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Treatment costs nearly double for hay fever and other allergies

Americans spent $11 billion on doctors' bills, prescription drugs, and other medical care to relieve allergy symptoms such as itchy or watery eyes, stuffy noses, wheezing, coughing, and headaches in 2005, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The cost is nearly double the $6 billion spent in 2000. AHRQ's analysis looked at spending on allergies, such as hay fever and other allergies caused by plant pollens, dust, or dander such as animal hair.

AHRQ's data indicated that:

  • In 2005, about 22 million Americans reported visiting a doctor, obtaining a prescription drug, being hospitalized, getting home care, or experiencing allergy symptoms.
  • Visits to doctors' offices and hospital outpatient departments for allergy care accounted for $4 billion. The remaining roughly $7 billion was spent mostly on prescription drugs.
  • Between 2000 and 2005, average annual spending on treatment of allergies jumped from $350 per person to $520 per person.

The data were taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to MEPS Statistical Brief #204: Allergic Rhinitis: Trends in Use and Expenditures, 2000 and 2005.

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