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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.

how to deal with pet allergies

Pet Allergies and Kids: What Parents Need to Know

Pet allergies are your body’s physical reaction to an animal. People are usually allergic to the pet dander (an animal’s skin flakes), but they can also be allergic to a pet’s urine, saliva and even feces.

Allergic reactions to pet dander are not due to the animal’s fur, because fur itself is not an allergen. Fur does trap pollen and dust; however, and the skin flakes that make up dander can trigger allergic reactions. If your child has pet allergies and breathes in dander or comes in contact with saliva or other less “benign” pet products (i.e., droppings), his body will go on alert and may release histamine and other chemicals in response. Histamine acts by inflaming the nose and airways and causes the well-known pet dander allergy symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing.

What Kinds of Pet Dander Allergy Symptoms Will My Child Have?

Good question!

If your child seems to have year-round symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes and frequent sneezing indoors (as opposed to just having them happen at certain times of the year), these are signs that your child may have an allergy to dust mites, mold, or your pet.

In the case of year-round symptoms, you will need to do a little work–and with your allergist’s help– determine if it’s your pet or something else causing the reactions.

Before scheduling that appointment though, do a little detective work yourself…

First, watch your child playing with the pet. You want to try to pay attention to how he is before and after being in contact with the animal. It might also help to have your child spend time away from the house, say a weekend sleepover at Grandma’s or some other place without pets to determine if the symptoms have cleared up. When you re-introduce him to the pet, pay attention to his body’s reaction.

By the way, just removing the pet won’t help — there is likely plenty of pet dander left around to trigger a reaction in the animal’s absence.

If you believe that your pet is causing the allergies, it’s time to schedule an appointment with an allergy specialist. Depending on the symptoms, we may prescribe an antihistamine to handle the reactions. But if the symptoms are more intense or impact quality of life, then you will want to find out exactly what your child is allergic to and what the best treatment options are.

One thing to note: some people with allergic symptoms of the nose or eyes are fearful that if they get tested for pet allergies and are found allergic,  that we will immediately recommend rehoming the pet. We completely understand that pets are ‘part of the family’ for many of our patients. We are very pet friendly and usually work to help our patients tolerate their pets without having to rehome them.

The way allergists determine what your child is allergic to is commonly through a skin prick or skin scratch test, also known as allergy testing. Although it looks like it hurts, in reality it only involves small indentations or “pricks” on the upper layer of the skin. The allergist places a drop of an allergen extract at each scratch location. These extracts include animal dander, mites, pollens, and plant and food extracts. If your child is allergic to any of the extracts, the small bumps like mosquito bites will immediately appear in the test spots. These bumps are a mild immunologic reaction to the allergen extract and are indicative of allergies.

Once all of the testing is done, the only definitive way to know for certain if the family pet is an issue is to remove the pet from your home and do a deep cleaning (especially of the carpets and anywhere the pet has slept). Although direct exposure to your pet may be over, it can take up to six months for the allergen levels in your house to fall enough to stop the reactions.

Is it Possible to Prevent My Child from Developing an Allergy to Our Pet?

Probably not — some children are genetically predisposed to develop some sort of allergy. But if your family is set on having a pet then then do your best to keep the indoor environment as clean and as free of dander as possible

Also, be prepared for allergy symptoms to appear later on. It can take months of exposure before a child begins to have reactions to an animal.

Are Some Pets More Allergenic or Problematic Than Others?

Although it would seem like some breeds or species of animals would be more problematic than others, there is no scientific evidence to prove that. Even though some say that short-haired animals are less allergenic than their long-haired counterparts, this simply isn’t true since it’s not the fur but the dander (skin cells) that causes the reactions. Even a hairless dog is an allergic dog. Keeping your pet well groomed and washed can help prevent dander shedding, but that won’t entirely eliminate the risk of allergic reaction.

One reason people believe cats are more of a problem is because their dander is harder to avoid. Cat dander is smaller and more “sticky” than dog dander. This allows it travel further through the air and stay on surfaces longer.

Some parents opt for small pets like hamsters or other rodents for their allergic children, but even these animals can lead to allergies when children come in contact with their droppings or other body fluids. Think about their environment: when they’re in their cages they cannot avoid their droppings. This gets in their fur and then can cause reactions when your child handles them.

Birds are a somewhat different story. Although extremely rare, bird droppings can cause a chronic lung reaction known as “bird-fancier’s lung.” Symptoms include progressive shortness of breath, fatigue and scarring of lung tissues.  More commonly, we often treat patients who are allergic to the feathers for the bird.

If a pet is a “must-have,” consider our scaly friends: fish and reptiles. Some types of lizards can be very easy to care for, easy to clean and are very friendly. They still don’t make the perfect pet, though: reptiles can carry salmonella, so may not be best suited for small children.

If you do opt for this type of pet, you should follow a few basic safety tips. Make sure your child washes his or her hands after playing with the pet, don’t kiss the pet, and keep the pet in a regularly cleaned cage that’s away from your dining area.

What’s the Best Way to Treat Pet Allergies?

The best treatment option depends on the kinds of reactions your child has to his pet. Typically, for common allergic reactions of the eyes or nose, you can get a prescription medicine to counter the symptoms. Please be aware that some people think they can just take any over-the-counter product but many of these often have undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness. Fortunately, there are several non-drowsy preparations available over the counter these days.

Allergen immunotherapy, or “allergy shots”, is the ultimate allergy therapy for many people with allergies. It works by retraining the immune system to be more tolerant of environmental allergens. Immunotherapy is a long-term solution and often provides decades of relief. This is most beneficial in cases where someone cannot avoid exposure to the animal or if the allergic reactions cannot be relieved with medications.

What Else Can Be Done to Minimize Exposure to Pet Allergens?

Realistically, you may not be able to avoid all of the common allergens, but there are some steps you can take to reduce exposure:

  • Let pets out of the house as often as possible. If that’s not possible, try to restrict your pet to non-carpeted areas of the house and definitely keep it out of your child’s bedroom. Also keep pets off of furniture! The upholstery on your couch is a pet-dander magnet.
  • Invest in an air cleaner or purifier, and/or upgrade your filters. Keeping the tabby cat to one room won’t solve the problem in the other rooms. Air currents still spread the allergens, but you can fit your heating and air conditioning system with an upgraded filter. This alone won’t solve all problems, however, since the pet dander that has fallen on surfaces isn’t airborne.
  • Perform a thorough cleaning regularly. Upholstered furniture, carpets, bedding and even your walls can capture pet dander. If possible, remove carpeted flooring and replace with hard-surface flooring. If this isn’t feasible, make sure you vacuum and dust regularly (every other day is good); this will go a long way toward reducing the amount of allergens in your house.
  • Change your child’s clothes after he is done playing with the pet. Have your child wash his hands regularly and have him avoid touching his eyes or other sensitive parts of his face prone to a reaction. Make sure your child bathes or showers before bed to avoid bringing the allergens into his room and bedding.

We realize that pets often become part of the family and we are confident that through proper treatments you and your children will be able to enjoy your pets without having to remove them from the home.

All of the medications, immunotherapy and cleaning measures will not guarantee the eradication of pet dander allergies, but with the right care and treatment, you can keep allergies under control.

If you believe you or your child has pet allergies, contact Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida today at 904-730-4870 or on our site at www.JaxAllergy.com and schedule an appointment for allergy testing.

oral allergy syndrome

About Oral Allergy Syndrome: Symptoms & Treatments

Do you experience allergic symptoms in the mouth when eating certain raw foods? If you do, you could be suffering from oral allergy syndrome.

Oral allergy syndrome is actually fairly common for seasonal allergy sufferers. As people with seasonal allergies eat uncooked or raw fruits, vegetables, and some nuts, the immune system in their mouth can mistake certain proteins in the raw food as pollens and a local allergic reaction follows.

Learn more about oral allergy syndrome including the causes and how you can treat the symptoms.

What Is Oral Allergy Syndrome?

Oral allergy syndrome (OAS) is also known as pollen-food allergy syndrome. This is caused by cross-reacting allergenic proteins found in airborne pollens and raw vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts.

The immune system of individuals with seasonal allergies recognizes similar appearing proteins in raw foods as allergens, which causes a local allergic reaction inside the mouth.

Raw foods tend to cause the most allergic reactions. Often times, the allergy sufferers won’t experience an allergic reaction when the food is heated and cooked. This is because heating changes the molecular structure of the protein and renders it non-allergenic.

What Causes Oral Allergy Syndrome?

Not everyone with a pollen allergy will experience oral allergy syndrome. Common triggers for oral allergy syndrome include:

  • Grass Pollen – cross reacts with foods including peaches, oranges, melons, tomato, and celery
  • Birch Pollen – cross reacts to foods including peaches, pear, plum, kiwi, cherry, apple, hazelnut, almond, carrot, and celery
  • Ragweed Pollen – cross reacts with foods including melons, banana, cucumber, zucchini, and sunflower seeds

What Are Oral Allergy Syndrome Symptoms?

Oral allergy syndrome symptoms are typically experienced immediately after coming in contact with food. These uncomfortable allergic reactions can include:

  • Itchy mouth
  • Scratchy throat
  • Mild swelling of lips, mouth, tongue, and throat
  • Itchy ears (in some cases)

Most of these symptoms are concentrated in the mouth area and do not spread; however, there have been rare reports of more severe and systemic symptoms. Symptoms typically occur quickly as the fresh fruit or raw vegetable reaches the mouth. After swallowed or removed, the allergic symptoms may subside within minutes to one hour.

Most Common Oral Allergy Syndrome Culprits

How Do You Avoid It?

The best way to avoid oral allergy syndrome symptoms is by avoiding raw foods known to be problematic. Be aware of your pollen allergies and which foods are associated with certain pollen proteins.

An allergist can help diagnose which pollens and foods cause allergic reactions by reviewing your clinical history, conducting skin pricks, and performing oral food tests with raw fruit and vegetables.

By educating yourself about the foods causing the problem, you can avoid the reaction from taking place.

What are Your Options for Oral Allergy Syndrome Treatment?

Though symptoms may subside in a few minutes or within the hour, don’t ignore allergic symptoms when they occur. Stop eating foods which cause an allergic reaction and take an antihistamine to relieve itchiness.

Consult with your allergist when you or your child experience oral allergy syndrome symptoms. Symptoms may occur in children as young as 3 or 4 or begin later in life for adults. An allergist can conduct tests to pinpoint which foods are causing allergic reactions and whether it’s oral allergy syndrome or another kind of food intolerance.

Interested in discovering if you suffer from oral allergy syndrome and seasonal allergies? Contact the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida for more information.

17 Back-to-School Tips for Parents of Allergy Sensitive Kids

back to school food allergy tips

It’s back-to-school time again, and if you’re the parent of a child who suffers with allergies or asthma, it can also be a stressful time.

Food allergies affect approximately one in 13 kids. That means that in the average classroom, there are about two students who are coping with some form of food allergy. Of these students, nearly 40 percent have a history of severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. Parents, teachers, and school officials need to be aware of the potentially life-threatening situations that can arise and be ready to handle them should they strike.

Here, our board-certified allergists offer advice and resources for allergy- and asthma-sensitive kids and back-to-school preparedness.

Request a meeting with the school nurse.

Often, the nurse is the most experienced and best-trained staff member when it comes to medical emergencies. Your school’s nurse is the food allergy “champion” in your school, and the nurse should be your connection for developing a coordinated effort to ensure an all-inclusive approach to managing your child’s food allergy and asthma management in the school setting. This is why one of the first things we recommend parents to do is meet with the nurse and explain all of your child’s allergy or asthma symptoms.

Speak to the school counselor to discuss whether a 504 Plan is appropriate. 

Under federal law, a food allergy may be considered a disability. In those instances your child may qualify for educational services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 504 plans outline appropriate accommodations, aids or services that a student with a disability needs to be able to fully participate in a free and appropriate public education environment. A 504 plan allows you to create, in collaboration with your child and the school, a written management plan outlining how the school will your child’s food allergies. It will also allow your child to participate safely and equally alongside their peers in all normal facets of the school day.

Disclaimer: We are not experts on 504 Plans—if you believe your child would qualify for a Section 504 Plan, please discuss this with your child’s counselor or the Special Education/504 Plan liaison at your student’s school.

Share your emergency care plan.

In conjunction with the nurse and teachers, share the emergency care plan you use for your family. Make sure all staff who works with your child is aware of this plan. This emergency care plan outlines the treatments recommended in case your child experiences an allergic reaction, the form is great for including emergency contact numbers and can be signed by your physician, pediatrician, and allergist.

Download Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan

Share pictures of typical reactions your child has.

If your child’s teacher has not cared for kids with severe allergies, it could be helpful to share pictures of what typical allergic reactions look like. If you have pictures of your student’s reactions that would probably be the best option, but even just directing staff to websites with allergic reaction pictures.

Ask your child to describe to his/her teacher what they’re symptoms feel like. 

Children explain things in their own special way. They have a way of describing their experiences that are vastly different than the way adults describe things—and their way of describing allergic reactions are no exception. Knowing how a student experiences their reactions will help the adults around them save precious time when needing to recognize a reaction that is happening. Some kids, especially little kids, will place their hands to their mouth or pull and scratch their tongues in response to an allergic reaction. Additionally a children’s voice may change in response to a reaction (they may become hoarse or squeaky), and they could begin slurring their words.

Here are some examples of what a child may say to describe their allergic reaction:

  • “My tongue is hot/on fire/burning…”
  • “It feels like something’s poking my tongue.”
  • “My tongue/mouth/lips is tingling…”
  • “My throat itches…”
  • “My mouth/tongue feels funny…”
  • “It feels like there is something stuck in my throat…”
  • “My tongue feels fat/heavy…”
  • “My lips hurt…”
  • “It feels like something/bugs are in my ears…” (to describe itchy ears)
  • “It feels like my skin is burning…”
  • “I feel bumps on the back of my tongue/throat…”

Speak with school lunch staff.

Most schools have electronic systems for tracking lunch purchases. Ask that a notification or alert be included on your child’s profile. This notifies lunch personnel of your child’s allergy status and helps ensure he or she isn’t accidentally served foods he or she reacts to. In some instances, if your child has a very severe reaction to certain foods—especially if just being in close proximity to the food can cause a reaction—staff should be able to ensure a safe area in the lunch room or a safe eating area for your child.

Keep an epinephrine injector at school.

For parents in Florida, schools can keep non-student specific epinephrine pens stocked for children who suffer from anaphylactic reactions at school. However, every child with a severe food or insect venom allergy (i.e. to bees, wasps, fire ant, etc…) should have their own prescription for an auto injector that can be kept on hand at school. We recommend EpiPen, Auvi-Q or Adrenaclick (generic). You can also check out our patient education page for info on proper use of EpiPens.

Use safety tattoos for notifying staff.

You probably don’t need these for long-term use, but for the beginning of the school year (or other times when your child will be with new care providers), these safety tattoos can be extremely helpful in making sure people are aware of your child’s allergies.

Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet.

Especially for children at risk for severe allergic reactions, this is a better option than the safety tattoos. They are also helpful for EMTs who might respond in case of a medical emergency. Also, for your fashion-conscious kids, medical bracelets can be made like stylish jewelry.

Create a “safe food box.”

It’s common for classrooms to have snacks that may cause issues for your child. Create a safe food box that can be kept with the teacher to substitute for your child with severe allergic reactions. If safe food boxes are not encouraged, you can also offer up a safe food list for your child’s teacher to ensure that reactionary foods are not in the classroom.

Ask for a list of birthday party dates.

If your child’s classroom celebrates birthdays, it is possible to ask for celebration dates in advance and whether there will be dangerous treats available. Nowadays most treats have allergen-free alternatives that can be substituted for your child to ensure they don’t feel left out.

If you have the flexibility, consider being a “classroom parent.”

This would give you a little more advance notice on events going on in the school and classroom. Also, volunteering in the PTA and on field trips can help you monitor your child (and other children that might have allergies). Additionally, many schools are in dire need of volunteers and assistance—so you’ll be helping your child and your community school.

Ask school administrators to limit or not use your child’s classroom for after school activities.

Sometimes schools have to use rooms for after-school activities or to support outside groups. Ask that your child’s room not be used for these activities. While there is no guarantee the administration can honor your request, it could help to limit allergens brought into your child’s classroom.

Find out your school’s procedures for limiting allergens on buses and transportation vehicles.

Determine if the policies and procedures are appropriate for your child. In some instances, you might be best served by transporting your child to and from school yourself. Most districts have a “no food” policy on their buses unless medically necessary (i.e., a diabetic child with low blood sugar). Some policies might include having an adult on the bus who is trained in administering epinephrine or ensuring special seating arrangements.

Request advance notice of all field trips.

This should be standard procedure for your school and student’s teacher, but don’t just assume they will give you a lot of notice for the field trips. Your child’s allergies needn’t prevent him or her from attending educational and fun field trips. But asking staff to provide you with as much advance notice as possible gives you a chance to prepare and address any allergy concerns.

Ask to speak with the kids in your child’s class.

Unfortunately, bullying occurs for all sorts of things, and kids with allergies aren’t immune to bullies. Ask your child’s teacher and principal if you can address your child’s class to help them understand what allergies are and what happens to your child if he or she has a reaction. This won’t prevent all bullying, but it’s a good way to address issues ahead of time. If speaking to the class isn’t possible, allow the teacher to address the class about your child’s allergies (without giving too much personal information). For younger classes, a great little book to share is Binky Goes Nuts — check with your child’s school or local public library to see if it’s available.

Work with your child on how to self manage his or her allergies.

Older kids need to learn how to manage their allergies and advocate for themselves. When you feel it’s age appropriate, make sure your child knows to carry their medicine at all times and how to self-administer epinephrine if appropriate.

The good news for parents is that schools are becoming more aware of kids with severe food allergies and the actions to take to keep them safe. But it’s still important for you to be your child’s number-one advocate. Follow these tips to make sure you, your child and his or her school are ready for the coming school year!

If you suspect your child has allergies or asthma and would like to have him or her tested for food allergies, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified allergy and asthma specialists. We have four convenient allergy clinics in Jacksonville.

Each school district may have different policies regarding school nurse staffing and student health policies. For our patients in Northeast Florida, please visit your school district’s website for more information:

What You Should Know About Stinging Insect Allergy This Summer

While stinging insects may be a minor annoyance to some, for others they can lead to serious, life-threatening allergic reactions. Thousands enter emergency rooms each year and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions occur in 0.4%-0.8% of children and 3% of adults. Anaphylaxis resulting from insect stings claims at least 90-100 lives each year.

Learn more about insect sting allergy, including symptoms, treatment, and how to prevent getting stung.

What Are Common Symptoms of Insect Sting Allergy?

Insect stings can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Swelling (near the sting and beyond)
  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Hives

Serious allergic reactions require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a potentially severe allergic reaction to an insect sting may include:

  • Hives, itching, and swelling beyond the site of the sting
  • Intense nausea or diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping
  • Swelling of the tongue or throat and difficulty swallowing
  • Anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing and causes the body to go into shock

Severe reactions can occur within minutes after a sting. Those who experience an allergic reaction to an insect sting have a 60% chance of a similar or worse reaction if they are stung again.

How Is Insect Allergy Diagnosed?

If you’re concerned about having an insect sting allergy, your allergist can diagnose the allergy and offer a treatment plan.

An allergist can test for the following five insects:

  • Fire ant
  • Honey bee
  • White-faced hornet and yellow-faced hornet
  • Yellow jacket
  • Paper wasp

After reviewing your medical history, an allergist will ask questions about previous insect stings, any reactions to stings, and what additional symptoms you experienced. A skin-prick test or a blood test can help diagnosis an allergy.

How Do You Manage & Treat Insect Allergy?

There is a two-step approach for managing and treating insect allergy:

  1. As soon as a reaction occurs, seek medical attention immediately.
  2. Preventive treatments can help prevent future allergic reactions.

Medical Attention

Don’t delay when a reaction occurs. Medical attention may include epinephrine, antihistamines, and in some cases, oxygen, intravenous fluids, and corticosteroids. If you have a known history of insect allergy, injectable epinephrine should be carried with you and call 911 if epinephrine is used.

Preventive Treatments

Venom immunotherapy is a highly effective therapy administered by an allergist that helps to retrain your immune system to become tolerant to insect venoms and thereby prevent future life-threatening reactions to insect stings. This is accomplished by gradually administering very small doses of the culprit insect venom to decrease sensitivity to the venom. While there is no cure for allergies to insect venoms, immunotherapy is the closest thing to it because it substantially decreases the likelihood that a life-threatening allergic reaction will occur to future insect stings.

How Can I Prevent Insect Stings?

The best way to prevent stings is to avoid bees, fire ants, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets during the summer. Try not to look or smell like a flower when spending time outdoors. Some experts think khaki and gray colored fabrics and abstaining from perfumes or other scented personal use items will help you avoid getting stung.  Always use caution around areas where yellow jacket nests are in the ground or hornet and wasp nest found in trees, bushes, or on buildings.

In addition, use the following precautions:

  • Avoid being barefoot in the grass
  • Do not leave open beverage cans unattended
  • Keep food covered outdoors
  • Seal garbage cans
  • Repair door and window screens
  • Keep epinephrine on you at all times if you are allergic to stinging insects

Are you ready for summer? Stop by one of our Four Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida Clinics if you’re concerned about insect allergies and discuss those concerns with a board-certified allergist today. A proper diagnosis and treatment plan can help ensure a fun and safe summer.

 

How to Guard Yourself Against Forest Fire Smoke and Other Respiratory Irritants

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When forest fire smoke levels or other outdoor respiratory irritants are high, even healthy people can experience symptoms or health problems. It’s important to understand how forest fire smoke and outdoor irritants can affect your health, including who is most susceptible to reactions.

The Negative Effects of Forest Fire Smoke on Your Health

Forest fire smoke is a mixture of fine particles and gasses from trees and plant material. The gasses and particles can be dangerous if inhaled. Carbon monoxide is a risk to people who work near smoldering areas.

Smoke can irritate your eyes and respiratory system. This can worsen symptoms for chronic heart and lung diseases. If exposure to smoke causes you to experience serious health issues, seek medical attention immediately.

People Most Susceptible to Health Issues from Outdoor Irritants

Those with pre-existing health conditions and those who are sensitive to air pollution may experience worse symptoms. Other groups susceptible to health issues include:

  • Individuals with asthma or other chronic respiratory disease
  • Individuals with cardiovascular disease
  • Individuals age 65 or older
  • Infants and children
  • Pregnant women
  • Smokers (especially those who have smoked for several years)

5 Tips to Reduce Exposure to Respiratory Irritants

While the best thing you can do is limit your exposure to smoke, a combination of strategies may work best to protect you. The more you can do to limit your exposure to forest fire smoke, the more you’ll reduce adverse health effects.

Keep Indoor Air as Clean as Possible

Keep windows and doors closed at home or at work. Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollutions. In addition, remember to change your air filter on your furnace and air conditioner every few months. Avoid smoking tobacco, burning candles, using wood burning stoves or fireplaces, and vacuuming (which can stir up dust and particles).

Use the AC in Your Car

Avoid leaving your windows down and use your air conditioning on the recirculate setting for fresh, cool air.

Drink Plenty of Water

Flushing your system by drinking plenty of water helps remove irritants from your body. Drink up to reduce a scratchy throat and coughing to stay healthy during fire and pollen seasons.

Reduce Time Spent in Smoky Areas

Whether it’s a forest fire, campfire, or tobacco smoke, avoid being where smoke is present. While sometimes it may be unavoidable, less exposure to smoke is better for your health.

Avoid Outdoor Activities

Vigorous outdoor activities such as running, biking, soccer, or other sports should be avoided during times of high smoke levels or outdoor irritants. Limit your workouts to indoor gyms and sports centers.

Wear Proper Protection

In areas with high levels of forest fire smoke, a simple dust mask isn’t enough. An N95 respirator mask fits over your nose and mouth and can filter 95% of smoke particles. N95 respirators do not filter toxic gasses and vapors.

Be aware that these masks can make breathing seem difficult and may lead to increased breathing or heart rates. If you have a heart or respiratory disease, only use the mask under the supervision of your allergist or other health care clinician.

Are you concerned about exposure to forest fire smoke or outdoor allergies? Talk to an allergist at the Allergy & Asthma Specialist of North Florida about testing and a treatment plan to stay healthy this summer.

 

Vitamin D Deficiency and Food Allergies: Does One Relate to the Other?

Food allergies are becoming an epidemic in today’s societies with a noticeable increase in cases in just the last decade. In the U.S. and Australia alone, 10% of infants 12 months old have been clinically diagnosed with a food allergy.

Just as food allergies increased, levels of vitamin D decreased. It’s estimated that 50% of the population in Western countries lack sufficient levels of vitamin D with 10% of the population are deficient in vitamin D.

This makes researchers wonder, could there be a correlation between food allergies and vitamin D?

Benefits of Vitamin D[1]

Vitamin D is often known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is absorbed by the skin. It is also absorbed by eating certain foods or taking supplements.

Oily fish including salmon, sardines, and tuna have the richest sources of vitamin D. Other good sources include egg yolks, liver, and foods specially fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient to support healthy body functions. Sufficient levels of vitamin D helps:

  • Regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption to support healthy bones and teeth
  • Protect against diseases such as type 1 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and multiple sclerosis
  • Support brain health, the nervous system, and the immune system
  • Aid in cardiovascular health and lung function

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency[2]

How do you know if you are vitamin D deficient? Many people don’t develop symptoms until their levels are low for a while. This can make vitamin D deficiencies hard to diagnose.

Common symptoms include:

  • Bone pain
  • Frequent bone fractures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty forming clear thoughts
  • Depression

Low levels of vitamin D can lead to more severe health issues such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Cognitive impairment in older adults
  • Asthma in children

Can Vitamin D Affect Food Allergies?  What the Research Says

Studies show locations further away from the equator (areas lacking ultraviolet radiation (UVA)) have higher rates of child food allergy-related hospital visits, peanut allergies, and epinephrine prescriptions. In addition, being born in the fall or winter with less UVA exposure relates to higher risks of food allergies and anaphylaxis in children.

Diet can also be a contributing factor. An Australian study found that children who were introduced to eggs after six months of age had a higher risk for food allergy than infants who were introduced to eggs when they were 4-6 months.

What This Means for You

The research comparing vitamin D deficiencies to food allergies is not conclusive and more research is needed to know if vitamin D can reverse food allergies. What we do know is vitamin D can protect against food allergies and is critical for your overall health and well-being.

If you think you may be vitamin D deficient, your doctor can assess your levels by a simple blood test and recommend supplements. Only take supplements under the care of health care professionals such as your primary care physician or allergist.

If your child is experiencing food allergy symptoms, schedule an appointment with the Jacksonville Allergy & Asthma Specialists for allergy testing. Call us at 904-730-4870 if you have questions about food allergies.

References:
[1] http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/vitamin-d-vital-role-in-your-health#1
[2] https://medlineplus.gov/vitaminddeficiency.html

jacksonville allergy specialists tips to handle pollen allergy

7 Things You Can Do to Feel Better During Spring Allergy Season

Sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. The true signs that spring allergy season is here.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAI), pollen season can begin as early as February and lasts through October–depending on weather patterns and your location. In Jacksonville however, we can count on a very long pollen season that begins in early January and ends in November!

If pollen allergies get you down, use these tips to feel better this spring allergy season.

1.    Drink Lots of Water

Water is central to a healthy life. Proper hydration helps fight off excess congestion from spring allergies by thinning out mucus in your nasal passages. Drinking plenty of water also prevents allergy-related sinus headaches.

2.    Avoid Being Outside During Peak Allergy Hours

Each spring, trees release millions of tiny pollen particles into the air. Simply breathing the air can cause allergic reactions. When pollen counts are high, avoid being outside as much as possible. Especially in the morning between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., on windy days, and dry, hot days.

Protect your eyes with sunglasses and wear a mouth mask when doing yard work. Avoid bringing pollen inside your home by showering, washing your hair, and changing your clothes.

3.    Track Allergy Levels on Your Phone

Use your favorite weather or allergy apps during allergy season to view daily pollen and mold count reports. Check before you head out for the day so you know what to expect.

4.    Take Allergy Medications

Avoiding the outdoors in the spring isn’t always realistic. Your allergist may recommend antihistamines and decongestants which can help relieve symptoms in adults and children.

Nasal sprays can help severe allergies but don’t take effect right away. Relief could take up to a few days. If other medications don’t offer relief, your allergist may suggest allergen immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots.” These shots contain traces of pollen and help your body build up a defense over time.

5.    Prevent Symptoms Before They Start

Prevention is key. Don’t wait for your allergies to spiral out of control. See your allergist for a treatment plan before spring allergy season begins and take allergy medications at the first sign of symptoms. Start your allergy medication routine one week before allergy season to get the medicine working in your system.

6.    Go All-Natural

Natural remedies may help offer relief. Of course, the best way to manage allergies without medications is being vigilant about avoiding known triggers.  If you’re feeling stuffed up, nasal saline irrigation with a neti pot may help by washing away the pollens, dusts and animal dander from the lining of your nose. Saline irrigation also helps to thin nasal drainage so it can be blown out and it also gently moisturizes the lining of the nose.  Products labeled “natural” or “alternative” may not be safe for all users. Some remedies can cause further allergic reactions. Consult with your allergist on which natural remedies may be right for you.

7.    Allergy Prevention Starts at Home

Keep allergens out of your home by prepping your home for spring allergy season.

  • Enforce a “shoes off” rule when entering your home.
  • Keep windows shut and cool your home with filtered air from your air conditioner. Avoid using ceiling fans which can spread pollen around a room.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum to suck up particles on your furniture, floors, rugs, and in the air.
  • Avoid hanging your clothes outside to dry as pollen can get stuck to sheets, towels, and clothing.

Don’t let allergies get the best of you this spring. Visit us at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida for allergy testing and a personalized treatment plan. Start your spring allergy medications now for long-term relief.

Medication and Allergies: Things Every Adult Patient Need to Be Concerned About

It’s common for adults to take several prescriptions to support their health and well-being as they age. But sometimes an individual drug or a combination of them can cause harmful side effects, particularly in adults with allergies and asthma.

It’s important to inform your doctors, including your dentist and ophthalmologist, if you have asthma and allergies. In addition, the side effects of allergy medications may be tolerable for some people while causing greater reactions in other patients. Work with your doctor or your allergist to avoid taking medications which may trigger severe and even fatal reactions.

Learn More About Our Drug & Medication Allergy Treatments

Allergy Medications Adults Should Be Cautious Of

Allergy medications are known for their excellent safety profile. However, high doses of allergy relief medications can cause harmful side effects for those you are sensitive to them or when they are combined with certain medications. Be aware of the side effects of the following two types of allergy medications.

Antihistamines

An allergist may prescribe antihistamines for allergies including allergic conjunctivitis (eye allergy), allergic rhinitis (hay fever), or urticaria (hives).

Antihistamines can cause drowsiness, confusion, blurred vision, and reduced alertness in older adults which can lead to falls and injuries. Other side effects include constipation and urinary retention.

When feasible, the newer second and third generation antihistamines should be used. Unlike first generation antihistamines, these newer antihistamines do not typically cause drowsiness and have fewer overall side effects. Discuss your options with your primary physician or allergy specialist to make sure you’re getting the safest antihistamine.

Decongestants

Pseudoephedrine is a common over-the-counter decongestant sold individually or in combination with an antihistamine. Pseudoephedrine is typically the “-D” or decongestant component in many over the counter allergy medications. Pseudoephedrine is a stimulant and is notorious for causing increased blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and irregular heartbeat. Those with heart disease or hypertension should be very careful when taking over the counter nasal decongestants.

Medications Capable of Inducing Asthma-like Symptoms

Patients with asthma should be aware of the reactions of these types of drugs, which can trigger symptoms that mimic asthma. 

ACE Inhibitors

Ace inhibitors treat hypertension, heart disease and kidney disease. These are usually well tolerated but can trigger a dry, repetitive cough in some people that is often confused for asthma. Interestingly, having a repetitive cough can worsen acid reflux which in turn can increase coughing and worsen asthma symptoms.

Aspirin and Other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS)

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as naproxen, aspirin and ibuprofen can also trigger serious asthma symptoms in some asthmatic patients. This condition is known as ‘NSAID or aspirin associated respiratory disease.’ Those with known sensitivities to NSAIDs and aspirin should avoid these drugs as resulting asthma attacks can be severe and fatal. Aspirin-sensitive patients often tolerate acetaminophen and other prescribed pain relievers.

Beta-Blockers

Beta-blockers are often used for the treatment of migraines, high blood pressure, heart disease and glaucoma. This class of medications can be classified as cardio-selective and non-selective. Non-selective beta-blockers (propranolol) are often avoided in asthmatics due to the potential to provoke bronchoconstriction and jeopardize asthma control. Cardio-selective beta-blockers are thought to be a safer choice for asthmatics given their limited action in the lungs. Be sure to tell all your doctors that you have asthma, including your ophthalmologist, because beta-blockers can be in many types of medications, including eye drops.

At Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida, our board-certified allergists specialize in complete allergy and asthma care for adults and children. Contact us today and schedule an appointment to learn if you’re taking the right allergy medications for your age and health needs.