Time was when the field of allergy and immunology was uncharted territory. Antigen-antibody reactions were a big puzzle wherein only bits and pieces of the picture could be clearly seen and understood.
Not that allergies and immunologic disorders started to become prevalent only in the 20th century and onwards. Allergic diseases, or similar disorders, have been depicted for more than 2000 years even before the early Egyptian hieroglyphics. So even our ancient ancestors must have had their fair share of atopic dermatitis, hay fever, food allergies, allergic asthma, and anaphylaxis.
I believe that especially in countries like ours wherein the quality of the air is not so good, one out of four or five would have allergic rhinitis. I’ve had mine since childhood, and although I’ve somehow outgrown it over time, I still have sniffles every now and then.
The ‘Allergic March’, or what other allergists call the ‘Atopic March’, tells us that allergy could be one chronic disorder that can torment one from childhood to adulthood; and it can take the luster out of one’s golden years if the symptoms are really bothersome. But thanks to our allergy specialists—the guardians of our immune system, which is our body’s main defense against allergic and immunologic disorders, there is still a good life to look forward to after being diagnosed to have allergy.
I remember some of the conversations I had with two of the pioneers of allergy and immunology in the country—the late Dr. Felicidad Cua-Lim and Dr. Benigno Agbayani, Sr. Both were distinguished clinicians and professors in the academe. It was a privilege to have known them up front as I enthusiastically listened to their lectures when I was a resident in Internal Medicine at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UPPGH). Even when I finished training and started my practice as a cardiologist, I would immensely enjoy the tete-a-tete I had with either of them when we chanced upon each other during annual conventions or other gatherings.
In fact, they were the first to have introduced the term ‘Allergic March’ to me. I remember they would emphasize that the tendency of a child to have ‘atopy’ makes the child prone to develop other allergic condition as he or she ages. And the allergic conditions and their symptoms often appear in a particular sequence with age, hence, this is probably another reason why they called it a “march”.
There is no question that the state of the environment has a tremendous impact on the increasing prevalence of allergy. It’s heartening to note that the dedicated members of the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (PSAAI) have considered environmental preservation as one of their major advocacies.
“The PSAAI is a committed steward of the earth,” stresses Dr. Maria Carmela Agustin-Kasala, current PSAAI president. We fully agree with her that the environment plays a key role in affecting the health of the allergic patient. The PSAAI has spearheaded pro-environment events such as the Annual Tree Planting, International Coastal Waters Clean Up Campaign and Pinoy Kids for Smoke Free Philippines.
Indeed, for close to 50 years now, the PSAAI has been steadfast in raising awareness on how to keep the body’s immune defenses strong, which may be a major health strategy to develop a healthier nation, as all immune system invaders are kept at bay.
The PSAAAI has indeed gone a long way from the 11 pioneering allergists that formed the society in 1972 to the close to 130 certified specialists it now has in its roster.
We’re focusing on the society and its activities in this month’s issue of H&L. The PSAAI is truly a lean but mean group and with them as the guardians of the nation’s immune system, we know our countrymen, and our nation’s immunologic health are in very good hands.
RAFAEL R. CASTILLO, MD
August 2017 Health and Lifestyle