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Why allergy sufferers in Nepal sleep better

Evolon Medical

German allergy specialist Henriette Müller has a mission. She works voluntarily in Kathmandu’s teaching hospital on a ward for allergy sufferers – and has managed to make life better for a number of them because they can use Evolon®.

Anyone coming to Kathmandu is usually looking for extreme experiences: mountaineers are drawn to the towering peaks of the Himalayas. Spiritual seekers among the tourists are looking for enlightenment in the city of the gods. And culture lovers flood the countless temples and historical sites of the largest municipality in Nepal, with a population of almost one million inhabitants.

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Henriette Müller is no longer a seeker but has long since found her way. Kathmandu’s tangle of temple flags and prayer mills, where locals, exiled Tibetans and people from all over the world meet, has become something akin to her second home. She first came to the Himalayas in 1994. As a mountaineer, she and her husband discovered more than just the peaks and valleys of the region. In the remote villages, she also got to know the vagaries of the healthcare system: sick children and their parents, who begged the couple from the West for medications and bandages.

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Team of doctors happy about the Encasings

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Encasings at Nepal Hospital

In the land of the shamans

The Nepalese have the lowest life expectancy in Asia and the country is one of the 20 poorest in the world. Nearly 50 percent of its children are regarded as chronically undernourished. Trained doctors are scarce and, as a result, shamans treat around 90 per cent of all diseases. Getting to the larger hospitals often means several days’ march for people from remote mountain regions and rural areas.

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Müller and her late husband, who was a physician himself, ransacked their travel supplies of medications for the sick children they met and gave away what they could. They organized transport by jeep to the nearest hospital for a two-year-old boy. “We communicated using our hands and feet”, she recalls. “Someone, however, always knew someone else who spoke a little English.”

Increasing number of house dust allergy sufferers

Now aged 69, Müller had already come into contact with local people suffering from allergies back in her early days in the country. Above all, the pollen of the ragweed ambrosia, whose flowers transform entire valleys into a landscape of yellow, is a strong allergy trigger. But Müller also encountered sufferers of house dust mite allergies. “From my time in North America, I knew that these mites could be found up to 1,500 meters above sea level. Finding them in Nepal, however, surprised me at first. But now we know they can survive at up to 2,400 meters.”

“If children have fewer coughs by using Evolon and parents are satisfied, then the material convinces me.”

Henriette Müller, allergy specialist from Regensburg

Around six years ago, Müller was asked by the German Allergy and Asthma Association to help establish an allergy ward in Kathmandu. She immediately accepted the offer. Since then, she has been on site at least twice a year for several weeks at a time and works voluntarily at the Dhulikhel Hospital, the teaching hospital of the University of Kathmandu. In charge of the ward is the young dermatologist Dr. Shekhar KC, who also helped to set it up. He and his team of local doctors and international helpers mainly treat house dust allergies that lead to atopic eczema and asthma. “We do not yet know why we have seen an increase in these diseases in recent years”, he said.

Freudenberg Performance Materials as a sponsor

His patients are not only examined and treated by his team, but are also given tips on how to cope with the allergy in everyday life – some of them are also provided with bedding made from Evolon®. In 2015, Henriette Müller asked Freudenberg whether the company would be willing to support people by making an in-kind donation of Evolon® material. The answer was an immediate “Yes, we’d be happy to do that!”

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Müller’s contact person was and still is Dr. Robert Groten, Development Manager of Freudenberg Evolon in Colmar, France. “To be honest, I was a bit surprised. I did not expect dust mites to occur in Nepal. So once again, I learned something new”, Groten laughed. He had been working on the development of Evolon® for around 18 months. In 1995, the material was still an idea in his head. In 1996, the first spinning spitter was created and in 1999 the first actual material. “A feat of this magnitude is only possible with a company like Freudenberg behind you”, said Groten. But the effort has certainly been worth it. For him and his colleagues “there are nonwovens and then there is Evolon®. We have created the best product on the market and have succeeded in making a nonwoven behave like a woven or knitted fabric: light, soft and warm with no rustling.”

6700 kilometers fiber length per square meter

This square meter of Evolon® corresponds to a weight of only 100 gram.

Future prospects

Around 50 encasings are currently being used at the Dhulikhel Hospital and some patients have been able to take them home after their treatment. Their feedback is as good as in Germany and other countries of the world. “Our patients benefit absolutely from the material and we are very happy with it. In the future, we hope to be able to use it much more extensively in Nepal ourselves, as well as being able to allow many more patients to take it home with them”, Dr. Shekhar concluded.

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