Allergy — a medical condition that causes an exaggerated response in the immune system when a person comes in contact with certain substances — is quite prevalent among young children in Hong Kong.
Although most are mild cases, up to 700 out of 100,000 children aged 14 years old or below are under the threat of a potential lethal anaphylaxis shock.
Meanwhile, only a small proportion of the kids who have been diagnosed with allergies can grow out of their allergic diseases.
In simple terms, what it means is that they have to bear the problem for as long as they live.
Unfortunately, there is only one allergy specialist for every 1.5 million people in Hong Kong, which is far below the international standard.
The ratio of pediatric allergists per head of population is around 1:460,000 and the ratio for allergists per adult patients is 1:2.8 million.
Worse still, there have been no trainees in allergy and immunology in adult medicine since 1998.
There is no doubt that Hong Kong is in need of more accredited allergists.
It is possible that a child with food allergy could also suffer from asthma, rhinitis, eczema and be exposed to the risk of an anaphylaxis shock.
An allergic specialist would be able to provide one-stop consultation to help follow up on multiple related illnesses of a child.
Such facility will be more convenient to the patients and their families, and will also help improve the cost efficiency in treating patients.
When formal allergy clinical service becomes more readily available in the public sector, alternative medicine that comes without medical proof would be crowded out in the market.
The Hong Kong Institute of Allergy has been suggesting that authorities should improve the existing services available for patients with allergies.
We are glad that Queen Mary Hospital has recently started providing professional training for allergy and immunology in adult medicine.
Hopefully, development of the field of allergy and immunology in Hong Kong will soon catch up with the needs of the people and help improve healthcare in the city.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 25.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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