Does your son come back sneezing from his tennis class? Do you get a runny nose after Diwali cleaning? Does the monsoon season make you wheeze? Whether it is pollen or dust, food or insects, allergies are one of the top ten reasons for doctor visits in India, and yet treated lightly.
Allergic rhinitis, asthma, skin allergies and food allergies cost millions of rupees every year as disease burden - meaning lost resources in terms of holiday from work and healthcare costs. There are an estimated 37.5 million cases of asthma alone in India, and recent studies have reported a rise in prevalence of allergic rhinitis too.
Symptoms like diarrhoea, severe asthma, mild rhinitis, urticaria, eczema and hives are known to affect the quality of life. Especially in children, it can affect their behaviour and performance in school. Overall, 40–50% of paediatric asthma cases in India are uncontrolled or severe. This is the tip of the iceberg: only what gets reported.
In India, the list of common allergens is varied because of the country’s diverse climate, flora and food habits. Fungi and pollen vary according to seasons and regions. Recurring heat waves and pollution have resulted in an increase in the pollination cycle of weeds, thereby increasing the pollen load in the air.
Insects and dust mites are also common causes, with an increased load in poor sanitation areas. Cockroach allergens have been considered as one of the triggering factors for the development of atopic asthma.
India’s tropical climate is rather conducive for moulds and fungi too, making it a major cause for hospitalisations.
Common food allergies among Indians include legume allergy, prawn allergy, eggplant allergy, milk allergy, and egg allergy. Kidney bean, a common source of plant protein, has been found to sensitise over 20% of the food-allergic population in the capital.
Worldwide, India has one of the highest concentrations of air pollution caused by biomass, fossil fuels, and vehicular exhausts, and the use of mosquito coils and incense and dhoop sticks is an important cause of indoor pollution.
WHY SHOULD YOU TEST FOR ALLERGY?
Same as other health issues, if left untreated, allergies can lead to life threatening anaphylaxis in extreme cases. Here are some Indian allergy statistics to help you ponder over the gravity of the situation.
Nearly 77% of the Indian population is exposed to PM2·5 exceeding the limit of 40 μg/m3 set by National Air Quality Standards in India (the limit set by WHO is <10 μg/m3). Exposure to ambient PM2·5 is associated with asthma exacerbations, cardiovascular events, and premature deaths, and is associated with 26·2% of global disability adjusted life years
A 2020 study revealed that more than 25% of the Indian population suffers from various forms of allergies.
The phase 3 International Study of Asthma and Allergy in Children (ISAAC) reported an overall prevalence of current wheeze of 7% in Indian children aged 6–7 years and aged 13–14 years, with a higher prevalence of up to 10–20% in some areas.2 Importantly, 50% or more of this cohort had severe uncontrolled asthma.
An Indian study reported that prevalence of allergic rhinitis was 11·3% in children aged 6–7 years, and 24·4% in children aged 13–14 years.
The ISAAC study reported 2·7% overall prevalence of current eczema among Indian children aged 6–7 years, and 3·6% among Indian children aged 13–14 years.
With Orange Health’s Allergy packages, you can now find out whether you are suffering from an allergy or just a one time acute reaction to a local pollution. Nip it in the bud and get a hold on your reactions.