- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2001

Pardon me while I sneeze. As one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies (according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology), I am bracing for another bout of dealing with the grass and flowers that smell so good but wreak havoc on my immune system.

Many Web sites offer explanations and potential help for everything from hay fever to peanut intolerance. Unfortunately, a fair number of these sites push the drugs that their parent companies produce.

One advertising-free site worthy of a look has been developed by a pharmaceutical giant to help Americans cope with their watery eyes, runny noses and scratchy throats.

Allergy Learning Lab

Site address: www.allergylearninglab.com


AllergyLearningLab.com was created by Schering Laboratories, the U.S. prescription pharmaceutical marketing arm of Schering-Plough Corp. of Kenilworth, N.J. The research-based company develops, manufactures and markets pharmaceutical products worldwide.

Creator quotable: "AllergyLearningLab.com was designed to help allergy sufferers and their families. For many people, there is little awareness of how to combat allergies and what treatment options a physician can provide. Many people feel that allergies can only be suffered through," says John L. Joseph, the director of Internet strategy development for Schering Laboratories.

"The goal was to create a comfortable environment, without advertising, where allergy sufferers could not only learn about allergies, but could begin to manage them and improve their quality of life," he says.

Word from the Webwise:

Despite the potential bias of a drug-company-sponsored Web site, the Allergy Learning Lab does a great job explaining and monitoring visitors' allergies through feature articles and on-line tools. More importantly, it does not pound visitors over the head with the merits of its product lines. An occasional link to a pop-up window listing its medications exists, but little else.

Three primary sections are displayed on the opening pages All About Allergies, Getting Treatment and Living With Allergies as well as a peppering of features that highlight some of the subheadings under the primary sections.

Sources aren't listed for any of the information, but a spokesman for the site says that much of the content on Allergy Learning Lab comes from the Allergy Report, a multivolume monograph produced by the medical associations involved in setting practices for health care professionals and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).

Also contributing to the content are physician-members of the Allergy Advisory Board (a group of practicing physicians who review and create content for the site) and Schering Laboratories personnel.

Each section offers short, informative articles, ranging from "Tests to Diagnose Allergies" to "Coping With Allergies During the Holidays" to "Dust Mites and Other Pests."

I especially liked that the site did not limit allergy discussions to outdoor influences, but included topics such as food allergies, hives, contact dermatitis and mold reactions.

Additionally, an Allergies Across the Country area allows visitors to click on any portion of a U.S. map to see seasonal patterns that correspond to the life cycles of plants and trees.

Finally, handy on-line tools abound, including Ask a Doctor, Pollen Alerts by E-Mail, a Trigger Tracer and a personalized Allergy Diary to monitor symptoms, severity and treatment results.

Ease of use:

About the only thing missing from the Allergy Learning Lab is news about advances in treating allergies. It would be nice to read about breakthroughs with new therapies or cutting-edge research. I am sure, however, that Schering Laboratories is not about to toot its competitors' horns, so visitors just get a well-organized, easy-to-navigate, quick-loading site, filled with plenty of tips and help to deal with out-of-control histamines.

Don't miss:

Visitors can get an immediate report on pollen counts and weather forecasts with a handy icon at the top of every page. Click on Pollen & Weather, type in a ZIP code on its linked page, and get a colorful diagram listing an allergy index for trees, grass, weeds and mold in a particular area.

Overall grade: B+

Remember: The information on the Internet is changing constantly. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your physician. Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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