The aim of the study is to examine the risk of sickness absence in public sector employees with allergic rhinitis or asthma or both conditions combined. This is a prospective cohort study of 48,296 Finnish public sector employees. Data from self-reported rhinitis and asthma were obtained from survey responses given during either the 2000-2002 or 2004 periods. Follow-up data on sickness absences for the public sector employees surveyed were acquired from records kept by the employers. During the follow-up, mean sick leave days per year for respondents were 17.6 days for rhinitis alone, 23.8 days for asthma alone and 24.2 days for both conditions combined. Respondents with neither condition were absent for a mean of 14.5 days annually. The impact of asthma and rhinitis combined on the risk of sick leave days was marginal compared to asthma alone (RR 1.1; 95% CI 1.0-1.3). In the subgroup analysis (those with current asthma or allergy medication), the risk ratio for medically certified sickness absence (>3 days) was 2.0 (95% CI 1.9-2.2) for those with asthma and rhinitis combined. Rhinitis, asthma and both these conditions combined increased the risk of days off work.
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