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The newly established and dedicated Allergy and Immunology Clinic at the American Hospital Dubai provides specialised consultations, diagnoses and treatments for patients of all ages with a wide range of simple to complex and rare allergic and immunologic conditions. Whether it is food, pollen, pet, insect, drug allergy, urticaria, asthma or immunodeficiency, the clinic’s Board-certified experts use evidence-based medicine and a multidisciplinary approach to diagnose and manage your symptoms according to international guidelines and standards. The Allergy and Immunology Clinic offers a wide range of services including skin prick testing, patch testing, blood testing, lung function testing, challenge testing and desensitisation procedures.

CUTTING-EDGE DIAGNOSES AND TREATMENTS

Dr Basel Nasrallah, Consultant Paediatrician and Allergy Specialist at American Hospital Dubai, takes us through the main allergic problems children in the UAE face.

This year’s World Allergy Week focuses on anaphylaxis, or an extreme or severe allergic reaction. Who are at risk? What is your advice to such patients?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, which can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen. The patient experiences symptoms such as a rapid, weak pulse, a skin rash, and nausea and vomiting. Certain foods, some medications, insect venom and latex can trigger these symptoms. Although we don’t know much about the risk factors, previous anaphylaxis, allergies or asthma can increase your risk.

The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to avoid exposure to allergens.

Wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet to indicate your allergies to drugs and allergens.

Keep an emergency kit with prescribed medications with you at all times.

Be cautious around stinging insects if you are allergic to them.

Read food labels carefully if you have food allergies.

What are the common allergies that you see in children in the UAE?

Peanut, dairy products and seafood are a few of the many types of food allergies seen in the UAE. Many children are also allergic to house dust mites, pet dander, mould, grass and tree pollens. Some are allergic to insect stings such as bee stings.

What are the steps parents and children need to take manage allergies at school?

It’s important to keep your school informed about your child’s allergy. If she suffers from asthma or a severe allergy, share a copy of your child’s action plan with the school nurse or administrative office so that they are prepared in the event of an episode. Also, make sure she would have access to medication, including epinephrine (adrenaline), in case of an emergency.

Reduce the exposure to furry animals at school if your child is allergic to pet dander.

You don’t have to exclude your child from physical education and sports if he/she has asthma and other allergies. Follow the doctor’s advice and let them participate in sports if they choose.

Children with dust allergy should sit away from the blackboard to avoid irritation from chalk dust.

How does American Hospital Dubai treat these common allergies?

The dedicated allergy and immunology team at American Hospital provides specialised consultation, diagnosis, and treatment services to patients of all ages, from children to adults. The allergy clinic provides cutting-edge, evidence-based care to identify and treat all allergic diseases. We offer allergy immunotherapy, a treatment in which a patient is injected with small amounts of an allergen on a regular basis. The doses are slowly increased over time, causing the patient’s immune system to become less and less sensitive to the allergen.

A DETAILED, PERSONALISED ACTION PLAN

Dr Marilyn R. Karam, MD, Consultant Allergist and Immunologist at American Hospital Dubai explains how its allergy clinic tackles food allergies

How common are food allergies in the UAE? How does it compare to other developed countries such as the US and the UK?

Food allergy affects about 2.5 per cent of the general population, but the spread of prevalence data is wide, ranging from 1 per cent to 10 per cent, according to statistics from the World Allergy Organisation. Food allergies are a cause of particular concern in young children, where the incidence, often life-threatening, is estimated to be greater in toddlers (5-8 per cent) than in adults (1-2 per cent). In the US, hospital visits for food allergy increased threefold from 1993 to 2006. Between 2013 and 2019, England saw a 72 per cent rise in the number of hospital admissions for children caused by anaphylaxis. In the UAE, the situation is similar and because allergies can affect the quality of life tremendously, like disruption of sleeping, socialising and higher likelihood of being bullied, accurate diagnosis and treatment are crucial.

Why are more and more people getting diagnosed with food allergies? What can be done to prevent them?

There is no single explanation for why food allergies are on the rise. One theory is that we’re simply more aware of food allergies. Another is the hygiene hypothesis, as children’s gut is not encountering enough different types of microorganisms. With fewer parasites or infections to fight, the immune system turns against things that should be harmless. Babies born by caesarean section or who are prescribed more antibiotics as a child are also more likely to develop food allergies. Other factors include lack of vitamin D, and balance between the timing, dose and form of exposure to foods. Eating trigger foods during weaning can lead to a healthy response and prevent the allergy developing.

What are the most common food allergies found in the UAE?

In general, 90 per cent of food allergies are to milk, peanuts, wheat, fish, tree nuts, shellfish and shrimp, soy, and eggs. In the UAE, eggs, cow’s milk, sesame, peanut and wheat are the most frequent food allergens. Food allergies are more common in children, however many adults still have food allergies with 15 per cent of people with food allergies diagnosed after the age of 18. Some childhood food allergies, such as dairy and egg, tend to disappear with age while others like peanut, tree nuts and shellfish tend to remain. The general rule is that anyone can develop allergy to any food, at any age.

How does American Hospital Dubai tackle food allergies?

At the American Hospital Dubai, we help you and your child identify the specific triggers for your food allergy and help distinguish it from food intolerance by offering state-of-the-art diagnostic tools including skin prick testing and specific IgE and component testing. We help you stratify the risk of your reaction and provide a detailed, personalised action plan for assurance and guidance in case of accidental exposure to trigger foods. Our experts also work closely with nutritionist to provide guidance about potentially cross-reacting food and ensure you, or your child, have a balanced and nutritional diet. Finally, we offer oral food challenges to confirm existing or resolving food allergies as some food allergies tend to disappear with time.