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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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
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
Nausea or vomiting
Pain or tightness in chest
Swelling of face, eyes, or tongue
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Know Ahead of Time What Candies are Safe for Your Child
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
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.
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!
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
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:
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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 ingredients—Halloween 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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Our board certified allergists Edward Mizrahi, MD (Retired), Patrick DeMarco, MD and Thomas Lupoli, DO have years of experience specializing in the complete care of both adult and pediatric allergy, asthma and sinus conditions.