Allergic Rhinitis (AR), a type of inflammation in the nose caused by allergens, affects 36% of children in the UAE and 10-20% of the population worldwide, according to University Hospital Sharjah, anintegrated medical centre and the leading referral hospital for the Northern Emirates.
Although a common problem in childhood and adolescence, Allergic Rhinitis is widely under-diagnosed, and may reduce sleep quality, lead to poor concentration, and affect school attendance and performance if uncontrolled.
“Environmental factors such as tobacco smoke, pollution and infection may contribute to the development of Allergic Rhinitis; allergen exposure is another major contributing factor, and typical allergens include house dust mites, grass and tree pollens, dander from animals such as cats, dogs, and horses, and moulds usually found in bathrooms, kitchens, and soil,” said Dr Hanan Al Sharif, Consultant Paediatrician at UHS
“Presentation of Allergic Rhinitis may vary among children but the most common symptoms to look out for are a runny or itchy nose that doesn’t clear up, sniffling, sneezing, mouth breathing, snoring, coughing, a recurring ear infection, and sometimes reduced hearing,” she continued.
UHS currently houses a top Allergy Clinic that deals with children with Allergic Rhinitis, asthma food allergies and eczema. Recent studies at the hospital report that more than 60% of the children referred to this clinic have Allergic Rhinitis.
Commenting on the clinic, Dr Hanan said, “We identify the allergen by performing skin prick and IgE blood tests, after which we advise the patient on how to avoid such allergens by taking simple measures such as purchasing an anti-allergy mattress, washing bed linens at 60ºC or higher, and reducing the number of soft toys in their bedroom. For children who have a special soft toy they cannot be separated from, we suggest placing it in the freezer compartment of a fridge for six hours and returning it to the child when thawed.”
Calling for parents to be more aware of potential symptoms and to take early action in order to prevent further complications, Dr Hanan concluded that a proper diagnosis, via allergy testing and treatment, are a must. Earlier this year, the hospital organised a series of activities to mark “Food Allergy Awareness” week.