One Third of Adults in UAE Suffer from Allergic Rhinitis

Published March 17th, 2010 - 08:33 GMT

More than one third of adults across the Emirates suffer from allergic rhinitis, which causes nasal blockage, sneezing, runny nose, and irritation, according to the first UAE study of its kind published ahead of the International Gulf Thoracic 2010 conference, which kicks-off in Abu Dhabi today.

The study [1], conducted by Dr. Shirina Alsowaidi, Assistant Professor of Allergy and Immunology in Internal Medicine at UAE University, found that allergic rhinitis affects 36 percent of people in Al Ain, making the pollen-linked disease far more common than was previously predicted.

This relatively high prevalence of allergic rhinitis is thought to be the result of drastic changes to the UAE’s traditional environment in the past 10 years, with the introduction of green landscaping that has resulted in a greater number of date palm trees, public gardens, and grass-covered areas in the country’s major cities and towns.  
“Such massive environmental changes, though appreciable, may have had a huge adverse impact on the prevalence of allergic diseases, especially allergic rhinitis, with the introduction of thousands of new plants and trees that were never seen in the UAE until a decade ago,” said Dr. Alsowaidi.

“This study was carried out in Al Ain but the findings can be used as an indicator of the overall prevalence of allergic rhinitis across the UAE. Due to the pollution that exists in Dubai and Abu Dhabi there could be even more people suffering from allergic rhinitis symptoms in those cities, because the dust acts as an irritant,” Dr. Alsowaidi added.  

The research, published in the February issue of the journal Allergy, also found that 72 percent of the 6,543 responders reported that their allergic rhinitis interfered with their daily activities. A third (34 percent) said they suffered from symptoms for more than three months of the year, and that these symptoms were most severe in the Spring-time.

Other key risk factors for developing allergic rhinitis included having a parent with the condition and being of Arab nationality – possibly due to the high standard of cleanliness seen in Arab families that reduces natural exposure to different types of germs, which is necessary for the body to build up a strong immune system.      

Until this latest study, no research had looked at the prevalence of allergic rhinitis in adults in the UAE. However, a piece of research on childhood disease published in 1994 found that 23 percent of children aged six to 14 years suffered from the condition [2]. 

Last November a comprehensive UAE-wide study looking at the rate of chronic respiratory diseases, such as allergic rhinitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was launched by doctors at the University of Sharjah.

Preliminary findings of the survey of up to 1,500 UAE residents are expected in May, according to lead researcher, Dr. Bassam Mahboub, Associate Professor of the medical faculty at the University.

“This is the first-ever comprehensive study into respiratory disease in the UAE, and it will fill a large gap in knowledge about the prevalence of chronic respiratory diseases, such as COPD, asthma, and allergic rhinitis across the UAE. The study will also aim to determine the prevalence of smoking. We are expecting to have preliminary results by May this year,” confirmed Dr. Mahboub, who is also Vice Chairman of the Emirates Respiratory Society.

The Emirates Allergy and Respiratory Society and the Saudi Thoracic Society are joint hosts the International Gulf Thoracic 2010 conference in Abu Dhabi. The event is running from 17-20 March and is being held in collaboration with the American College of Chest Physicians.

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