Allergic diseases such as bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, rhino-conjunctivitis‏ and eczema appear to be very common in and around the Middle East region. These diseases are known to be on the rise in the world, and likewise, there are reports that such diseases are increasing in the region as well. However, studies conducted on the prevalence of such diseases in the region appear to differ in their format except in Saudi Arabia and where conducted as part of International Studies of Allergy and Asthma in Children (ISAAC). The data from different countries, summarized in this communication, were conducted at different time intervals. Therefore this review article attempts to highlight and compare the available data on the prevalence of such diseases in the Gulf region (KSA, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman) and some neighboring countries (Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco and Pakistan). The data were obtained from published studies only. A limited or no data were available for some countries in the region.

The review shows a prevalence of allergic diseases in children in the region. The overall percentage of asthma in the region ranged between 10-30% with the highest occurrence in Saudi Arabia (23%). Allergic rhinitis and eczema were the most dominant in Morocco and Qatar and were found to be affecting 38% and 23% of the population respectively.

The multi-factorial causes of such diseases including impact of dominating etiological factors in both indoor and outdoor environment still remain subject of investigation in most countries of the region.

It is suggested that a joint GCC study using some kind of standardized protocol covering school children age 6 to 16 years, will not only benefit the patients but by adopting prevention, control and screening strategies, billions of dollars can be saved in the coming years.

Keywords : Asthma; allergy; economic cost; prevalence; Middle-East.

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