Sidra Medicine and HMC Study finds Rising Allergy Rates Among School-age Children


QF Entity stresses importance of vigilance and Asthma-friendly Schools Program

1 May 2023, Doha, Qatar – To coincide with World Asthma Day, which falls on 2 May this year, clinical researchers from Sidra Medicine, (a member of Qatar Foundation) and Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) have published an examination of the growing prevalence of pediatric asthma cases in Qatar; including data on the rising rates of allergic rhinitis and eczema.

The study, funded by HMC and led by Professor Ibrahim Janahi, Chair of Medical Education and Division Chief of Pulmonology at Sidra Medicine, collected data from more than 6500 participants across Qatar. This included nearly 2650 children, split into groups aged between six to seven (6-7) years and 13-14 years, as well as 3831 parents or guardians.

Compared to a previous study conducted by Prof. Janahi (ISAAC study), the latest study reported on prevalence rate differences over more than a decade (2005-2017) and showed a noticeable increase in diagnosed asthma (34.6% vs. 19.8%) and diagnosed eczema rates (37.4% vs. 22.5%), however this was not the case for allergic rhinitis which remained the same (30.9% vs. 30.5%).

While the overall findings of the study were found to be consistent with the upward trend found in similar studies conducted in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait; the rates of asthma in school children were higher in Qatar. In addition, the findings of the Qatar based study are concurrent with the increase in prevalence rates reported in other areas in the world, such as Mexico, South Africa and Bangkok, Latin America and Africa.

Prof. Janahi stressed, "With cases above 300 million worldwide, asthma is considered a global public health challenge. Among children, asthma is the most common chronic disease, with a constant burden on healthcare systems due to rising prevalence rates. However, while the new data is noteworthy, there is no cause for alarm, only vigilance. Healthcare providers, parents, the wider community including the public and private sector, can all play a role in ensuring children as well as adults with asthma, have the right support systems and resources in place.”

“In Qatar, there are a number of schools that are enrolled in the Asthma-friendly Schools Program, a fantastic initiative from Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. We also want to advise parents that if they are concerned about their children having asthma or allergies to first visit their primary care physician instead of going to the emergency department, except if the child has an asthma attack. Qatar has a robust referral system in place to ensure children have access to the right care at the right time.”

The Ministry of Public Health's Asthma-friendly Schools Program operates throughout Qatar and helps children take advantage of the school's medical facilities. The program's primary goal is to improve the quality of life and health outcomes for children with asthma. Aimed at 6–12-year-olds who suffer from the disease, it supports the development of their coping skills and helps improve their lives.

Dr. Samer Hammoudeh, Post-Doctoral Research Scientist at Hamad Medical Corporation, one of the authors of the study, said; “Although there is no cure for asthma, with good management, people living with asthma can lead normal, active lives. The findings of this study will help inform and support our ongoing commitment to ensure we have the very latest treatments and the best services in place for children diagnosed with asthma and their parents.”

Dr. Yahya Hani, Research Specialist from the Medical Services Division at Sidra Medicine, who was also one of the authors of the study said: “Given the gap between similar studies, it is important to understand that the parameters and the methodologies for collecting the data have changed over the past decade. And although the study was not designed to explore potential reasons for the rising case numbers, it is recommended that future research focuses on looking into the various factors contributing to the cases of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema in Qatar. We also hope that the findings will guide Qatar's healthcare polices and provide a foundation for preventive strategies from both the private and public sector.”

Click to read the full article: The prevalence of asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema among school‐aged children in Qatar: A Global Asthma Network Study