Science and Environment

More Filipinos are suffering from allergies, says

Allergy experts are alarmed that the prevalence of allergy is increasing among Filipinos and that many cases of allergy have remained undetected.

According to Prof. Benigno Agbayani Sr., allergy is one of the most chronically occurring disorders in many parts of the world. It can manifest in so many ways which the physician might attribute to something else other than allergy.

Agbayani is one of the pioneers in allergology and immunology in the country and is a well-respected authority in this field worldwide.

An allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body to one or more substances that are harmless to most people. An allergen is any substance that causes an allergic reaction. More than 20 percent of the population has allergy symptoms and current scientific evidence shows that the prevalence is 21 percent in children, 26 percent in teenagers, and 36-47 percent in adults.

Agbayani recommends that medical practitioners should always have allergy at the back of their minds when they encounter patients suffering from frequent colds, sneezing, wheezing when they breathe, redness and itchiness of the eyes, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.

"The diagnosis of allergy is frequently missed in many patients with recurrent upper respiratory tract infections or gastrointestinal symptoms," says Agbayani, a professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines’ College of Medicine.

Agbayani stresses that general practitioners are the first line of defense in recognizing and treating these allergic problems, including life-threatening ones such as anaphylactic shock and acute laryngeal edema, wherein the patient can literally choke to death.

He emphasizes that key factors in the management of allergy are early recognition, identification of the allergens and prevention of complications such as superimposed bacterial infections of the upper and lower respiratory tracts, ears, skin and other parts of the body.

"With an accurate identification of the allergen or substance causing the allergy, avoidance measures can be properly implemented and this is still one of the important keystones in the treatment of allergy," explains Agbayani.

Skin testing is still the most commonly used diagnostic test for allergy. Correlated with the patient’s medical history, it is sufficient to confirm common allergies such as housedust mites, insect venom, grass pollen and animal dander.

In certain cases, identification of antibodies using more sophisticated techniques such as the Pharmacia UniCAP system, may be required, especially in the following instances:

Allergic infants, atopic dermatitis and infantile eczema, extensive skin lesions which render skin-testing difficult; patients who have already taken histamines since this will suppress the wheal and flare reaction of skin testing; patients with over-sensitive skin (dermatographism); anaphylactic reactions to drugs where skin testing can potentially cause the anaphylaxis itself, and older patients with wrinkled skin, making skin testing technically difficult.

Agbayani, who practices at the Manila Doctors’ Hospital, is one of the allergy specialists in the country with an extensive experience on the UniCAP or ImmunoCAP Technology, the latest state-of-the-art technology in allergy diagnosis that complements the skin-prick testing currently being used.

"I believe there is a place for the UniCAP allergy testing and this can be useful to both family or primary-care physicians and allergy specialists, both of whom should coordinate closely in diagnosing and treating allergy patients," he says.

The doctor cites actual cases in his files wherein UniCAP testing proved to be informative and useful such as when the patients were in a refractory or rest period. "These patients usually turn out negative to skin testing but show elevated titers of IgE in the blood which confirms the diagnosis," he explains.

In a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the UniCAP or ImmunoCAP technology demonstrated superior reliability and accuracy, compared to four other tests, including the RAST blood test, once considered the standard for allergy blood testing.

The UniCAP technology was developed by Pharmacia Diagnostics, represented in the Philippines by Trianon International. Pharmacia Diagnostics is a division of Pharmacia Corp. based in Uppsala, Sweden, a world leader in invitro diagnostic research and product innovation.

The state-of-the-art UniCAP allergy technology is now available at the Manila Doctor’s Hospital, Medical City, Asiatic Laboratory, Healthway Medical Clinics (all branches), Asia-Pacific Diagnostic Services (all branches), Perpetual Help Medical Center, Advent Specialist Care, Sim’s Clinical Laboratory and Medic World. The system will also be installed soon at the Makati Medical Center.

For more information about allergy, visit www.isitallergy.com or call Trianon at 892-0723 to 24.
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