Profitability’s Hidden Menace

Something is happening in the U.S. that is heavily impacting productivity, driving costs ever higher, and lowering profits. This nemesis to small business is something we are all familiar with, but rarely think of in these terms. What I’m talking about here is…allergies! I guess technically it’s called allergic rhinitis (my family calls it hay fever). During the past 15 years the number of people suffering from allergies has doubled, and related medical expenses has increased 338%.

Here are some interesting statistics that may surprise you:

  • In 1995, allergies resulted in 1 million missed workdays.
  • In 2010, allergies will result in 6 million missed workdays—up from 4 million just 5 years ago.
  • In 1995, there were 7 million doctor visits to treat allergies.
  • In 2010, there will be 16 million doctor visits to treat allergies—up from 13.1 million just 5 years ago.
  • In 1995, medical expenses to treat allergies was $4 Billion.
  • In 2010, medical expenses to treat allergies will be $17.5 Billion—up from $6.1 Billion in 2000.

Apparently, a large contributing factor to these trends is that in North America spring arrives 10 to 14 days earlier than it did 20 years ago, resulting in a longer pollen season. Also, as average temperatures rise, they boost the proliferation of pollen-producing trees like oak and hickory. This is particularly true in the Midwest and eastern U.S. Some experts predict that, due to fossil-fuel emissions, pollen production could double by the year 2100.

Just one more thing for small business owners to deal with, and there doesn’t seem to be any clear solution. It looks like increased absenteeism and higher healthcare costs are going to be a considerable cost of doing business in the coming years. More things to make being a business owner in the U.S. even more difficult.

Any suggestions?


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