults, it affects their daily life and work."

The Middle East accounts for 10 per cent of the 400 million people across the world who suffer from nasal allergies. Dr Rahman believes the figure is rising.

The new study, he hoped, would raise awareness about such problems.

The survey interviewed 7,411 households in the region from June to August last year.

Of those reached in the phone and door-to-door survey, 501 agreed to participate in a more in-depth study.

Complaints ranged from nasal congestion, headaches, watery eyes and sleep disruption.

Sufferers in the UAE said the worst months were October and November.

They said that when they could not resolve the problem through prescription or over-the-counter medication, their work suffered.

Asked to rate their productivity when suffering from such allergies, patients in the UAE said their work rate fell by about 25 per cent. Patients in Saudi Arabia said their work rate fell by 40 per cent.

Professor Usamah Hadi, of the ENT department of the American University of Beirut Medical Centre, warned that people often did not take allergies seriously as they were not "considered life-threatening".

"But if you look at the quality of a patient's life, it's miserable. They are depressed, always fatigued. It affects day-to-day interaction and consequently their performance at work."

Following up patients' complaints was critical to prevent conditions such as asthma and chronic sinusitis, he added.

Nasal steroid sprays were the preferred treatment, followed by antihistamines.