Posts for category: Allergy Asthma and Immunology
Millions of Americans sneeze and wheeze March through June when they use misinformation to manage their spring allergies. To separate fact from fiction and help allergy sufferers feel good all season long, allergist Dr. Lawrence D. Sher of Palos Verdes Medical Group, a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and an expert at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, offers the following myth-busting advice:
Over-the-counter (OTC, or nonprescription) oral antihistamines are just as effective as prescription medicines in controlling your stuffy nose.
“OTC antihistamines can help control some allergy symptoms but they have little effect on relieving a stuffy nose or the inflammation that often occurs with allergies,” said allergist Dr. Sher. They also can make you drowsy. If your OTC medicine is not helping your stuffy nose or is causing side effects, your best bet is to see an allergist, who can not only prescribe more effective anti-inflammatory medications but also will find the source of your suffering rather than just treating the symptoms.
OTC decongestant nasal sprays are addictive.
OTC decongestant nasal sprays are not technically addictive. However, if you overuse them, it may seem as though they are because you may need to use more and more to get relief from the congestion. To combat this, don’t use an OTC decongestant nasal spray more than three days in a row, and talk to your allergist about prescription nasal sprays containing steroids.
Eating local honey will combat spring allergies.
Local honey is made from the pollen of local flowers, so it might seem logical that eating it would increase your allergy tolerance. However, the pollens that cause spring allergies are produced by trees, grasses and weeds, not the showy flowers that bees buzz around. In fact, eating honey can be risky for some people, who could have an allergic reaction. Not all honey is created equal. The less processed the honey, the more likely it will contain allergens, and therefore the more likely it could cause an allergic reaction.
Pollen allergy won’t lead to food allergy.
Actually, about one third of people with pollen allergies also may react to certain foods. The reaction – called oral allergy syndrome or pollen-food allergy – is usually mild, including an itchy, tingling mouth, throat or lips. It has to do with similar proteins in the pollens. If tree pollen is your allergen, you might have a reaction to fruit such as apples, cherries or plums, and nuts such as almonds and walnuts. If you are allergic to ragweed, you might be sensitive to melons, bananas, chamomile tea or Echinacea. The reaction usually only lasts a few minutes and is rarely serious, but some people may get an upset stomach or have a more severe life threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis. Peeling or cooking the foods may eliminate some of the allergens, but not all. If you experience this type of reaction, consider seeing an allergist to determine the source of your allergies and help you find relief.
Allergy shots require too much time and are more expensive than taking medicine to relieve symptoms.
Depending on how bothersome your allergies are, immunotherapy (allergy shots) may actually save you money and improve your quality of life. In fact, a recent study showed that immunotherapy reduced total health care costs in children with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) by one-third, and prescription costs by 16 percent. The shots are similar to a vaccine, exposing you to the allergen (a tiny bit at a time) to help your body build tolerance. As your tolerance increases, your allergy symptoms will be significantly lessened and may even go away, saving sick days and money spent at the drugstore.
A blood test is the best test to diagnose allergies.
Actually skin tests are more sensitive than blood tests. In skin testing, the skin on the inside of the arms or the back is pricked with a tiny bit of an allergen. If you’re allergic, the site will become red and swollen. Skin testing is very safe when performed by an allergist, even in infants and young children. But no single test alone provides the entire picture. It’s important to see an allergist, who is trained in diagnosing and treating allergies.
Halloween can be a frightful time for parents of kids with allergies and asthma. Nut-filled candy isn’t the only bogeyman that can ruin the fun. Allergy and asthma triggers can hide in other, unexpected places, too, from dusty costumes to leering jack-o-lanterns. “When people think of Halloween-associated allergies, they focus on candy and often overlook many other potential triggers,” said Dr. Sher. “By planning ahead, you can ensure not only safe treats, but also safe costumes, make up, accessories, and decorations.”
Dr. Sher and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) suggest watching out for these six sneaky triggers to keep Halloween sneeze-, wheeze- and reaction-free.
Tricky treats – Food allergy triggers abound on this candy-filled holiday, and it’s not just the usual suspects such as chocolate that can hide triggers. An article published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows gummy bears and other seemingly innocent candies may contain gelatin, a potential allergen which is a less common trigger. Your best bet? Consider taking your child to an allergist for allergy testing and help in developing a food allergy treatment plan. For Halloween night, have some non-candy treats for your child such as stickers, pencils and small toys to swap for sweets.
Devilish costume details – Watch out for nickel in costume accessories, from cowboy belts and pirate swords to tiaras and magic wands. Nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itchy and spoil trick-or-treating fun.
Haunted hand-me-downs – Halloween costumes packed away in a box for months can be laden with dust mites, which trigger asthma and allergies. So unless you want your little one sneezing or wheezing from house to house, wash the hand-me-down costumes in hot water. Or consider visiting the store for a new costume.
Menacing makeup – Cheap Halloween makeup may include preservatives that can cause allergic reactions. Instead, opt for higher quality theater makeup. Because it can take a few days for a rash, swelling or other reaction to appear, test the makeup on a small area of skin well in advance of Halloween.
Frightful fog – If you’re considering renting a fog machine to make your house extra spooky, think again. Fog – real or man-made – can trigger asthma in some sufferers.
Perilous pumpkins – Beware of pumpkin carving and pumpkin pie if you think you might be allergic. Pumpkin allergies, though rare, can cause everything from itching to chest tightness and can pop up quite suddenly, even if you haven’t had a problem before. And keep in mind that pumpkin patches are often moldy and dusty, allergy and asthma triggers for some. Consider buying a pumpkin from a grocery or discount store.
Concerned that you or your child might have allergies or asthma? Schedule an allergy consult with Dr. Sher today!
Summertime marks a season of outdoor fun and celebrations at weddings, graduation ceremonies, festivals and picnics. These events can wreak havoc for millions of people with allergies and asthma. Potential pitfalls include stinging insects, freshly mowed grass and allergen-concealing foods, which can turn a joyous occasion into sneezing, wheezing, and itchy misery or even more severe reactions.
One of the simplest ways to avoid summer allergens and asthma triggers is to stay inside with the windows closed, but who wants to be cooped up all summer? By planning ahead, people with allergies can still enjoy outdoor events.
Dr. Lawrence Sher suggests following a few simple tips to make summer soirees more enjoyable:
- Go undercover. It’s not just a fashion statement. Wear big sunglasses – especially those that wrap around – to help prevent pollen from getting in your eyes.
- Don’t bee a target. If you’re allergic to bees or other stinging insects, avoidance is your best bet. Keep your distance from uncovered food, be cautious of open soft drink cans and resist wearing bright clothing or perfume, all of which attract bees. If someone near you gets stung, move away – some bees give off a chemical after they sting that can attract other stinging insects.
- Add pre-treating to your pre-party routine. You’ll be more comfortable enjoying an outdoor event if you plan ahead and take medication before allergy exposure. If you wait until symptoms kick in the medication won't be nearly as effective.
- Look before you leap into the munchies. Avoid foods in which nuts, dairy and other common allergens can be lurking, such as mixed salads, barbecue sauces and salad dressings. If grilling is involved, have your portion cooked on aluminum foil to avoid cross-contamination with other foods.
- Stick to the middle. Poison ivy can lurk in bushes and other foliage, so stay in open areas where you’re less likely to brush up against it.
If you aren’t sure what’s causing your sneezing or wheezing, an allergist may recommend allergy testing to determine the source of your suffering and help you find relief. For more information about allergies and asthma, visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org or call Palos Verdes Medical Group to make an appointment with an allergist.
Winter often brings welcome relief from hay fever and the symptoms caused by outdoor allergens. But coming in from the cold means hunkering down with a whole new set of allergy and asthma triggers including dust, pet dander and mold.
Here are some tips developed by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on how to stay sneeze- and sniffle-free indoors this winter:
- Reduce moisture in your home to keep dust mites in check. Maintain humidity below 55 percent, and don’t use a humidifier or a vaporizer.
- Filter out dust and other allergens by installing a high efficiency furnace filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12, and be sure to change it every three months.
- Banish allergens from the bedroom (where you spend a third of your life). Keep pets and their dander out, and encase mattresses and pillows with dust-mite proof covers. Limit curtains – use blinds that can be washed instead.
- Keep it clean. A clean homeis especially important for allergy sufferers, who should wear a NIOSH-rated N95 mask while dusting, a chore that should be done regularly. Wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water every 14 days and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
- Turn on the fan or open the window to reduce mold growth in bathrooms (while bathing) and kitchens (while cooking). Wear latex-free gloves and clean visible mold with a five-percent beach solution and detergent.
- Don’t overlook the garage if it’s attached to the house. Noxious odors or fumes can trigger asthma, so move insecticides, stored gasoline and other irritants to a shed, and don’t start the car and let it run in the garage.
- Box up books and knick-knacks and limit the number of indoor plants. When you are buying new furniture, like chairs or sofas, opt for leather or other nonporous surfaces to make cleaning easier.
Not sure exactly what’s making you miserable? An allergist can help ease your suffering by identifying your allergy or asthma triggers and prescribing treatment. To learn more, visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org or contact us to set up an appointment with an allergist.
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