Climate change has increased the incidence of skin and respiratory allergies, according to allergologists at a July 10 event organized by the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (PSAAI).
“There’s longer pollination as well as increasing humidity, leading to the proliferation of dust mites, molds, pollens, and fungi. This leads to an increasing incidence of skin and respiratory allergies,” said Dr. Addah S. de Peralta, an allergologist at De La Salle University Medical Center.
Dust mites, molds, pollens, and fungi are among the most common allergens, or substances that cause allergic reactions.
A March 2022 study published in Nature Communications found that atmospheric conditions affect the release of pollen, and the timing and magnitude will be altered by climate change. Simultaneous exposure to allergens and toxic air pollutants can also worsen allergic responses, warned the US National Climate Assessment.
“To decrease the effects of climate change, we need to practice solid waste management in our barangays [communities],” said Dr. Glaiza M. Madulara, an allergologist affiliated with Pacific Global Medical Center.
Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition that makes one’s skin red and itchy. It tends to flare periodically, and may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis).
Patients with this condition have a 50%–75% risk of developing asthma and allergic rhinitis, Dr. Madulara said. “Atopic dermatitis is usually the starting point for food allergies to develop later in life too.”
While there is no cure for it, individuals can control atopic dermatitis by the avoidance of skin triggers and good skin care.
“Shower with lukewarm water, use a gentle skin cleanser, and apply moisturizer after tapping dry your skin,” said Dr. Madulara. “Flareups can be treated with steroidal anti-inflammatory creams or ointments, per the supervision of each individual’s doctor.”
Avoiding triggers is also a good management strategy for allergic rhinitis, according to Dr. Jose Carlo Miguel M. Villanueva, an allergologist from Capitol Oral Rehabilitation Center Medical/Dental Clinic.
If you have a runny nose in the morning, sneeze when it’s dusty, and have itchy eyes especially at night, then you might have allergic rhinitis, he said. “[Another telltale sign] is mouth breathing because of a clogged nose, which can result in dry lips, a change in the shape of your jawline, and crooked teeth,” he added.
Symptoms worsen with weather changes, strong emotions, and air pollution. “One of the most important things to find out is which allergens give you your symptoms,” said Dr. Villanueva. “One way to do it is through a skin allergy test.”
A patient’s skin is exposed to suspected allergens in a skin prick test. The skin area is then observed for signs of an allergic reaction. Those with a family history of atopy — or the genetic tendency to develop allergic rhinitis, asthma, and eczema — are more predisposed to having allergies (a 20%–40% risk among children with one atopic parent, and a 40-60% risk among children with parents who are both atopic).
“As we go through the new normal and start to finally get our old lives again, let’s not forget that there are people who struggle with diseases in everyday life,” Dr. de Peralta said.
The overall prevalence of allergic rhinitis in the Philippines based on the National Nutrition and Health Survey of 2008 is 20%.
July 8 is National Allergy Day. – Patricia B. Mirasol