Summer has set in and doctors are advising those with dust allergies to take adequate precautions to prevent developing allergic rhinitis.
“Summer months can cause dust and pollen allergies,” said Dr Hussain Ali Hattawi, consultant and head of allergy and immunology unit at Dubai Hospital. “In case of a dust allergy, it is important to decrease exposure to environmental allergens. In addition to staying inside as much as possible during sandstorms, people who suffer from allergies can benefit from reducing the humidity in their homes and keeping their homes relatively dust-free,” he said.
He also said that using air purifiers with high-efficiency filters is helpful. “Air conditioners should be serviced regularly. Avoid carpets as they collect dust mites and vacuum clean the house properly to avoid dust,” he added.
Dubai Hospital’s allergy and immunology department treated approximately 1,236 patients last year of which 612 received treatment in the immunology clinic and 624 received treatment in the allergy clinic.
The top three types of allergies, as per the data collected by these clinics, is allergic rhinitis, urticarial (mosquito-bite like symptoms) and food allergies. Dr Hattawi said that the reason for a high prevalence of allergies including allergic rhinitis is genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
“Environmental factors include indoor and outdoor factors. Dust mites, pets or in some cases cockroaches are indoor allergens, while grass and tree pollens are outdoor allergens,” he explained.
Other outdoor irritants like pollution, construction do not directly cause allergies but aggravate the symptoms in people who already have them. “Allergies should be treated on time to prevent development of more severe conditions like asthma, especially as they can build up over time,” said Dr Hattawi.
“The most common problem we find is that people are unaware that they have allergies and continue to take other medications to manifest the symptoms of allergies but do not actually address the real problem,” he said.
“This often leads to deterioration of the condition. This is a common scenario in patients with allergic rhinitis because the symptoms include a runny or blocked nose, frequent sneezing and when it includes allergic conjunctivitis it can cause redness, itching and watery eyes. Patients assume this is due to a flu and common cold and continue taking over-the-counter medications. The rule of thumb should be that if the cold continues for more than six weeks and is a frequent occurrence, the patient should visit an allergist.”
Symptoms could include difficulty breathing, persistent colds, redness and rashes, mosquito bite like symptoms, pain and bloating in the stomach, diarrhoea, vomiting etc.
Simple tests can help detect the cause of the allergy. “Since children do not like blood tests, a simple skin prick test can help identify allergens. In adults, a blood test can identify the source of the allergen and if that does not work, a skin test is the next option. Learning what triggers allergies and understanding how to treat them are the first steps toward controlling allergy,” said the doctor.
Dr Al Hattawi said that treatment options include identifying and avoiding or minimising exposure to allergens and irritants through environmental control. Over a period of few years, the patient’s body learns to accept the allergen and there will no longer be any reactions to that allergen.
Know your allergens and keep them away
In cases of food allergies, especially in children, it is important to educate the child and his caregivers including the nurses at school about the situation.
Top food allergies in adults are nuts, shellfish and grains. Top food allergies in children include milk, eggs, grains, nuts and some fruits.
“People will feel or suspect an allergy to the food item because of the reaction they experience when they consume it,” said Dr Hussain Ali Hattawi, consultant and head of allergy and immunology unit at Dubai Hospital.
“This should never be ignored and they should seek an allergist’s assistance.
“People with severe food allergies should carry with them an epinephrine autoinjector device at all times. “Some allergies can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis, and patients must have access to this device within five minutes of consuming the food and they should ideally visit the emergency department within 15 minutes of such an episode,” he said.
What is allergy?
Allergy is an altered body reaction to a foreign substance (allergen) after prior exposure to that substance and according to recent studies; approximately one in five people in the UAE suffer from allergic rhinitis.
Soaring temperatures and dusty conditions are a breeding ground for dust mites and molds that thrive in hot and humid environments.
A dusty environment leads to an increase in inhaled sand particles, which can lead to severe allergies.
Types of allergies and symptoms
> Allergic Rhinitis – itchy, runny nose, sneezing and watering eyes
> Asthma – troublesome cough, wheezing and breathlessness
> Eczema – itchy, sore and weeping skin
> Food allergy – vomiting, chronic diarrhoea, pain in the stomach, bloating, colic and poor weight gain
> Drug allergy – itchy skin rash
> Allergy to insect bites – itchy swollen skin
KT NANO EDIT
You can’t win against the weather and the elements, so the best option is to wait for the extreme heat and dust to pass. Prevention is key in dealing with changing climatic patterns. The world is warming, the gusts are getting fiercer, pollution levels are rising. Stay at home if you can, or wear a mask if you are exposed often to the dust. That way, you can avoid frequent trips to the hospital and spend less on medicines.