A new US review has found that hay fever and allergies may have more far-reaching consequences than we think, impacting the daily quality of life of many teenagers and even contributing to depression and anxiety.
Led by allergist Michael Blaiss at Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University along with researchers from the UK and Denmark, the review looked at 25 studies which examined the effects of hay fever (allergic rhinitis) and hay fever with eye allergies (allergic rhinoconjunctivitis) in adolescents age 10-17.
The team evaluated the symptoms of hay fever and hay fever with eye allergies and looked at their effect on quality of life, daily activities, sleep, academic performance, school absence, and treatment burden.
They found that rhinorrhea, nasal congestion, and itchy eyes were the hay fever symptoms that bothered participants the most. Quality of life was also rated as being worse by the teenagers who experienced hay fever compared to those who didn't, with daily functioning and sleep also negatively impacted by the condition.
In addition, hay fever also had a negative effect on absenteeism, school productivity, and academic performance.
Hay fever with eye allergies was also found to have a negative impact on various aspects of daily life, including driving and reading ability, with the team finding that it can potentially have a detrimental effect on psychosocial functioning.
Eye allergies may also reduce the quality of life for those with hayfever even further, added the researchers.
Although allergies affect more than 50 million Americans, they can be seen as a minor condition. Adolescents may be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of allergies because they may be embarrassed by their symptoms, with activities such as learning to drive often occurring at a crucial point in their school career.
"The emotional burden of hay fever can be huge for adolescents" says Blaiss. "Three of the studies in our review examined how adolescents are emotionally affected by hay fever and hay fever with eye allergies. They found adolescents with hay fever had higher rates of anxiety and depression, and a lower resistance to stress. The adolescents also exhibited more hostility, impulsivity and changed their minds often."
Blaiss also added that, "Lack of sleep or poor sleep are both huge issues for adolescents, and it can be made worse by the symptoms of hay fever with or without eye allergies. Poor sleep can have a negative impact on school attendance, performance and academic achievement."
"Adolescents aren't 'big children' or 'small adults," he continued, "They have very specific needs, and allergists can help relieve symptoms that can cause suffering. Adolescence is an important developmental period and controlling symptoms can help with daily activities such as homework and sports practices."
The findings were published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).