The prevalence of allergies is on the rise in Bangladesh, with between 20% to 25% of people having some type of allergic disorder. In addition to causing discomfort and absence from school and work, allergies can also affect performance.
A study by A Roger et al, focusing on allergic rhinitis, reported on the precise way in which this condition can interfere with work goals and academic results. The study is particularly useful, considering that allergic rhinitis is common in Bangladesh. In fact, it affects over 400 million people worldwide – particularly those in developed countries.
To What Extent do Allergies Reduce Productivity?
According to the study, total loss of productivity caused by allergic rhinitis (AR), stood at 21 and 21.2% for employed people and students, respectively. Previous research had shown that the economic costs of AR were higher than those caused by diabetes, migraine, anxiety, or asthma. Even when employees did make it to school or the office, productivity was reduced, leading to what the researchers called “a major problem known as ‘presenteeism’.” The latter involves attending obligatory work or school despite battling symptoms that can make it difficult or impossible to complete tasks efficiently.
Allergies are Often Accompanied by Other Conditions
Researchers reported that often, the continuum of AR can involve asthma, otitis media, chronic sinusitis, upper respiratory conditions, and nasal polyps. When this occurs, the overall cost to productivity increases significantly. When analyzed separately, though, 36% of people with AR performed less efficiently at work, compared to only 19% of individuals with asthma.
Which Factors can Exacerbate Allergies in Bangladesh?
A study published in the Bangladesh Journal of Otorhinolaryngology identifies some of the problems that lead to high allergy levels in Bangladesh. These include poverty, lack of awareness, and negligence to receive treatment for this type of condition. Researchers note that “Skin prick tests and IgE estimation are not available outside capital Dhaka as well as these are expensive too. The majority of our population can’t afford them.” The statistics are a wake-up call to the need to make allergy testing and treatment more accessible – after all, AR and other conditions affect not only the individuals concerned but also, ultimately, the economy – owing to the effect they have on performance.
The Effect of Mold on AR
Among the common factors affecting AR, one that is sometimes overlooked, is mold. The symptoms of mold allergies are similar to those caused by pollen. They include coughing, sneezing, and itchy eyes. Mold proliferates in warm, humid zones, and Bangladesh has a high annual average humidity, so residents should be vigilant to spot and remove spores in damp areas of the home such as showers and basements. The good news is that unlike pollen, mold can easily be tackled with natural solutions such as vinegar and water. Simply spraying this solution over mold and drying affected areas afterward can effectively reduce the presence of mold in homes and offices.
Pollen another Major Culprit
In their investigations on airborne pollen grains, scientists at Chittagong University campus recorded over 4,500 different pollen grains, which were then classified into 34 pollen morpho-types. Pollen has been found in many studies to affect performance. In one study carried out at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, scientists found that when pollen counts increased by just one standard deviation, (i.e. by 20 grains per cubic meter) the exam grade of the average pupil decreased by 2.5%. Researchers stated, “ pupils with pollen allergies don’t have the same opportunities to study what they want to at university — not because their skills are inferior, but because they are suffering from hay fever symptoms during the exams.”
AR has the ability to significantly affect work and school performance. This can have a significant impact on health and economic success, which is why the problem should be taken seriously. Medications exist which can significantly reduce symptoms, yet providing greater opportunities for diagnosis and improving AR awareness are vital steps that must be tackled at a governmental level.