COLUMBUS , Ohio -- Employers can blame hay fever for the loss of millions of hours of work productivity this spring.
A new study of nearly 600 people with hay fever symptoms, including sneezing, watery eyes and runny and itchy noses, found that workers missed an hour of work per week during peak hay fever season.
While missing an hour of work a week may seem small, consider that 20 to 50 million Americans suffer from at least some symptoms related to hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, said Sheryl Szeinbach, the study's lead author and a professor of pharmacy practice and administration at Ohio State University.
That means the potential loss of millions of hours of work productivity, not to mention the associated economic costs, she said. Some estimates suggest that nearly 4 million days of missed work each year due to allergy symptoms.
Hay fever symptoms can disrupt all areas of life, and study participants cited a lack of sleep and a negative impact on their overall health as the two main reasons for missing work.
Szeinbach suggests that people who suspect they have hay fever get an allergy test, either from a family doctor or an allergist. In previous work, she found that some people with allergy-like symptoms don't actually have allergies. Almost anything can cause allergy-type symptoms - perfumes, sinus infections, exercise, dust, cold air even if a person doesn't have an allergy.
Diagnostic testing followed by the right kind of treatment may mean less time out of work, she said.
The study currently appears on the website for the Primary Care Respiratory Journal.
Szeinbach and her colleagues collected questionnaires from 577 people whose medical and prescription records showed a diagnosis of allergic rhinitis. Participants were asked about the severity and type of allergy symptoms they had, and whether or not they had seen a physician for treatment.