More patients seeking consultation on allergy-related problems

National 3 minutes, 33 seconds


THE number of patients seeking consultations for allergy-related problems is increasing alongside a growing list of allergens, said the Director-General of Medical Services.

At the opening of the Patch Testing and Skin Prick Testing Workshop yesterday, Dr Hj Zulaidi Hj Abdul Latif said the rise in prevalence of allergic diseases worldwide has continued for more than 50 years with newer allergens being added to the list.

Citing recent surveys, he said the rates of allergy are increasing throughout the world and affecting up to 30 to 35 per cent of people at some stage in their lives.

The director-general described symptoms of allergy such as itching, rashes, sneezing and asthma as “extremely distressing”. He noted that it is usual practice for patients to try and avoid substances that are commonly known to cause allergies.

Dr Hj Zulaidi said it invariably causes a lot of restriction in their lifestyle and food habits although the symptoms of allergies may still continue to occur.

The pathophysiology of allergy in these disorders has yet to be fully understood, but he said there may be allergic triggers that include aeroallergens such as house dust mites and pollens, medications, food, insect stings and chemicals due to occupational exposure.

He pointed out that allergy is a term “very commonly used” to denote inability to tolerate any particular substance or a multitude of items.

“It is common to see patients who have rashes either due to inability to tolerate food substances or due to coming in contact with allergens in their work environment, or substances used for pursuing hobbies like gardening or painting,” he said.

In the country’s fauna-rich environment, he observed that specific plants could elicit a reaction and later on plants belonging to the same family could give rise to rashes.

“In fact, it is probably all the more difficult to realise that the same substance can evoke different allergic responses in different individuals. It is also fascinating to note that one could be exposed to allergens which are airborne,” said the director-general.

He added that Brunei’s population were also exposed to a variety of foods and additives contained in diverse Asian cuisines.

“It has been the job of dermatologists and allergy specialists to treat patients with these different allergic manifestations.

“As challenging a task as it is to diagnose that the patient’s symptoms are due to an external allergen, even more so to pinpoint the particular substance that caused it,” he said.

He said testing should be considered when there is a suspicion of any allergy as “it is very important to diagnose the allergic trigger when avoidance can minimise or prevent the allergic reaction”.

“It is important to acquire knowledge and specific skills needed for allergic skin testing since the interpretation of the results depends on the correct technique and the right setting,” explained Dr Hj Zulaidi, noting there were several methods of skin allergy tests.

He said it is also important to know that the results depend on many factors related to the allergen, the subject on whom the test is done and the person doing the test.

“If the results are missed or wrongly interpreted by unskilled physicians or nurses, individuals may not get the best treatment to relieve their symptoms.

“It is also important to note that misinterpretation could lead to unnecessary allergen avoidance,” he explained.

He stressed that allergy nurses performing allergy and asthma tests were also required to meet basic quality assurance standards to ensure they are using proper techniques.

“We hope to provide more comprehensive prevention and treatment of allergic reactions and ultimately to reduce the health, social and financial burden caused to these patients with allergic diseases,” he said.

The director-general reiterated that “the Ministry of Health (MoH) continues to endeavour to improve and maintain high standard of care to all patients with allergy related problems”.

Held at the Al-‘Afiah Hall at MoH, the workshop comprised lectures and demonstrations on allergic skin testing skills for doctors and nurses involved in treating patients with allergy-related problems from the Dermatology Department, Paediatrics as well as Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT).

The two-day workshop will be conducted by invited specialists Professor Goh Chee Leok and Dr Anthony Tiek Jin Goon from Singapore’s National Skin Centre.

The Brunei Times