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What Exactly Is Eczema and How Can it be Treated Effectively

What Exactly Is Eczema and How Can it be Treated Effectively?

Have you ever noticed red, itchy patches on your face, inner elbows, hands, or behind your knees? If you scratched it, the red patches likely became even more irritated and inflamed. Or maybe you’ve noticed red, inflamed patches on your child’s cheeks, chin or chest.

Eczema is a common skin condition for both children and adults. Learn more about why eczema occurs and how to find relief.

What Exactly is Eczema?

Eczema is a name which encompasses a group of skin conditions known to cause redness, itching, and inflammation of the skin. It is derived from the Greek word meaning, “to boil over.”

This is a good description of the red, itchy, inflamed patches of skin visible during flare-ups. Eczema comes in several different types and symptoms can range from mild, moderate, to severe.

The most common types of eczema include:

Eczema is a common condition, and in most cases, is manageable. Babies or children most often develop eczema on their face, but it can appear anywhere on the body. Symptoms typically go away as a child grows older, though some children experience eczema symptoms into adulthood. Symptoms can also occur in adulthood without ever showing signs in childhood.

What Causes Eczema?

While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers believe a combination of environmental factors and genetics may be involved.

Eczema triggers can be different for everyone. You or your child may experience triggers or worsening symptoms during certain times of the year or in certain situations. Common triggers include:

  • Dry skin: If your skin becomes too dry, it can become scaly, rough, or tight.
  • Irritants: Everyday products may cause your skin to itch and burn. This may include soaps, shampoo, detergent, body wash, cleansers, fragrances, disinfectants, and metals. Even natural liquids such as fresh fruit juice, vegetables, or meats could irritate your skin.
  • Allergens: These are materials in the environment that cause someone with an allergy to experience an allergic reaction or eczema flare up. Common allergen triggers include mold, pollen, dust mites, dandruff, and pet dander.
  • Climate and sweating: Eczema isn’t limited to cold, dry climates. For some people, their eczema flares up when they exercise or wear too many layers to bed. Flare-ups can occur in both dry and humid climates.
  • Stress: Emotional stress can cause eczema flare-ups for some, but the exact reason for this is unknown.

How Do You Treat Eczema?

Due to the many types of eczema and triggers which can differ from person to person, what works for one person may not work for another. It’s best to consult with your doctor before trying new treatments as some changes to your daily routine could cause worsening symptoms.

Daily Routines & Natural Methods

Perhaps the single best way to keep eczema flare-ups from occurring is establishing a daily skincare and moisturizing routine. In many cases, these preventive measures can safely treat eczema symptoms.

Cool-to-lukewarm baths or showers and aggressive moisturizing play an important role in treating eczema. Avoid taking hot showers or baths as the hot water can cause further skin irritation. Use mild, fragrance-free soaps to wash your skin, being careful to avoid soaps or cleanser which strip natural oils, resulting in excessive dryness.

Refrain from rubbing or scrubbing the affected skin with a loofah or washcloth and pat your skin lightly with a towel when you are finished, leaving your skin slightly damp. Hydrate your skin immediately following a bath or shower by applying a topical medication prescribed by your doctor, natural lotion or cream (no fragrances or dyes), or both. Consult with your doctor to decide the best creams, ointments, or lotions to use as even “natural” products could contain known allergens and cause irritation for certain users. Don’t limit moisturizing to bath times, apply natural creams, ointments, or lotions throughout the day whenever your skin feels dry.

Be careful to avoid rubbing or scratching your skin and limit contact with substances or materials which could further irritate your skin. Wear soft, breathable clothing and avoid itchy wool fabrics.

Prescription Creams

In more severe, inflamed cases of eczema, your doctor may prescribe a topical anti-inflammatory cream. These usually include topical steroids and newer non-steroid creams and ointments. Follow your doctor’s directions for dosage and application directions, including where on the body to apply prescription creams.

Manage Stress

If your eczema flares up based on stressful situations, recognize which events or situations cause you stress and learn to avoid or cope with them by using stress management techniques. You may find helpful resources on your own, or get help from your doctor or psychologist.

If you or your child are experiencing eczema, the condition may be caused by an allergen or irritant. Schedule an appointment at on of our 4 convenient Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida clinics to find the cause and develop a personalized treatment plan.

essential oils diffusers and affect on asthma

What Asthma Patients Need to Know About Essential Oils and Diffusers

Essential oils have been around for centuries, but a new interest is sweeping the market. Maybe you’ve picked up a bottle in the store or attended an essential oil party in the home of a friend. While many benefit claims are unsupported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), companies and those who use essential oils claim they help with several conditions including depression/anxiety, headaches, congestion, hormone imbalance, cold sores, high blood pressure, and much more.

What are essential oils?

Essential oils are highly concentrated herbal remedies derived from plants. For example, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, orange, and tea tree oil. Many of these oils and others are packaged in blends or sold as single oils for aromatherapy. Oils can be diffused into the air, massaged into the skin, or ingested in a capsule.

Is there evidence that essential oils help asthma?

While individuals and companies (within certain limits) claim essential oils may help a variety of conditions, there is no evidence that essential oils can help asthma. In reality, breathing in the particles released by the oils, or any strong fragrance (natural or otherwise), may trigger bronchoconstriction (i.e. asthma symptoms).

Essential oils are highly concentrated and emit strong odors due to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including terpenes, toluene, and benzene, when diffused in the air. Terpenes are associated with increased shortness of breath, especially in the evenings (i.e, nocturnal breathlessness)  bronchial hyperresponsiveness, and peak expiratory flow variability in patients with or without asthma. There have been anecdotal claims of respiratory issues for people with or without asthma due to airborne irritants from a variety of diffused essential oils

VOCs within the diffused oils can affect indoor air quality causing a similar pollutant effect as air fresheners, scented candles, and incense. Poor indoor air quality can worsen existing respiratory symptoms from allergies, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses. In addition, some essential oils are harmful to inhale or can irritate the skin. Use on young children may cause severe irritation or could be poisonous if ingested.

Are alternative treatments safe?

Essential oils are not regulated the same way prescription medications are for asthma. Alternative medicine treatments do not undergo scientific review and may not be safe.

There currently is no scientific evidence that supports essential oils help people with asthma. In fact, diffused oils may cause greater harm to those who suffer from asthma. The FDA has issued warning letters to essential oil companies who make unsubstantiated claims about their uses.

Talk to your doctor before substituting an alternative medicine for an asthma medicine prescribed by your doctor. While the oils are considered “natural”, they release VOCs which have been associated with increased asthma symptoms.

Before substituting essential oils for medications, consult with a trained physician. If you suffer from asthma, get clear answers from the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida. Our doctors specialize in the treatment and management of allergy and asthma symptoms for children and adults. Contact us for more information or schedule an appointment online today.

Sources:
http://www.aaaai.org/ask-the-expert/oil-diffusers-asthma
https://community.aafa.org/blog/asthma-are-essential-oils-harmful-or-helpful

Understanding Outdoor Allergens

How can floating particles in the air cause such unfavorable allergic reactions? Outdoor allergens can lead to hay fever and a range of allergy symptoms. These symptoms often including runny nose, sneezing, congestion, and itching of the eyes, ears, nose, throat, and roof of the mouth. The causes of these reactions are typically from mold spores or pollen in the air.

Your body’s immune system controls how it defends itself. If you are allergic to pollen, your immune system thinks pollen is an invader and overreacts by producing antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE). When these antibodies travel to cells that release chemical, an allergic reaction occurs.

Don’t let outdoor allergies get the best of you. Get to know the two most common outdoor allergens and how to avoid them.

Mold Spores

Mold spores can exist almost anywhere and even float in the air. Molds are tiny fungi similar to mushrooms but without roots, stems, or leaves. Outdoor mold spores increase when temperatures rise in the spring. In the United States, outdoor molds peak in July in warmer states and October in colder states. Mold is present in the South and on the West Coast year-round.

Tips to Avoid Exposure to Outdoor Mold Spores

  • Avoid going outdoors on rainy or windy days when mold may be in the air.
  • Keep rain gutters and drains clear of leaves and debris. Make sure downspouts flow water away from the house.
  • Avoid yard activities or wear a mask when mowing the lawn, raking leaves, or gardening with compost.
  • Keep excess leaves, compost, and grass away from areas near your home.

Plant Pollen

Pollen are tiny particles that fertilize plants. Many plants have flowers that produce powdery pollen which can be easily spread by the wind. Colorful flowers such as roses rarely cause allergies and rely on insects to transport pollen for fertilization.

Plants that release pollen have a specific period of pollination during the year and weather can affect the amount of pollen in the air. Seasonal allergic rhinitis is typically caused by tree pollen in early spring. Grass pollen can cause allergy symptoms in late spring and early summer. Hay fever is caused by weed pollen in late summer. In warmer areas, pollen can be present year-round.

Tips to Avoid Exposure to Outdoor Pollen

  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high. Keep an eye on local pollen reports or download a weather app for daily pollen counts in your area. Pollen counts are typically lowest just after sunrise and highest in the afternoon.
  • Mow your lawn often, and if possible, have a family member or friend do it for you. If you must mow, use antihistamines before you mow and wear a dust mask.
  • Keep the windows and doors of your house or car closed all day. Use air conditioning to avoid pollen coming inside.
  • Vacation during peak pollen season to a location where the plants you are allergic to don’t grow.

Treatment for Outdoor Allergens

If outdoor allergies continue to be a struggle, see an allergist for relief from seasonal symptoms. An allergist can determine which allergens, if any, are causing your symptoms and develop a treatment plan to help you feel better. Your personalized plan may include ways to avoid an allergen and medications for temporary relief.

If symptoms persist, your allergist may recommend allergy shots (immunotherapy). This involves regular injections with gradual increases in doses. The process helps your immune system become more resistant to an allergen and lessen symptoms over time.

Are you suffering from outdoor allergens? Call the specialists at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida to make an appointment for allergy testing and treatment today.

 

allergy and sinus headaches

Allergies and Headaches: What Patients Need to Know

Make an Appointment to Get Relief Now

It’s estimated that nearly 70-80% of Americans experience headaches. Those who suffer from allergies already have to deal with rashes, difficulty breathing, congestion, and a host of other unpleasant side effects. Yet, sinus headaches and even migraines can also be added to this list of allergy side effects.

While headaches aren’t typically life-threatening, they can affect your quality of life. If you suffer from allergies and headaches, here’s what you need to know and how to treat them.

Symptoms of a Sinus Headache

Your sinuses are hollow air spaces which allow the exchange of air and mucus. These passages are located behind the eyes and the bridge of the nose, in the forehead, and inside each cheekbone. Any secretions in the sinus cavities typically drain into the nose.

Sinus pain is caused when the sinuses are swollen, filled with fluid or the openings are obstructed. Any obstruction stops normal drainage and causes pressure to build up inside. Many times, the pain is in relation to the affected sinuses. Sinusitis pain can be dull or intense and often is worse in the morning hours after you wake up.

Allergy Headache Triggers

Allergies can trigger sinus pressure and headaches from several sources. The most common allergens and triggers include:

  • Certain foods
  • Dust
  • Pet Dander
  • Pollen
  • Sinus congestion
  • Smoke
  • Stress

Managing Allergy Headaches and Triggers

The key to managing your allergies and reducing headaches is limiting exposure to allergens and triggers.

  • Stay indoors and keep the windows shut when pollen counts are high.
  • Wear glasses or sunglasses outdoors to keep pollen from getting in your eyes.
  • Use the air conditioning in your home and in your car. Make sure to change out the air filters regularly and keep AC units clean.
  • Use mite-proof covers in your bedroom for pillows, comforters, and mattresses to reduce exposure to dust mites.
  • Keep your home’s humidity at 30-50% to reduce exposure to mold. Clean your kitchen, bathrooms, and basement regularly and use a dehumidifier in damp, humid places.
  • Wash floors with a damp mop or rag to avoid dry-sweeping or dusting.
  • If you are allergic to a pet, keep them outside of your home. If a pet must be kept indoors, keep it out of the bedroom so you are not exposed to allergens while you sleep.
  • Replace carpeting with hardwood, tile or linoleum to reduce dander in the home.

Many sinus headache triggers are airborne and difficult to avoid. Discuss your options with your allergist to decide which treatment options are best for you.

Treatment for Allergy Headaches

If your allergy headaches persist, your allergist may recommend one or more of the following treatments to offer relief.

  • Pain Relievers: Advil (ibuprofen) and Tylenol (acetaminophen) can offer short-term relief for sinus pain.
  • Oral & Nasal Decongestants: Available in over the counter (OTC) medications, these can treat nasal congestion and relieve pressure which causes sinus headaches.
  • Antihistamines: Histamines are natural chemicals in your body responsible for your body’s response to allergens. Antihistamines help block these chemicals to reduce allergy symptoms. Both OTC and prescription antihistamines are available.
  • Intranasal Corticosteroids: These medications are extremely effective at treating allergic rhinitis and help reduce sneezing, itching, nasal congestion, and runny nose.
  • Immunotherapy (allergy shots): If you don’t respond well to medications or experience side effects, allergy shots may be recommended by your allergist for a more permanent solution to an allergy problem.

If you’re experiencing sinus headaches and pain due to allergies, speak with your allergist for treatment options. Contact the professionals at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida to schedule an appointment today.

how to keep allergic reactions under control

Understand Your Allergic Reactions and How to Keep them Under Control

Nearly 50 million people in the U.S. suffer from an allergic disease, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). While the immune system is useful in defending the body against viruses and bacteria, the immune system may defend itself against substances that shouldn’t pose a threat to humans. These substances are referred to as allergens and your body’s defense is an allergic reaction.

What Causes an Allergic Reaction?

Why some people experience allergies is a mystery. Allergies may run in families and can be inherited. If a member of your family has allergies, you may be more likely to develop allergies.

The cause of the reaction can be traced to common substances. People with allergies are typically allergic to:

  • Bee stings (or other insect bites)
  • Foods (nuts, shellfish, etc.)
  • Medications (aspirin, penicillin, etc.)
  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen

What Are Common Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction?

Depending on the substance you are allergic to, symptoms can affect your skin, digestive system, airways, sinuses, and nasal passages. These reactions can range from mild to severe and can trigger anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction.

Mild allergic reaction symptoms

  • Itching
  • Hives
  • Nasal congestion
  • Rash
  • Scratchy throat
  • Watery eyes

Severe allergic reaction symptoms

Severe reactions can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction, resulting in a sudden drop in blood pressure, swelling of the airway, and difficulty breathing. If you experience a severe reaction, seek emergency assistance right away.

Additional severe symptoms include:

  • Flushing of the face
  • Fear/anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain or tightness in chest
  • Swelling of face, eyes, or tongue
  • Unconsciousness
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing

How Are Allergies Diagnosed?

Your doctor or allergist can diagnose if you are allergic to foods or other environmental substances through exams and asking about your health history. Your doctor may perform one of the following three tests to determine your allergy.

Allergy Skin Testing

With an allergy skin test, your allergist will apply a trace of a suspected allergen on your skin and wait for a reaction. The substance may be applied by a small prick to the skin, injected under the skin, or taped to the surface of the skin. If you are allergic to one of the tests, you may experience redness and swelling at the test spot within 20 minutes. Delayed reactions may take several hours and typically disappear within 24 to 48 hours.

Skin tests are useful in diagnosing food and environmental allergens, including:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis (rash)
  • Bee sting or insect allergy
  • Food allergy
  • Penicillin allergy
  • Mold, pollen, or pet dander allergy

Allergy Elimination (or Challenge) Testing

To find out if you are allergic to a certain food, your doctor may suggest removing the food from your diet for several weeks. As you add the food back into your diet, you will be instructed to watch if any symptoms occur.

Allergy Blood Tests

If skin tests are not possible, your allergist may suggest a blood test to look for substances in the blood called antibodies. The most common test measures the blood level of an antibody, immunoglobulin E (IgE), which the body may make in response to an allergen. IgE levels are often higher in people with asthma or allergies.

7 Tips for Controlling an Allergic Reaction

Most people don’t know they have an allergy until symptoms occur. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, here’s how you can help control them:

  1. If a severe reaction causes anaphylaxis, seek emergency medical help immediately. An epinephrine auto-injector (adrenaline) may be needed to manage the reaction right away.
  2. If an allergen causes a skin reaction such as a rash, wash the area thoroughly with mild soap and apply topical creams or medications to control the itching.
  3. Seasonal allergies can be treated with antihistamines and decongestants to reduce symptoms. Talk to your allergist about allergy shots to reduces reactions to seasonal allergies over time.
  4. Food allergy symptoms such as hives or itching can be treated with over-the-counter drugs. Prescription drugs are needed to treat other symptoms. Severe food allergies may be treated with epinephrine.
  5. Plant allergies causing redness, itching, swelling, and blisters can spread by touch. Thoroughly cleanse the area with soap and water for 10 minutes and take a cool bath. Apply anti-itching (calamine) lotion three to four times a day. See your doctor if symptoms get worse.
  6. If you experience an insect string, carefully removing the stinger in a swiping motion and wash the area with soap, water, and apply an antiseptic. Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream and cover the area with a bandage. An antihistamine can reduce itching, swelling, and hives.
  7. Drug allergies can be treated with an alternative prescription provided by your doctor. Epinephrine, antihistamines, and corticosteroids may be needed for serious drug allergy reactions.

See an Allergist for Diagnosis and Treatment

Allergies can develop at any age. If you experience symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, seek emergency medical help immediately. Schedule an appointment with an allergist to determine the cause(s) of an allergic reaction and to create a treatment plan.

Need help with your allergies? Contact the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida for diagnosis and treatment of allergies.

5 Factors That Increase Your Chances of Having an Asthma Attack

Asthma is a serious condition affecting your airways. During an asthma attack, your airways may narrow, swell, and produce extra mucus making it difficult to breathe. This can trigger coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Did you know certain factors can increase your chances of having an asthma attack? While asthma can’t be cured, the symptoms can be controlled. The following five factors could increase your risk for asthma.

1. Having Another Allergic Condition

If you suffer from an allergic condition, such as eczema (atopic dermatitis) or hay fever, you may be more likely to experience asthma attacks. While allergies and asthma are two separate diagnoses, they share a strong genetic bond and often occur together.

Substances that trigger allergic reactions such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites, may also cause asthma symptoms. For some people, food allergies could lead to an asthma attack. When asthma is triggered by allergic exposures, it is often referred to as allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma.

2. Having a Relative with Asthma

Asthma often runs in the family. While family history is often overlooked, asthma can be caused by genes you inherit from your parents and interactions with the environment.

It’s important to talk to your relatives and get to know your family history, including if asthma was present. While you can’t change the past, you can tell your allergist about your family history of asthma, allergies, and common triggers. Knowing this information can help with your treatment.

3. Being Overweight

Having extra weight on your body is linked to worsening asthma symptoms. Even five extra pounds can worsen asthma control and a patient’s quality of life. In a Respiratory Medicine journal study, those who gained five pounds were associated with:

  • 22% poorer self-rated asthma control
  • 18% poorer self-reported quality of life
  • 31% increase in the odds of requiring use of a steroid

Excess weight also affects the potency of your asthma medications which help control asthma symptoms. Obese patients may not respond to controller medications, such as inhaled steroids, in the same manner as non-overweight asthmatics.

4. Air Pollutants

If you are exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke, smoke from fire, dust, exhaust fumes, and other air pollutants, your chances of experiencing asthma attacks are greatly increased. High pollution levels are more common on summer days leading to an increase in asthma episodes and visits to the emergency room.

Airborne-irritants and particles trigger asthma attacks by irritating the lungs and airways. These irritations make it difficult for patients to breathe properly, leading to the need for asthma drugs and emergency treatment. Both short-term and long-term exposure can cause health problems such as reduced lung function and an increase in asthma attacks.

5. Occupational Asthma

If you have asthma and are a hairdresser, farmer, work in manufacturing, or exposed to fragrances or chemical odors, you may be exposed to hundreds of chemicals daily that could be increasing your risk of asthma attacks.

Occupational asthma is often caused by inhaling fumes, gases, dust or other harmful substances while you work. Symptoms are often worse on the days and nights you work and may improve during time off.

You don’t have to suffer alone with asthma. By identifying the triggers and developing a treatment plan with your allergist, you can experience relief. Call the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida today to schedule an appointment to get your asthma symptoms under control.

halloween allergy safety tips

Our Top Tips for Allergy Safety this Halloween

With pumpkins everywhere and stores filled with Spiderman costumes, it’s almost time for what may be kids’ favorite holiday — Halloween.

Their excitement, however, is tempered by parents’ caution about their children’s safety. For parents of a child with allergies, the concerns are even greater.

The good news is that there is a lot you can to do ensure your kids have a safe, fun Halloween. Here are four tips that can help:

Help Make Your Child’s School Party Safe

Many schools and daycare facilities host Halloween parties, which can be especially stressful for parents since you’re not there to protect your children. In addition, younger children don’t have the awareness to say no to certain types of candy or give in to the temptation to have the same foods their friends are enjoying.

The keys to a stress- and allergy-free class party includes partnering with the teacher, class parent or other school staff member. If you’re unable to volunteer to help or be present on party day, find out who the party host will be and coordinate with him or her in advance about your child’s allergy and any action plan that may be needed to respond to an allergy emergency.

If you can be involved in the party planning, you can encourage a focus on non-food related activities, such as crafts, little toy bags, a scavenger hunt, or Halloween games.

Food will likely be part of the festivities however, so discuss options that would be safe for your child and that can still be enjoyed by everyone. A great way to ensure your child isn’t being left out is to offer to provide his or her treats or find out if there is an allergy-free version of the treat your child will be able to have.

If you are sending your child with their own safe food, ensure the teacher or monitor knows this is the only food that you child can eat at the party.

 Download Our Free Halloween Safety Checklist

Know Ahead of Time What Candies are Safe for Your Child

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Deciding to allow your child to trick-or-treat should depend on how severe his or her allergies are. If you decide it’s safe enough to go door to door, always have a safety plan in place and have precautions ready.

Let your child know before you even leave the house that he or she is not to eat any food until you’ve gotten home and had the chance to check all their candy. Setting the expectation before you head out is crucial for kids of all ages. Older children probably already have a good understanding of why this is necessary, but with a simple and appropriate explanation of the dangers, younger kids can be made to understand why they’ll need to contain their excitement about sampling treats while they’re out.

Before Halloween arrives, consider alerting your neighbors to your child’s allergy. Ask them to not offer any foods to which your child is allergic and suggest they offer a toy, a little money or other non-food item. (You could even provide your neighbors with such items yourself.) Asking in advance allows your neighbors to be prepared.

Once trick or treating is done, sort through the treats and find the safe ones and put them back into your child’s bag – then create a pile of definite no’s. You may have a third pile of “unsure” treats. You may need to do some research to determine if they are safe for your child, or if you feel it’s not worth the risk, simply remove them. Often, mini-bagged treats will have warnings on whether they were produced in facility that processes nuts or other allergens.

Do not leave your child alone with his or her candy. Temptations can be too strong, and you may find your child digging in at the first opportunity.

We’ve found that certain normally safe candies may be produced in different plants for the holiday version of the candy, and this may make them unsafe. This is why it’s so important to read labels on all potentially dangerous candies.

If throwing out a lot of candy seems wasteful to you, one fun tradition we’ve heard of is to place all the unsafe candy in your young child’s trick-or-treat bag and place it on the porch overnight. They will get a visit from the “Great Pumpkin” who will exchange their unsafe candy for something they can enjoy.

If your child suffers from severe allergies and trick-or-treating is just too dangerous, planning a fun party with some of their friends and having Halloween shows and crafts is a great option. Although candy is most associated with the holiday, it doesn’t have to be the most important thing. Kids will have just as much fun dressed up and playing as they do knocking on doors.

Always Have Your Safety Supplies on Hand

You already know this, but we’ll say it again: You must always have your safety supplies ready whether your child is walking your neighborhood, at a school party, or at a friend’s house. If your child is prone to an anaphylactic shock always have an epinephrine autoinjector and other medications that your allergist has provided. If your child’s allergies are less severe, have sanitizing wipes available for contact allergies and any medications you give for minor allergic reactions.

You should also discuss with your child what to do if he or she starts feeling itchy, having trouble breathing or showing any signs of a reaction. Talk with your child in advance about what happens when an allergic reaction occurs and what treatment measures you may have to take. The more they are involved in their treatment, the more in control they will feel.

Candy Is Not the Only Issue – Don’t Forget Costumes

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If your child has contact allergies or suffers from hives or other skin issues, be aware of costumes and face and skin paint accessories that could lead to reactions. Most kids costumes are safe and hypo-allergenic, but some of the accessories may set off a reaction. Look out for nickel in some costume accessories such as cowboy belts, swords, tiaras and magic wands. Nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itch and ruin an otherwise fun night of trick-or-treating.

Be on the lookout for ingredients in cheap Halloween makeup, which may cause allergic reactions.  If your child must use makeup, opt for the higher-quality products. Don’t assume, however, that because it’s more expensive it’s safe – always test makeup ahead of time by applying a little bit to a small area of skin a few days in advance to check for a reaction.

Look for the Teal Pumpkins

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a FARE campaign to help make Halloween safer for kids with allergies.

Launched in 2014 the Teal Pumpkin Project aims to increase awareness of food allergies as well as promote inclusion for all of our trick-or-treaters. There are some great resources to show your support and even to add your house to a crowd sourced map of a list of homes that are participating—most Teal Pumpkin participants are offering treats other than candies.

Do some pre-Halloween planning and keep a few tricks handy, and you and your goblins can be sure to have a safe and awesome Halloween!

If you are worried that you or your child might have allergies or asthma – contact Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida to schedule an appointment or to talk with one of our Board Certified Allergists.

For more great allergy safety information visit our friends at FoodAllergy.org

 Get Your Free Halloween Safety Checklist

Fall allergies jacksonville fl

The Complete Guide to Fall Allergies in Florida—2017

Most people in Florida look forward to autumn with its pumpkin spice lattes, mild sun and cooler air. But if you’re one of the estimated 40 million fall allergy sufferers in the U.S., this time of year can be very unpleasant.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though…

With the proper precautions and correct allergy treatments, you can enjoy all that autumn has to offer.

While most people often associate allergies with spring and the pollen produced by flowering plants, fall can be the worst season to deal with allergies. As the weather here in Jacksonville cools, plants tend to release more pollen and the moist, cool air leads to increased mold growth on leaves and other surfaces.

Combined, these factors can trigger severe allergic reactions.

What are fall allergy symptoms?

Fall allergy symptoms are not much different than what you would expect at other times of year. Most people refer to their symptoms as hay fever, while doctors refer to it as seasonal allergic rhinitis.

Whatever you call it, symptoms include:

  • Itchy, watery, and stinging eyes.
  • Coughing and wheezing, potentially leading to asthma for sufferers.
  • Scratchy throats and excessive saliva
  • Upset stomach
  • Worsening eczema
  • Life-threatening asthma attacks in extreme cases.

What are the most common Florida fall allergens?

Here in Florida, most fall allergies are caused by either weed pollen or mold spores. Because our weather provides for longer growing seasons, grass and mold pollen allergies tend to extend well into November.

Here are the most common culprits we have to contend with:

Ragweed

ragweed fall allergies
Common Ragweed plant

This is probably the number-one cause of fall allergies. Ragweed thrives all over the Central and Eastern United States, from far north to deep south. If you have hay fever symptoms in the fall, it’s almost certainly due to ragweed.

Though ragweed starts to release it’s pollen with cool evenings and warm, humid days in August, it can continue well last into September through October.

Approximately 75% of people who are have spring plant allergies are also allergic to ragweed.

Additionally, ragweed pollen gets around. The amazing thing is that even if ragweed pollen isn’t common where you live, wind blown ragweed allergens can travel for hundreds of miles!

Common Ragweed

It can grow as tall as five feet, with leaves that are arranged alternately and leaf blades that are long and have deep divisions in them. The flowers are not “showy” and result in small, green or yellow spikes.

Giant Ragweed

Fittingly named, giant ragweed can grow up to 15 feet high, with stems that have multiple branches and hairy leaves that grow opposite of each other (until you get high up the weed). The leaves are sandpaper-rough and rounded.

Both types of ragweed release their pollen in late summer and continue to saturate the air through the first frost (which doesn’t happen often here in North Florida).

One ragweed plant is capable of producing more than one billion grains of pollen per season.

Treatment and Defense against Ragweed Allergies

The best defense is a good offense.

With proper weed control, you can get rid of the ragweed around your home. Remove any ragweed plants you find around your property and have your yard treated to kill weeds and control the pollen release near your home.

Also do not wait to contact your allergy specialist to plan your allergy treatments. Allergy immunotherapy treatment involves administering small doses of an allergen to get your body used to it and induce long-term tolerance of the allergen.

Mold Allergies

Mold is found wherever the weather is damp and cool. While we don’t have long-term cool weather, we do have a good amount of humidity, and the cooler fall air (which can dip into the 40s during the evening) can lead to an increase in mold growth for North Floridians. Molds grow especially well in decaying plant matter, such as leaves and grass clippings, as well as compost piles and rotting, wet wood.

allergy causing dead leaves
Leaves and debris can carry mold allergens

The first defense is to clear leaves and piles of plants that could invite mold growth, and fix or remove rotting wood. Don’t forget to look around your house (including inside) where dampness occurs and where mold growth may hide.

According to our friends at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), our weather plays a significant role in how bad mold allergies will be.

The damper the conditions, the more mold there will be. Unfortunately, forecasts for the coming fall appear to favor mold conditions as temperatures will continue to be warm with higher humidity and the potential for frequent showers and thunderstorms, according to Accuweather’s fall forecast: “humidity will remain high across the region with few cooldowns predicted until late in the season.”

Mold spores spread through the air similar to the way pollen allergens do, but there are two major differences: Mold spreads easily indoors and does not die off with a cold snap — it will just go dormant until temperatures are warm enough to bring it out of it’s dormancy.

This means mold can reappear here in Jacksonville with the first early signs of spring in late February.

Treatment and Defense against Mold and Spore Allergies

This is another case where taking precautions can really help limit your and your family’s exposure to mold.

First and foremost, clean up all dead and decaying plant material from around your house, rake up those leaves, get rid of rotting wood, clear your gutters of debris, and clean up compost and garden beds.

Inside your house, consider investing in a good dehumidifier. Do your best to keep humidity levels low—below 50 percent is ideal within your house. In your garage and attic, make sure boxes aren’t damp and ensure insulation hasn’t gotten wet from the heavy rains we’ve been experiencing. Attics and garages can be a major incubator where mold can grow.

If allergy symptoms hit, make sure to visit your allergist. Mold is a potent asthma trigger and you’ll want to have your inhalers ready and have your allergy and asthma management plan in place. If you’ve only recently developed allergies, your allergy specialist can test for your specific allergies to pollens and molds, which will help determine if you should start allergy shots. Immunotherapy is a proven method for controlling fall allergies.

Other Seasonally Related Triggers

While people think of “seasonal allergies” as referring to grass, pollen and mold allergies, there can also be other allergy triggers that are closely tied to specific seasons. Among other fall allergy triggers:

  • Smoke (from fall campfires)—Fall weather in Jacksonville makes for ideal s’mores roasting time and a small bonfire makes the early evenings a bit more cozy—but if the smoke from campfires results in an asthma attack, then it’s no fun at all. Since smoke is a common asthma trigger, always sit upwind of the smoke and keep your distance from the fire to prevent an asthma flare-up.
  • Insect bites and stings—for insect allergy sufferers, certain bugs around your yard can be more than just a nuisance. An estimated two million Americans are allergic to insect stings, which can cause the life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Anyone with an insect allergy should always carry an allergist prescribed epinephrine. Additional steps you can take to reduce insect stings is always wear shoes in the yard, keep food covered and not drinking from open soft drinks which attract bugs. Another thing you can do is hire a professional pest control company to treat for insects around your yard and home.
  • Candy ingredientsHalloween is almost upon us and Thanksgiving is right behind, many of these holiday’s most popular foods—especially among children—can lead to dangerous allergic reactions for food allergy sufferers. Make sure to check food ingredients and let others know about yours or your children’s food allergies.

Additional Tips to Manage and Control Your Fall Allergies

  • When possible, stay inside and keep doors and windows closed when pollen is at it’s highest (usually in the morning or midday)—Like our Facebook Page to get daily pollen counts in our area or visit Pollen.com for your own local area.
  • Before you turn on the heat in your house for the first time, make sure to clean the heating vents and change filters. Sometimes mold and other allergens get trapped in the vents over our humid summers and will fill the air in your house once the heat kicks on.
  • Invest in a HEPA filter for your home’s HVAC system. These filters force air through a fine mesh and traps harmful allergens and particles such as pollen, pet dander, mites, and tobacco smoke.
  • Use a dehumidifier to keep the air inside your home below 50% humidity.
  • Wear a mask when working outside and in your yard so you don’t breathe in mold spores—this is especially important if you are raking leaves or picking up decaying grass clippings.

With proper care and clean up, and some preventative medications, you can enjoy the great fall weather we have here in Jacksonville. Contact us to schedule an appointment for allergy screenings or to discuss an allergy management plan.

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asthma and allergies in jacksonville fl — how are they connected?

Understanding the Connection Between Asthma and Allergies

Asthma is a serious respiratory condition leading to difficulty breathing, coughing and wheezing. Allergies refer to a variety of hypersensitivity disorders causing a range of reactions. While asthma and allergies have two different definitions, they share a strong bond and often occur together.

Substances that trigger allergic reactions such as pollen, pet dander, and dust mites, may also cause asthma symptoms. For some people, food allergies can lead to asthma symptoms. These reactions are often referred to as allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma.

Living a healthy, full life with allergies and/or asthma is very possible but may involve medical treatments and preventive measures.

Why does an allergic reaction cause asthma symptoms?

Your body creates an allergic response when the proteins of your immune system, called antibodies, identify a harmless substance as a high-risk invader. These antibodies adhere to the allergen as your body’s defense to protect itself. Chemicals released internally lead to itchy eyes, runny nose, nasal congestion, and skin reactions. For some people, these reactions can cause sudden asthma symptoms which affect the lungs and airways, and make it difficult to breath.

Do allergies always cause asthma?

No. While allergic asthma is common, asthma can be caused by several triggers including viral colds, tobacco smoke, stress, exercise, chemicals, solvents, pollution or gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Many people diagnosed with asthma have more than one type of asthma trigger.

Are allergies and asthma treated the same?

In general, allergies and asthma have different treatments. However, a few important treatments help both conditions are are listed below:

Allergen Immunotherapy (allergy shots): Immunotherapy is a powerful treatment for asthma and allergies that normalizes the immune system’s response to allergic triggers. Allergy shots contain tiny amounts of natural allergens and are administered in a regular fashion just below the skin surface. Over that time the therapy helps the immune system develop tolerance to those allergens. Both allergic reactions and asthma symptoms typically decrease during the treatment course.

Anti-Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Therapy: IgE is the type of allergic antibody your body releases when it mistakenly identifies a substance as harmful. Omalizumab (Xolair) helps interfere with your body’s IgE antibodies to prevent allergic reactions and asthma symptoms.

Leukotriene Modifier: Montelukast (Singulair) is a leukotriene modifier in a daily pill to help control immune system chemicals released by your body during an allergic reaction.

How do you keep allergic asthma under control?

Work with your allergist to decide if allergy medications or therapies would help your situation and prevent asthma attacks. You can also take these steps to help control your reactions:

  1. Avoid triggers. When you know what you’re allergic to, you can take steps to prevent exposure. To keep your home allergen free:
    • Keep food in the kitchen to avoid attracting pests throughout the house.
    • Wash your bedding in hot water each week.
    • Use mattress and pillow covers to guard against dust mites.
    • Vacuum daily with a HEPA-filter vacuum.
    • To reduce pet dander, limit areas in your home where pets can be such as the bedroom.
  2. Partner with your allergy specialist. Your allergist may recommend short-term or long-term medications for current relief and to get your asthma under control.
  3. Be prepared. You may be prescribed medications for allergies to reduce asthma triggers, but you should also carry a rescue inhaler in the event you’re exposed to unexpected allergies. Speak with your allergist to determine what’s best for you based on your triggers.

At the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida, we specialize in helping our patients identify allergy triggers and develop a treatment plan to decrease and eliminate allergic asthma reactions. Contact us to schedule an appointment and improve your quality of life by putting your allergies and asthma in the past.  

pollen allergies in jacksonville

10 Tips For Dealing With Pollen Allergies in Jacksonville

One of the more common allergy and asthma problems we see in North Florida are our patients’ responses to pollen. Pollen is a potent allergen that consists of microscopic, grains that are released by plants, then are carried to other plants by wind as part of nature’s pollination process. When pollen is being dispersed, it can be easily inhaled into sensitive nasal passages and trigger an allergic response. When you are allergic to pollen, your body sees it as an invader and mounts a defense that can result in watering eyes, constricted airways and a runny, itchy nose.

Here in Florida, pollen can be very difficult to avoid since each type of pollen in our area is released at different times. Our pollen seasons tend to begin earlier and last longer than those in other states and can be a year-round problem. Typically, Florida’s pollen seasons are December to May for tree pollen, April to November for grass pollen and July to November for weed pollen.

While we can’t control the seasons or the amount of pollen in the air, there are some things we can do to limit the extent of our exposure and our response to it.

Pollen Allergies in Jacksonville: Top 10 Tips to Control Them

Keep Windows at Home and in Cars Closed

When you’re experiencing allergy symptoms during pollen seasons, it’s best to keep your house and car windows shut at all times. While we have some beautiful weather here in Jacksonville, opening windows allows the pollen to get into your car or home and settle on every surface. Once pollen has accumulated on surfaces, even cleaning them can increase the possibility of an allergic reaction.

Use “Recirculation” with your Car’s AC

When you’re riding in the car, keep the air conditioning on the “recirculation” mode. This works to keep the already-filtered air circulating in the car. If the air conditioner is not needed, close all the vents. The vents still allow air flow when the air conditioning is off, so closing them will limit the pollen that makes it into the interior of your car.

Keep Air Conditioning Units Serviced and Clean

While there is no solid evidence that cleaning your air conditioning ducts can help you control your allergies, it is still a good idea to take the precaution of having your air conditioning units cleaned and serviced by an air conditioning company in Jacksonville before allergy season sets in. It is also a good idea to have your air conditioner set to recycle the air in your home (similar to the recirculation setting in your car). Getting your air conditioning serviced and your filters replaced with a HEPA filter can also reduce the amount of allergens in the air around you.

Pay Attention to How Much Pollen You Bring in your House

Limit how much pollen you are tracking into your home, especially into your bedroom. When you come in from the outdoors, take a shower immediately and change clothes. For women especially, hair traps a good amount of pollen, so it’s important to wash your hair before bed each night.

Limit Your Time Outdoors in the Early Mornings

Pollen counts in Jacksonville tend to be highest in the mornings, typically between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Limit your exposure by avoiding outdoors when pollen counts are highest. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, try to schedule your outings for the afternoons instead of the mornings. If you suffer from severe pollen allergies, you might consider engaging in indoor sporting activities only during the peak of pollen season.

Avoid Tackling Lawn and Outdoor Work

Lawn mowing will stir up settled pollens, so mowing duties should be left to family members who aren’t allergic to pollen if at all possible. Wear a protective mask and eye protection while doing yard work during your pollen season. If that’s not an option, consider hiring a local lawn care and control company.

Look Out for the Pollen on Your Pets

House pets that spend time outdoors will bring pollen indoors on their fur. Be sure to wash your pets at least one or two times per week during your peak allergy season. Always keep your pets off your bed and preferably out of your bedroom altogether.

Keep Bedroom Linens Clean

Wash bed linens at least once per week to get rid of any pollen that may have settled there. When doing laundry, avoid using an outdoor clothesline during the pollen seasons.

Carpets are Pollen Traps: Keep them Clean

Keep carpets vacuumed and clean. Vacuuming will remove pollen and other allergens (like pet dander) that have settled in your carpets. It would also be a good idea to steam clean your carpets at the beginning of the allergy season. Either do it yourself or have a professional Jacksonville carpet cleaning company do it for you.

Be proactive and aware!

Check the pollen reports during allergy season. This will help you prepare for your day and know what to expect. For convenience, the Jacksonville area pollen forecast is regularly posted on our website at www.JaxAllergy.com.

Allergic reactions to pollen can be a frustrating and annoying part of your life, but following these tips can help limit your immune system’s response. If you believe your symptoms are worse than normal or you aren’t sure what’s causing your reactions, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified Jacksonville Allergy Specialists.