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Active with Allergies – SMA Public Symposium

September 9, 2014

SMA News Sep 2014_Pg 5This year’s Singapore Medical Association (SMA) National Medical Convention, Active with Allergies, was held at Sheraton Towers Singapore on 30 August 2014.

SMA President A/Prof Chin Jing Jih kicked off proceedings in the morning with a welcome address, in which he expressed his hope that members of the public in attendance could benefit from what the speakers had to offer. He emphasised the importance of getting patients to be part of their own care management teams. After the opening ceremony had wrapped up, the participants, who numbered close to 150, were free to attend the talks held in either English or Mandarin.

Food allergy and intolerance

The first Mandarin public symposium was delivered by Dr Wong Soon Tee, consultant dermatologist at Assurance Skin, Laser & Aesthetics, who noted that food allergies were on the rise. He named some common food allergens, including milk and dairy products, eggs, wheat and bird’s nest. Interestingly, bird’s nest is the topmost cause of anaphylactic shock in children locally. Dr Wong explained that allergies occur when the body’s immune system overreacts to foreign substances. In particular, the human antibody immunoglobulin E plays an essential role in many allergies. He also identified various allergic symptoms, including skin conditions (like urticaria), respiratory problems (like rhinitis) and anaphylactic shock. Dr Wong also elaborated on the proper management of food allergy. For example, patients could keep a food diary to ensure an accurate record of what they consumed and minimise confusion over what triggered their allergy.

Eternal Itch

Dr Wong Soon Tee spoke for the second time that day by delivering the final and third Mandarin talk. He began by explaining the epidemiology of itchiness. Itch tends to be more common in older people – the reasons for this are often unclear, although as one ages, skin generally undergoes changes, such as a decrease in the skin barrier function and increased dryness. He cited four major causes of itch: histamine, skin disorders, damage to the nervous system or illnesses affecting other organs, and psychiatric conditions. He also noted that patients needed to receive accurate diagnoses before they could receive the right treatment like taking antihistamines, or using moisturisers and creams. A middle- aged woman commented that even after visiting many hospitals and undergoing Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments, her son’s extremely dry skin was still not cured. Dr Wong answered that controlling symptoms was key in the management of allergies. He also observed that unfortunately, many patients could not accept that they could not be completely cured.

Feedback from the public

Peter Tay, a 45-year-old who attended the convention with his 17-year-old son, commented that he found the convention useful, as his son was allergic to crustaceans and they would hopefully be able to apply the knowledge they gained to daily life.

A pair of friends, both housewives, commented that they decided to attend the symposium as they wanted to know more about allergies. One was Mdm Teo, aged 58, who said that one of her children had eczema, and added that she would instruct her child not to scratch if her skin itched. The other, Mdm Lim, aged 62, commented that she now knew that the mild skin rashes she sometimes developed was actually not a true allergy.

Conclusion

The Public Symposium finished at noon, and participants left empowered with an important lesson: manage their allergies well so that they could live as normally as possible.

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