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The Burden of Allergies—and the Capacity of Medications to Reduce This Burden—in a Heavy Manufacturing Environment

Bunn, William B. III, MD, JD, MPH; Pikelny, Dan B. MBA, MA, CEBS; Paralkar, Sadhna MBBS, MPH; Slavin, Thomas MS, MBA; Borden, Spencer IV, MD, MBA; Allen, Harris M. Jr., PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: September 2003 - Volume 45 - Issue 9 - p 941-955
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000090468.73649.50
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This article addresses the observational findings of the first systematic study undertaken by a manufacturer to address the impact of allergies and use of allergy medications on health, safety, and productivity. It provides background for 3 other papers from the same project, including an evaluation of an intervention to promote appropriate medication use among affected employees, which appear in this issue. The observational data are developed on 10,714 employees from: 1) 2 employee surveys; 2) administrative databases monitoring employee absenteeism, workers compensation, short-term disability, and group health. The results show that health, productivity, absenteeism, workplace injury, and workers compensation measures register consistent declines as allergy severity levels increase. This pattern is present but less pronounced for the short-term disability and group health measures. In addition, among the 16 measures registering a significant allergy burden, 6 posted significant advantages for the use of nonsedating antihistamines relative to other medication regimens that included sedative antihistamines. These results document the burden of allergies and the capacity of medications to reduce this burden. Effective intervention programs that target this condition can achieve improved health, productivity, and related outcomes.

Supplemental Digital Content is Available in the Text.

From the International Truck & Engine Corporation (Dr Bunn, Dr Pikelny, Dr Paralkar, Dr Slavin), Chicago Illinois; Integrity Consulting, Inc. (Dr Borden), Concord, Massachusetts; and Harris Allen Associates (Dr Allen), Brookline, Massachusetts.

Address correspondence to: William B. Bunn, MD, JD, MPH, International Truck & Engine Corporation, 4201 Winfield Road, P.O. Box 1488, Warrenville, IL 60555; E-mail:; or Harris Allen, PhD, Harris Allen Associates, 41 Naples Road, Brockline MA 02446; email address:

The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not represent the official opinion or policy of any collaborating organization.

A supplemental technical appendix for this article is available with the on-line version of the Journal at

©2003The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine