Lack of rainfall increases suffering for those with hay fever

Lack of rainfall increases suffering for those with hay fever


ATLANTA, GA. (Sept. 18, 2002)—With drought plaguing much of the United States and Canada, the autumn hay fever season is predicted to be worse than usual for allergy sufferers.

According to 2002 report this summer from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 36 percent of the contiguous United States is suffering from severe to extreme drought, rivaling some of the most formidable droughts of the past century. In 12 of the past 34 months, according to the National Climatic Data Center, the average rainfall has been well below normal with only three months averaged above normal.

What does this mean for hay fever sufferers?

“Rain is an ally in the fight against pollen and the other allergens that trigger allergic reactions,” said Dr. Yvonne M. Johnson, director of medical affairs for Novartis Ophthalmics North America, makers of Zaditorä (ketotifen fumarate ophthalmic solution, 0.025 percent). “Rain washes away the pollen and fungus spores that cause the reactions. Rain cleanses the environment. Unfortunately, with the drought, we haven’t had the rain we need.”

According to Dr. Johnson, pollen counts are highest on warm, dry breezy mornings and lowest on cool rainy days. The severity of allergic reactions, she said, usually reflect the rise and fall of the pollen count.

Hay fever is the most common allergy in the country. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 26 million Americans endure chronic seasonal allergies, while the number of people with milder symptoms may be as high as 40 million. People who are sensitive to one allergen such as pollen are often affected by other allergens as well.

The symptoms of hay fever include itching; sneezing; puffy, watery eyes; clogged nasal passages and fatigue. These symptoms are relieved by antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops, such as Zaditor, and nasal sprays.

Scientists think that allergies may have been with us for millions of years, when they originated as a way for the human body to rid itself of parasitic invaders. With hay fever, the body’s immune system interprets the pollen as an “invader” and responds by releasing a chemical called histamine into the bloodstream. Histamine causes the swelling and redness of the eyes and sinuses and triggers sneezing, all designed to keep the “invaders” out of or expel them from the body.

Background on Novartis Ophthalmics

With worldwide headquarters in Bulach, Switzerland, Novartis Ophthalmics is a global leader in research, development and manufacturing of leading ophthalmic pharmaceuticals that assist in the treatment of glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, eye inflammation, ocular allergies and other diseases and disorders of the eye. Novartis Ophthalmics products are available in more than 110 different countries. The North American headquarters is based in Atlanta, Ga. Novartis Ophthalmics has production sites in Switzerland, France and Canada. For more information, please go to the web site

About Novartis AG

Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) is a world leader in healthcare with core businesses in pharmaceuticals, consumer health, generics, eye-care, and animal health. In 2001, the Group’s businesses achieved sales of CHF 32.0 billion (USD 19.1 billion) and a net income of CHF 7.0 billion (USD 4.2 billion). The Group invested approximately CHF 4.2 billion (USD 2.5 billion) in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ about 74,000 people and operate in more than 140 countries around the world. For further information please consult

For more information contact: Jan McClure, Director, Corporate Communications, Novartis Ophthalmics phone: 770.905.1010; Fax: 770.905.1510 e-mail:

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