Sandstorms could kick up allergies

Sandstorms could kick up allergies

Experts say it is important to differentiate between allergic rhinitis and common cold.

By Staff Reporter

Published: Wed 14 May 2014, 12:13 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:57 PM

Sandstorms can trigger allergies affecting the entire population, said medical professionals while asking residents to educate themselves on the resulting health risks.

“The UAE is susceptible to sandstorms especially during certain parts of the year when the weather changes,” explained Dr Abdulla Ibrahim, Consultant ENT Al Qasimi Hospital and Assistant Clinical Professor, University of Sharjah.

“Unfortunately, this weather phenomenon triggers allergies resulting from the pollens, fungi and other pollutants they carry. Addressing this illness in the UAE is of paramount importance as this is something that effects the entire population,” he said at a discussion recently.

“Ensuring understanding of the condition will also help curtail longer absences from work and decreased productivity in addition to avoiding more serious conditions that can arise from a lack of proper attention. The aim of our ongoing campaign is to educate patients on the health risks from sandstorms, and to provide better information for medical professionals to diagnose respiratory and allergy-induced problems accurately.”

Sandstorms are a major cause of allergic rhinitis, in particular. Their speed and range means they have the capacity to carry a large number of allergens that include dust mites, fungi and pollen. The risk of allergic reactions increases because of the large distances these meteorological phenomena cover during the sandstorm season, which runs between May and September in the Gulf region. Congestion is a symptom of both allergic rhinitis and the common cold; not receiving proper treatment for allergic rhinitis can significantly impact a person’s quality of life.

“Accurate diagnosis relies upon differentiating between congestion as a result of allergic rhinitis versus a common cold. Highlighting the urgency of receiving proper treatment for allergic rhinitis will help avoid any negative impact on the person’s quality of life,” added Dr Ibrahim.

The discussion was held at an event to launch the “Assess your Nose campaign” organised by pharmaceutical firm MSD and BinSina Pharmacy recently.

BinSina Pharmacy general manager Dr Saleema Shurrab said, “Our pharmacies frequently receive customers suffering from respiratory conditions and nasal congestion caused by weather changes, and they are often ill-informed as to what those conditions might be. It is essential that an awareness and understanding of symptoms is promoted among UAE citizens and residents, and that healthcare professionals are in a position to make well-informed diagnoses on behalf of their patients.”

Sofian Farrah of the National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology said, “Sandstorms are caused by a confluence of particles that are carried by turbulent and strong winds to a higher altitude. There are a variety of causes that contribute to dust eruption, dust transportation and pollens rising locally, most of which are related directly to changing pressure systems. Within a sandstorm are several triggering factors for allergies including fungi, pollens, dust mites, and other allergen-producing particles. The variety of pollutants in sandstorms causes a great many people to be affected as there is such a diversity of what can trigger allergies in these storms.”

“The UAE faces a number of severe sandstorms annually. The months of May to September are peak seasons for sandstorms, and consequently, for allergies among inhabitants,” said Mazen Altaruti, managing director of MSD Gulf.

“Failure to receive the correct treatment for allergic rhinitis can lead to rhino sinusitis, nasal polyps, and asthma, which are more serious conditions that can be avoided if patients make the correct assessment of their symptoms when they first appear. The Assess Your Nose campaign and its congestion quantifier is a simple and effective way to bring a greater understanding.”

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