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Lebanon's rising pollen levels highly contribute to seasonal allergies

BEIRUT | - April 13, 2016, 13h50

The return of spring brings many pleasures, but allergies are not among them. Given the seasonal hallmarks, Sanofi and the Lebanese Society of Allergy & Immunology held a media briefing session to address the rise of allergies amongst Lebanese and the reasons behind the sneezes, wheeze and rubbing itchy eyes.

Warm weather combined with budding trees and blooming flowers means for many people running noses, watering eyes, and difficulty breathing. Data shows that more than 30% of the Lebanese suffer from all types of allergies due to overall warming trends, high levels of pollen and increased pollution. Pollen allergy and other allergies, including allergy to molds, are increasing in prevalence and severity around the world and will continue to be a concern as temperatures rise and exposures increase.

This year’s theme, “Pollen Allergies - Adapting to a Changing Climate”, comes in line with the World Allergy Week 2016 held in parallel in 97 national members societies to address climate change effects on pollen allergy season.

“The Lebanese Society of Allergy and Immunology is an active member of World Allergy Organization and therefore taking part in this year’s initiative to present current understanding and insights about pollen allergies as well as how changes in climate might affect pollen seasons and the intensity of aeroallergen exposures”, said Dr. Elias Khairallah, President of the Lebanese Society of Allergy.

Pollen allergy is an allergic condition affecting the mucous membranes of the nose and the eyes, usually characterized by nasal discharge, nasal congestion, and itchy and watery eyes, itchy nose, inner ears and roof of the mouth, that are caused by a hypersensitivity to airborne pollen, such as the pollen of trees, grasses, and weeds. When the allergen comes in contact with cell-bound immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the tissues of the conjunctiva and nasal mucosa, the tissues release mediators such as histamine or leukotrienes and induces annoying allergic symptoms.

Untreated allergic rhinitis may lead to asthma in around 40% of cases. In Lebanon, the prevalence of allergic rhinitis and asthma are 32.7% and 5.6% respectively. Multiple studies done in Lebanon explored the most pertinent pollens causing allergy sensitization, where 12 allergens were found to be able to detect almost all sensitized patients suffering from respiratory symptoms. These studies showed as well clinical correlation of pollinosis with allergic rhinitis and asthma.

“Allergy symptoms can affect sleeping and performance at work or school, as well as interfere with recreational activities,” said Dr. Carla Irani, M.D, fellow of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, American Board certified Allergy and Clinical Immunology. “Many adults and children suffer from seasonal allergies leading in some cases to daily life complications with the likes of headache, thirst, social isolation, sadness, and lower energy levels - Some patients might be unable to wear their contact lenses”. 

It is optimal for allergy patients to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. The safest way to manage allergy symptoms is to treat them before they start to act up. Allergy specialists have the professional expertise to help pinpoint and confirm the allergies and advise on treatments and environmental control measures that can reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Multiple therapies are available to control symptoms and improve the quality of life.

Spring is the peak season for asthma and allergy patients, and a perfect time to educate your patients, family, friends, co-workers and others about these diseases.

Allergic Conditions

Many people suffer from the symptoms associated with common allergic conditions. The immune system of allergy patients over-reacts to allergens in the environment, leading to symptoms that affect their respiratory system, eyes, or skin. Estimates from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) suggest that indoor and outdoor allergies affect as many as 40 million people in the United States.

Seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR), commonly referred to as “hay fever” or “outdoor allergies,” is the most common form of allergic rhinitis. By definition, SAR includes allergies to seasonal pollens like grass, trees, and weeds, as well as mold. Perennial Allergic Rhinitis (PAR) is sometimes referred to as “year round” or “indoor allergies” and is characterized by allergic symptoms that last longer than four weeks. House dust mites, animal dander, and mold most commonly trigger PAR. Chronic Idiopathic or spontaneous Urticarial (CSU) is most commonly known as “chronic hives of unknown origin” and is defined as the occurrence of daily, or almost daily, wheals and itching for at least six weeks with no obvious causes.

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