Childhood allergies interfere with sleep

New research suggests that while allergies can make children unwell during the daytime they often also interfere with their sleep.

According to a large survey of hundreds of parents and doctors in the U.S. spring is by far the worst allergy season and some children's allergy symptoms are so severe that they interfere with sleep as well as daily activities.

Allergic disorders mostly affect children and young adults and have a negative impact on the quality of life.

In children these disorders affect sleep, impair learning, memory and behaviour and children with food allergies are also at significant risk.

Their condition means extra stress for their families over issues such as care at school, risk of death and the need for emergency medication in the form of injectable adrenaline.

The telephone survey which was sponsored by ALTANA Pharma found that 29 percent of parents whose children had allergies said their children suffered from a lack of sleep; this compared with 12 percent of parents whose children did not have allergies.

Experts say it has been suspected that children are affected by allergy symptoms similarly to adults, but this is the first data quantifying the scope of how allergies interrupt a child's productivity, sleep cycle and daily functioning.

Dr. Jay Portnoy, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says 40 percent of parents said their children's nasal allergies interfere with school performance, compared to 10 percent of parents whose children did not have allergies.

According to the report almost half of the children in the study take prescription medication for allergy symptoms, but about 57 percent of parents said they have often changed their medication, because it was not effective enough.

The survey included 500 adults with at least one child with nasal allergies and about the same number whose children did not and also included a survey of about 500 doctors who treat children with nasal allergies.

Allergies are the most frequently reported chronic condition in children, and according to Australasian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) allergies cost the Australian economy more than $7 billion per year.

Australia has one of the highest prevalences of allergic disorders in the developed world, but recent studies have demonstrated a doubling in some conditions such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), eczema but more recently, potentially dangerous anaphylaxis (mainly due to food) as well.

Asthma, hay fever, chronic sinusitis and "other allergy" comprise 4 of the top 10 most common long-term self-reported illnesses in youth aged 12-24 years in Australia and often several family members are affected.

ASCIA says allergic disorders are a major health issue for many afflicted people in Australia as most of the medication to treat allergies is not subsidised by the PBS nor counts towards the Medicare safety net.

ASCIA says allergy patients in Australia spend over $120 million a year on conventional across-the-counter allergy medicines, additional amounts on prescription drugs as well as considerable amounts on alternative medicines.

In adults, allergic disorders lead to impaired quality of life, increased absenteeism from work, reduced productivity when they are at work ("presenteeism") and are a significant financial burden.

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