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Given the high incidences, it is safe to assume that nearly every extended family in the U.S. has at least one member with allergies or asthma.

In fact, chances are we all know someone who is currently suffering from symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

This chronic condition affects between 10 and 30 percent of all adults, and as many as 40 percent of children. It accounts for approximately 1.5 million school days missed per year and approximately 28 million days of lost productivity. And, the problem is growing. There has been a 100 percent increase in the prevalence of allergic rhinitis in each of the last three decades in developed countries.

Or, you may be a parent with a child who was recently diagnosed with asthma. Government data show that in 2006 an estimated 12.4 million Americans had an asthma attack. Nearly 4.1 million of these breathtaking attacks were in children. The majority of these resulted in lost work or school days. Nearly $20 billion is spent annually on asthma alone.

Absent days and productivity declines are not the only losses associated with allergy and asthma. Over 4000 patients die each year from asthma.

These are chronic conditions without cures. Yet, symptoms can be controlled, health care dollars can be saved and people with asthma or allergies can lead healthier lives. Proper diagnosis and effective disease management are essential; and we all have roles to play.

The first step is finding a physician who can accurately and efficiently diagnose the problem. Allergies and asthma can be tricky to diagnose because many of the symptoms mirror colds or other conditions. Many people suffer needlessly and spend thousands of dollars on medications before seeing a Board certified allergist / immunologist— an internist or pediatrician with an additional two to three years of training.

The second step is developing and following a treatment plan to avoid triggers and control symptoms. An allergist / immunologist can define the plan, but patients must have the knowledge and motivation to follow through. Patient education is crucial to a successful treatment plan.

May is national Asthma and Allergy Awareness month—a perfect time to educate family and friends about these conditions. This supplement offers plenty of advice and useful tips. On behalf of the more than 6,000 allergist / immunologists and related healthcare providers who are members of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), we wish you symptom-free spring and summer seasons.

About Allergy & Asthma Specialists

For more than six decades the allergists and immunologist at Allergy & Asthma Specialists have been successfully treating adults and children in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and throughout Hampton Roads, where the climate is conducive to allergies and asthma problems. Our allergy and asthma physicians are specifically trained to treat asthma as well as allergic diseases such as Asthma, Hives, Allergic Rhinitis (eyes, ears, nose), Hay Fever, Food Allergies, Eczema, Insect Stings, and more.