Background: Allergic rhinitis is a frequent disease affecting one in five Europeans with a significant impact on patient quality of life, health-care costs, and economic productivity. Although effective treatments exist, the disease often remains undiagnosed and not correctly treated, despite clear diagnostic and therapeutic guidelines from WHO, EAACI (European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology), and GA2LEN (Global Allergy and Asthma European Network). This study elucidates the reasons for this discrepancy from the patients’ point of view.
Methods: An internet and telephone survey was conducted with 2966 randomly selected adults with allergies from the general population in the five major EU countries: UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Results: The main reason that the majority of respondents first visited a medical professional for their rhinitis symptoms was because these symptoms became intolerable. The respondents had not seen a medical professional in the past year for their rhinitis symptoms in 52.6% of the cases, and 30.2% of the respondents preferred nonprescription medication because it did not require visiting a doctor. ‘Nontreaters’ and ‘homeopathic treaters’ together made up 26.2% of the respondents, and 40.2% of them gave the cost of medication as a reason they do not use allergy medications.
Conclusions: Allergic rhinitis remains widely undertreated in Europe with avoidable socioeconomic consequences. Effective treatment exists, but patients wait too long to seek medical advice, and health providers neglect to actively screen early for allergies.