What You Need to Know about Allergies in Singapore
Whether it’s itching, sneezing, or wheezing, most of you are probably familiar with at least one of the burdensome symptoms caused by allergies. Allergies are on the rise worldwide, affecting approximately 40% of the world’s population.
Singapore is no stranger to the increasing prevalence of this global chronic condition. 13.1% of people in Singapore suffer from allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever.
Allergic reactions can range from more typical and manageable symptoms such as itchy eyes or fatigue, to even severe and life-threatening symptoms such as asthma attacks and anaphylactic shock, where the body’s blood pressure suddenly drops and the airways contract, causing difficulty in breathing.
With this in mind, the importance of accessing quality medical treatment for our allergies is nothing to sneeze about. This Pacific Prime CXA article lists out causes, symptoms, treatments, and most importantly, insurance coverage of allergic conditions.
Why are Allergies Increasing in Prevalence?
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), the “hygiene hypothesis” may explain the rising allergy diagnosis rates. This theory suggests that we have essentially created allergies for ourselves. It postulates that countries worldwide have been emphasizing cleanliness and hygiene solutions.
As a result, living conditions have improved due to government policies and citizens’ awareness. Children are less exposed to infectious agents, which hinder their immune system from properly differentiating between harmless and harmful irritants, often mistaking harmless substances as invasive.
On the other hand, it is believed global warming is to blame for this rising epidemic. The growing season of plants becomes longer as the warm climate period lengthens. Therefore, scientists believe this leads to higher pollen allergen counts and more frequent triggers for respiratory allergies.
What Is an Allergy?
According to Medical News Today, ‘Allergies are hypersensitive immune responses to substances encountered by the human body, such as foods, pollen, medications, and bee venom.’ These typically innocuous substances are called ‘allergens’, which the human body normally adapts through sensitization.
However, in people who did not go through the process, the exposure to allergens will trigger an immune response, releasing ‘histamines’ to counteract it. This overreaction of the immune system is what causes allergy symptoms.
Common Allergens in Singapore
There are several common causes of allergic reactions in Singapore, including dust mites, shellfish, Galactooligosaccharides, and peanuts. Let’s take a closer look at these common allergens.
- Dust mites: These tiny microscopic relatives of the spider live and multiply easily in warm and humid weather. The National University Hospital of Singapore (NUH) reports that 9 out of 100 people have a dust mite allergy, and are allergic to dust mite droppings in particular.
- Shellfish: It is regarded as the most common food-related allergy and the leading cause of anaphylaxis in Singapore. The main reasons are the large consumption of shellfish due to eating habits, their abundant use in Asian cooking, and poor food labeling practices in Singapore.
- Galactooligosaccharides (GOS): GOS is a prebiotic found in most milk formulas in Asia, Europe, and the US. This allergy is most prevalent in older children and adults with no prior allergies to milk products. Some people may even develop anaphylaxis after consuming food and beverage products containing GOS.
- Peanuts: Hypersensitivity to peanuts is also a worrying trend with a relatively high prevalence in Singapore. Research has shown that 19% of children experience severe allergic reactions to peanuts, making it the leading food trigger of anaphylaxis in children.
In addition to the allergens mentioned above, mold, other types of foods (such as eggs and wheat-containing gluten), pet dander, certain medications, and pollen are also common causes of allergies in Singapore.
Common Symptoms Caused by Allergies
Allergies can cause mild symptoms like skin rash and runny nose to severe symptoms such as near-fatal asthma attacks and anaphylaxis. Every individual can have various levels of reaction to allergies.
When your body encounters an allergen, the release of histamine can trigger reactions in your body in various ways, including:
- Skin rash
- Runny nose
- Swollen lips
In extreme cases, people can also develop anaphylaxis, which is more likely to happen to children with food allergies (particularly peanut allergies), and to adults who are allergic to bee stings and certain types of medication. If it’s not treated immediately, it can be fatal.
Treating Allergy Symptoms
From antihistamine medications to allergy shots, there are several options for treating allergy symptoms that you may want to know.
Before treating your allergy symptoms, your doctor will want to know what’s causing your allergies. Besides looking at your medical history and evaluating your symptoms, they may also use skin or blood tests to identify your allergens.
Typically, the best way to treat your allergy is to avoid your allergens in the first place. For example, if you’re allergic to dust mites, then it’s recommended that you clean your bed sheets often and purchase dust mite-proof bedding to achieve the best results in reducing dust mite exposure.
Antihistamine medications can also help manage your allergies by blocking the release of histamine that’s causing your allergic reactions. If you have a nasal allergy, using decongestants, either orally or in spray form, can help you breathe easier as a short-term solution.
Allergy shots are also gaining popularity as an allergy treatment method. It involves injecting the substance you are allergic to. The treatment is first administered once every two to four weeks, gradually increasing the dosage. It helps desensitize your body against the allergen.
Does Your Health Insurance Cover Allergies?
While there are several state-of-the-art facilities offering allergy treatment in Singapore, it can be incredibly expensive to receive the medical care you require for allergic reactions. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to ensure that your health insurance plan covers allergy treatment costs.
One thing you’ll need to bear in mind here is that many insurers (but not all) view allergies as a pre-existing condition, which is an ailment or illness that you’ve already had prior to securing health insurance. If this is the case, you may find yourself ineligible for coverage.
That being said, your allergy treatment costs will still be covered if you are unaware of the issue. If you have a newborn, it’s recommended that you include your child in your health insurance plan as early as possible, so that their allergy treatment costs are covered if symptoms develop early.
Work with Pacific Prime Professionals
If you would still like to be covered for a pre-existing allergy, there are other options available to you. Some insurers charge an additional premium whereas others impose a waiting period, which is the specified period that you have to be enrolled in the policy before eligible for coverage.
To find out more about your allergy coverage options, you might consider working with a reputable broker like Pacific Prime CXA. We will help you to find the best insurance plan in the market regarding your needs and budget, compared across worldwide top insurance companies.
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