DUBAI: It is a well-established fact that the incidence of allergies worldwide has increased significantly over the last few years, leading to worsening mortality and morbidity.
It is estimated that allergies affect nearly 40 percent of the global population. But this is a conservative figure given the lack of reliable data, mainly due to regional or national disparities in dealing with an issue that the World Allergy Organization has described as a “major healthcare problem.” As such, researchers cannot fully understand regional variances in incidence and prevalence, or socioeconomic impacts.
A study of adults in Saudi Arabia has revealed an incidence of self-reported food allergies of 19.7 percent, with the main allergens being eggs, shellfish, fish and peanuts. The incidence of asthma in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is 13.5 percent, over 20 percent and 18 percent respectively. Due to weather conditions in the UAE, airborne pathologies, including asthma, are growing faster than other allergies.
It is important to understand the economic impact of allergies. Given that the number of people affected worldwide is in the hundreds of millions and rising, it is obvious that the financial impact is significant. A market research analysis published in 2020 showed that the global allergy-treatment market is expected to reach $40 billion by 2025.
The need to improve allergy awareness in the Middle East is paramount, particularly given countries’ significant efforts to increase their socioeconomic status. And when people in the Middle East visit other regions with stronger policies regarding allergies, they are more likely to want the same assurances back home.
The sooner Middle Eastern countries act, the better. Those that do not have national allergy organizations should establish them. And as regional travel has increased, cross-border coordination is all the more important so travelers can experience consistency and feel safe. Establishing a Middle Eastern Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology would be the perfect way to develop such coordination.
Moving forward is a matter of will, not wealth. The longer that takes, the more costly it will be in terms of lives and money.
Dr José Costa MD FRCPCH PGCert Paed Allergy (ICS Lisbon) PGCert Allergy (Imperial College)
Consultant Paediatrician in Allergy
Member of the Standards of Care Committee of the BSACI
National and Regional advisor for Paediatrics and Allergy for the Nuffield Hospitals
Paediatric advisor for Mast Cell Org