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World Allergy Day, July 8, 2005
Allergies on the rise

Munich, Germany, June 30 The prevalence of allergic disorders such as hay fever, asthma and neurodermitis has increased so drastically over the past decade that experts speak in terms of an epidemic-like situation. One in every four Germans suffers from hay fever, and approximately 22 percent of the world's population suffers from allergic rhinitis, as it is termed by allergologists. According to World Allergy Organization (WAO) president Prof. Carlos E. Baena-Cagnani from Argentina, there are now 300 million asthma patients worldwide. In Germany, up to 4.4 percent of all adults and approximately three to seven percent of all children and teenagers suffer from asthma, which is triggered by allergies in 85 percent of all cases. "Our recommendations for prevention have not managed to prevent an increase in the prevalence of allergies. Thus it is all the more important that we strengthen our research efforts aimed at finding ways to neutralize allergens and identify the preventive effects of protective factors," noted Prof. Ulrich Wahn, president of the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) in Munich.

Reduced quality of life

Allergies are not a trivial disorder. Each year, 2,700 Germans and over 180,000 people worldwide die from asthma. Allergies also have a strong impact on patients' quality of life in that social life suffers, children's learning abilities are often impaired, and adults' work productivity can decline to the point of complete job disability. In addition to the significant changes wrought by allergies in patients' lives, allergic disorders are also extremely costly from an economic standpoint. Hay fever gives rise to annual costs of approximately €16.5 billion worldwide, and in the U.S. alone, the annual asthma bill runs to approximately €10.5 billion. Thus, therapies are urgently needed, although the scope and impact of allergic disorders are still underestimated.

Heightening awareness of the problem

"Allergies are the epidemic of the 21st century, and we need to heighten worldwide awareness of these disorders," stated WAO president Prof. Carlos E. Baena-Cagnani today in Munich. Toward this end, July 8, 2005 has been declared World Allergy Day. This event is an outgrowth of a project known as Prevention of allergies and allergic asthma, which was initiated jointly by WHO and WAO. World Allergy Day is intended to help increase worldwide awareness of allergy related problems and to disseminate well founded information about how allergies can be prevented and how their symptoms and effects can be mitigated. The information being distributed is mainly aimed at physicians and patients, but is intended for non-allergy sufferers as well.

"Our main concern is the patient's wellbeing," said Prof. Johannes Ring, a professor at the Technical University of Munich and chairman of the World Allergy Congress, which is being held at the Munich convention center. Prof. Ring is developing a patient training program in collaboration with psychologists and educators, as well as representatives of patient organizations. "We need to enable allergy patients to manage their own disorder," Prof. Ring said, adding that the more information patients have about their disorder, the better the chance that their allergy will not have a major adverse effect on their work or quality life. "We should enable every patient to become their own doctor," noted Prof. Ring.

EAACI president Prof. Wahn hopes that World Allergy Day will help increase public awareness of allergic disorders. "My fervent hope is that by World Allergy Day 2015, many of the questions that preoccupy us today will have been answered. I am convinced that a decade from now we will have found solutions to many of the problems in the field of allergology and that we will find a way to stop the current epidemic."

World Allergy Day Information