Here Are Some Of the Most Prevalent Allergies in Singapore

Do you find your nose runny or stuffy when it rains or catch yourself sneezing repeatedly from sudden temperature changes? Maybe even skin rashes flaring up when you accidentally eat peanut products. Like any other country, the Singaporean population is no stranger to several types of allergies. Estimates state that around 1 in 3 people experience allergic reactions1. In fact, according to recent studies, around 24% of the population suffers from some form of allergic rhinitis 2, that is, either seasonal or perennial allergies .

Although there is no permanent cure for allergic reactions, Singaporeans can still work towards managing and preventing these allergy symptoms. By understanding how to detect your allergies, you can learn to avoid and relieve any reactions you have towards an allergen .

What contributes to the prevalence of allergic reactions in Singapore?

Singapore tends to experience the accumulation of smoke and dust during the months from June to October, otherwise known as the haze period. This can also pose a great risk to individuals suffering from pre-existing breathing problems like asthma

In addition to this, there are currently several research projects6 aimed at finding a link between an individual’s upbringing and the allergies they develop. The most famous being, the Hygiene Hypothesis6, and the Antibiotic Hypothesis5.

The hygiene hypothesis speculates that children are more prone to developing allergies because of the lack of exposure that they receive to the outside world. The antibiotic hypothesis on the other hand, theorises that administering an unnecessary amount of antibiotics to a child from a young age can cause them to develop allergies.

While further research and studies on these hypotheses are in progress, it does offer some insight into the causes of the allergic reactions outlined below.

Most common allergies in Singapore 3, 7, 8

Among the most common allergies people in Singapore suffer are allergic rhinitis from dust mites , pollen and pet dander, peanuts (and other tree nuts) and shellfish.

  • Dust mite allergy

Dust mite allergy is highly prevalent in Singapore and this airborne allergy is often the cause of allergic rhinitis. 80% of Allergic Symptoms are due to Indoor House Dust Mites among Singaporeans10. Among all asthmatic patients in Singapore, 85% report that they are also allergic to dust mites11. Symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, and more.

  • Pollen allergy

Another common subset of allergic rhinitis include seasonal allergies , which are also known as hay fever . The allergen , in this case, is the pollen that may be airborne during that particular season. Hay fever is prevalent in countries like Singapore with temperate climates which seasonally produce high levels of pollen9.

  • Dander allergy (Also popularly known as pet allergy)

The dander refers to the loose skin cells that fall from a pet’s body, which causes an allergic reaction to take place upon entering your system. The allergens may also be found in the body fluids of the animal like saliva or urine.

  • Peanut/tree nut allergy

Peanut allergies, although more common in the West, are also steadily increasing in Singapore. Peanut allergies have become among the most common causes of anaphylaxis in Singaporean children. These allergies usually occur when the body perceives the proteins in the nut to be more harmful than they actually are.

Mild symptoms of a tree nut allergy include a running nose and itchy skin. However, some individuals might also experience more extreme symptoms which can involve the closing up of the airways in addition to other symptoms.

  • Shellfish allergy

Shellfish allergy is another common food allergy in Singapore. The individuals who suffer from shellfish allergy are allergic to animals belonging to the crustacean group and/or the mollusk group. The former includes prawns and crabs while the latter includes creatures such as octopus, clams, scallops. The symptoms usually involve skin rashes, itching and swelling of the tongue and mouth.

How can you diagnose an allergic reaction?

There are three ways to diagnose an allergy , as follows:

  • Physical examination

A doctor will first carry out a physical examination to determine if the allergy was caused by a single substance that you may have been exposed to. The doctor will also ask for details about your symptoms, your family's history with allergies, and details of your symptoms2.

  • Skin prick test

This skin prick test involves voluntarily pricking your skin with the allergen or an extract of different allergens and waiting for a reaction from one or more pricks2. Doctors that carry out this test usually record the degree of redness that appears in that region.

However, for a more conclusive test, the doctor may conduct an intradermal prick test, where the allergen is injected under the surface of the skin and the site is examined for a reaction after.

  • Blood allergy test

A blood allergy test or radioallergosorbent (RAST) test involves analysing a person’s blood to find an IgE level that is higher than normal. The test reports are based on a number system that ranges from 0-5, with 5 indicating that your body is allergic to the allergen in question. These tests are usually carried out when skin prick tests are not an option due to a skin allergy that results in eczema.

The mere thought that so many types of food groups can cause mild to severe allergies can be unsettling for some. However, on the bright side, there are always oral antihistamine options like Clarityn®, which contain loratadine with histamine -inhibiting properties, and other more targeted solutions such as ClariCare® Nasal Hygiene Spray, that help to manage your allergy reactions and brighten your days dulled by allergies.

REFERENCES

  1. Help at hand for those who have nasal allergy Assessed September 13, 2021.
  2. Allergies in children in Singapore. Assessed September 13, 2021.
  3. Diagnosing allergies and preventive measures. Assessed September 13, 2021.
  4. National Environment Agency Accessed February 4, 2022.
  5. Early life exposure to antibiotics and the risk of childhood allergic diseases: An update from the perspective of the hygiene hypothesis. Accessed September 13, 2021.
  6. Hygiene Hypothesis. Accessed September 13, 2021
  7. Food allergy in Singapore. Accessed September 13, 2021
  8. Q&A: What Are Common Food Allergies?. Accessed December 21, 2021.
  9. Allergic Rhinitis: Common in Children in Singapore​. Accessed December 21, 2021.
  10. Andiappan AK, Puan KJ, Lee B, et al. Allergic airway diseases in a tropical urban environment are driven by dominant mono-speciic sensitization against house dust mites . Allergy 2014;69:5019
  11. Dangers of dust mites: 6 things to know about these tiny bugs lurking in your home. Accessed December 20, 2021