Campaign launched to help 16 million allergy sufferers

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 16 million people in Britain are suffering from allergies, a MORI poll reveals today. One person in three is now affected by asthma, eczema, rhinitis or house dust mite allergy.

But most people do not know how to reduce their exposure to the causes, which leave them with wheeziness, tight chest, itchy or irritated skin and a sore, red, runny or blocked nose.

The survey showed most people took few measures to protect themselves and one in four did nothing at all. Even those who knew how to avoid exposure failed to act on this knowledge.

Dr Jill Warner, allergy and immunology lecturer at the University of Southampton, said: 'It's not surprising they don't know what to do as most allergic people don't know what is causing their symptoms. They need to be tested to find out the cause of their allergy so they can avoid the trigger factors.'

She said allergy testing was available on the NHS, and the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology was publicising these services for GPs.

The message has not been getting through to the medical profession. About one sufferer in three asks a doctor about symptoms, and the most common advice - excluding drug treatments - was to avoid smoking.

Patients were also told to avoid animals in the home and to vacuum regularly.

The poll coincided with the launch of Bug Busters, a public information campaign designed to show how to banish allergens from the home.

A three-person team backed by an allergy expert will concentrate on the bedroom - a main allergy hot spot of every household - and on the house dust mite, the worst domestic allergy pest. The poll involved more than 2,000 people aged 15 and over.

A free booklet, A Guide to Achieving Relief from House Dust Mite Allergy, is available by telephoning 0800 515730.