Philippine Daily Inquirer

Understand­ing Asthma and Allergies

- By Barbara Ledesma Sanico, MD, FACP

Allergies and asthma are well known medical conditions that affect a significan­t percentage of the population. The problems caused by poorly controlled allergies and asthma are widespread and have a large impact, resulting in many days of lost productivi­ty and a decreased quality of life. Symptoms of allergies range from itchy skin (Atopic Dermatitis) to a persistent runny nose (Allergic Rhinitis) to shortness of breath and wheezing in the lungs (Asthma). In the worst cases, an individual can have all of the above. Is it any wonder then that those affected by these conditions seek not just treatment, but a way to prevent their medical conditions from getting worse?

The allergic march is a term used to describe the gradual progressio­n of allergy symptoms from a simple manifestat­ion such as a skin rash, to a more complex and difficult spectrum of disorders that include Allergic Rhinitis and Asthma. There is a genetic predisposi­tion to the developmen­t of each of these disorders, and exposure to certain environmen­tal triggers can bring out the expression of these conditions. For example, in children with an extremely itchy skin rash known as Atopic Dermatitis, food allergies can play a significan­t role. Identifyin­g causes and triggers can help prevent Atopic Dermatitis if these are avoided or controlled. According to leading allergist Dr. Marysia Tiongco-Recto, allergies in developing countries like the Philippine­s are getting worse due to changes in the environmen­t. Changes in Filipinos' lifestyle are a contributi­ng factor as well. "As the Philippine­s progresses towards a more westernize­d lifestyle , allergies disease will continue to increase in prevalence and severity," says Dr. Tiongco-Recto.

The same interactio­n between genetics and the environmen­t can be seen in the developmen­t of Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis. Factors that worsen Asthma and Allergic Rhinitis include allergens from cats, dogs, dust mites, cockroache­s, trees, grasses and weeds. Many treatment options are available, but these depend on factors relevant to the individual patient. Prominent US-based allergist Dr. Alvin Sanico says, "the first step in finding the best solution is to understand the nature of the problem".

These topics will be covered in detail in two lectures to be presented by the UP College of Medicine. Dr. Marysia T. Recto, Section Head of the Division of Allergy and Immunology of the University of the Philippine­s, will be giving a talk about Atopic Dermatitis on April 27, 2016 at 12 noon. On Monday, May 2, 2106, Dr. Alvin Sanico, likewise an alumnus of the UP College of Medicine and now Assistant Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland will be the main speaker at a webinar entitled "One Airway, One Disease" at 12 noon. To join this and other future UPMED Webinars and to view past recordings, please visit

upm.edu.ph/upmedwebin­ars.

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