With some statistics indicating that allergic rhinitis affects approximately one in three adults in the Middle East, complaints associated with sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, itchy eyes, cough, and headaches are commonplace in many doctors’ offices. 

Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Dr Mehdi Adeli, Senior Consultant, Allergy and Immunology and Head of the Allergy and Immunology Awareness Program (AIAP), said the first step in combating allergies is education.

As we move from winter to summer and the climate changes, it isn’t uncommon for individuals with allergies to experience more pronounced symptoms. It is important to be educated about one’s family medical history and to be conscious of patterns of symptoms that follow exposure to particular substances or environments. Knowing what you are allergic to and minimizing exposure to those allergens are important steps in combating seasonal allergies.’

The timing and severity of an allergy season vary from country to country and the acuteness of symptoms can be influenced by pollen levels, rainfall, the wind and a variety of other factors. Identifying and avoiding the things you’re allergic to is the best management.

Limiting exposure can mean closely monitoring the weather and ensuring you spend extra time cleaning your home to reduce indoor allergens. Indoor allergens are often easier to control and simple steps such as washing bedding in very hot water at least once a week, using a dehumidifier to reduce excess moisture and removing carpets and upholstered furniture, as well as stuffed toys from children’s bedrooms, can be very helpful. It is also important to understand which allergy medicine works for you so that you can start treatment as soon as symptoms begin, or in some cases before peak allergy season begins.’

According to Dr Adeli, while many people consider seasonal allergies which generally are not life-threatening, to be an annoyance, he stressed they should not be dismissed. Allergies add up to millions of dollars in direct and indirect medical costs, time lost from work and decreased productivity.

In addition to the symptoms associated with seasonal allergies, allergies are linked to other medical problems. Patients with allergic rhinitis tend to have higher rates of sleep apnea because of nasal congestion, higher rates of sinus problems and chronic ear infections, particularly in children. There is also a lot of research that suggests patients with allergies are more likely to develop asthma.

HMC’s Allergy and Immunology Awareness Program (AIAP) is focused on educating the public about allergies and immunology and empowering patients and their families to increase patient satisfaction and confidence and reduce emergency room visits for allergy-related illnesses. As part of ongoing efforts to increase public awareness and dispel cultural myths and misconceptions about immunodeficiency diseases and compromised immunities, the program provides a number of online resources for patients, their families, and healthcare providers. For information on the program, and access to a variety of online resources, please visit HMC website or email [email protected].