Allergy sufferers in Germany are massively underserved

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Many allergy sufferers do not receive adequate medical care

Whether pollen, nuts or animal hair: allergy sufferers often have a difficult time, because many sufferers do not receive adequate medical care. Experts strongly recommend that allergies be viewed with sufficient seriousness, because around 20 million people now suffer from allergic reactions and symptoms such as severe runny nose, itchy rash or shortness of breath.

Meanwhile around 20 million allergy sufferers hay fever, food intolerance, dust mites: More and more people are affected by allergies, in Germany alone there are now around 20 million allergy sufferers. Despite increasing numbers, medical care is often inadequate. This is the result of a study by the University of Duisburg-Essen. For example, while the number of people suffering from hay fever and asthma rose by 0.4 and 8.7 percent between 2007 and 2010, there was a significant decrease in treatments over the same period.

Current study presented at the 8th German Allergy Congress As the Medical Association of German Allergologists (AeDA) explained at the 8th German Allergy Congress in Bochum, the number of hay fever patients and asthmatics had dropped by 13 percent overall. Allergological treatments for asthma were calculated to be around 27 percent less, with hay fever a decrease of 31 percent was recorded. The health economist Prof. Dr. Jürgen Wasem from the University of Duisburg-Essen, on behalf of the Medical Association, examined the data of 40 million insured persons from the statutory health insurance companies regarding the treatment of allergies.

"Allergies have become a widespread disease"
According to Prof. Eckard Hamelmann, there is a danger here that allergic diseases will not be taken seriously, because “allergies have become a widespread disease. Although every fifth person is affected by an allergic disease in the course of their life, the risk of an allergy is often minimized - both by those affected or by their relatives and by the treating physicians. "

Decreasing willingness among medical professionals for additional training to become an allergist The results of the study also look deeply for AeDa Vice President Ludger Klimek, because it shows that "something is fundamentally wrong - across all specialist groups. The willingness among doctors to opt for additional training as an allergist to report has decreased by two thirds in the past ten years. " According to Klimek, the fee system is responsible for the falling motivation, among other things - because the doctors would not be compensated accordingly for the treatment of allergies. However, this would have considerable consequences, because "what we save here in the short term in the health system, we have to pay dearly in the long term with an increase in chronic diseases," said Vice President Ludger Klimek.

Every third child grows up with the risk of getting sick The President of the German Society for Allergology and Clinical Immunology (DGKAI), Harald Renz, clearly presented his position at the congress and called for a fundamental rethinking of allergies. According to Renz, one in three children would now grow up with the risk of getting sick - but allergies would still be trivialized. In asthma, for example, treatment would not work in every fifth case, so that the patient cannot be helped in this way. Renz therefore calls for changes in all areas - on the one hand while studying medicine, but also when equipping the universities.

The postponement and extension of pollen flight times exacerbate the problem. With regard to allergies, lack of care is not the only problem. There is also a shift and expansion of pollen flight times, which is caused by the changed climate. Because "when it gets warmer, the flowering times shift," says the head of allergology at the University Medical Center Göttingen and board member of the AeDA, Thomas Fuchs. Accordingly, it can be assumed that pollen will fly from mid-December to October. As a result, hay fever sufferers should ideally go straight to an allergist, because simple applications such as cooling the eyes or washing the face would usually not have a long-term effect.

If you suspect hay fever, it's best to go straight to the specialist. A visit to the specialist during the pollen season between March and October, on the other hand, can be very revealing, because a blood test could clearly diagnose allergies. Another diagnostic option is a skin test in which allergens are applied directly to the skin to test which patient is allergic to them. However, on the advice of the expert Fuchs, those affected should have such a skin test carried out better during the pollen-free period, since the skin is already very irritated during the "allergy season".

Immediately start the therapy after an allergy diagnosis. According to Fuchs, as soon as an allergy is diagnosed, treatment should be started immediately, for example with cortisone spray for the nose and so-called "antihistamines", active substances that have the effects of remove the body's own substance histamine. But Fuchs believes that is not enough, because "acute therapy must be supplemented by allergen-specific immunotherapy." This consists of the person affected taking allergens either by syringe or in tablet form. It is important, however, that this so-called “immunization” be carried out for three to five years without a break and that it is also started in the allergy-free period.

Never underestimate allergies In general, Fuchs also appeals not to underestimate allergies, because a supposedly harmless reaction can quickly become chronic and, in the worst case, even lead to inability to work. According to the expert, "allergies will get worse if the treatment is not correct for 90 percent of those affected." In addition, there is an increased risk for allergy sufferers of being additionally affected by a food allergy.

"A big danger with an allergy is changing floors"
Dr. Kirsten Jung, President of the AeDA, warns against trivialization, because "the big danger with an allergy is changing floors." This would turn an apparently harmless hay fever "into an allergic asthma in every fourth patient in the course of his life" the care of allergy sufferers should be taken very seriously: "This is precisely why early treatment against the specific allergen is so important that the immune system does not suffer further failures against other allergens and the patient ultimately has cross-allergies to all sorts of substances," she said AeDA Chair. (ag)

Image: S. Hofschlaeger /

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