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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

forest fire smoke allergies treatment jacksonville

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.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Tree and Spring Pollen Allergies

tree pollen spring allergies

Compared to the rest of the U.S., midwinter and early spring in Jacksonville is a really beautiful time of year.

Although, our mild temperatures tend to attract folks from more frigid regions, that doesn’t mean our “cool” seasons are completely free of any downsides. In fact, if you’re allergic to tree pollen — one of the most common allergens we have here on the First Coast — you know this all too well.

Another downside? Jacksonville was in the Top 50 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies in 2016 (although, on the bright side — that is an improvement from the previous listing where we were in the top 30).

Across most of the country, trees don’t release their pollen until early spring. But, thanks to our temperate climate here in North Florida, local trees produce an abundance of pollen starting in late December!

If you suffer from tree pollen sensitivity, here’s a helpful guide for tree pollen allergies and our best advice for controlling a reaction this spring season.

First: What is Tree Pollen?

That super-fine yellow dust you find on your car in the morning or the layer of yellow  dust on outdoor surfaces is tree pollen—pine pollen to be exact.

tree pollen

Pollen carries a plant’s DNA from the stamen to the pistil (generally considered the “female” part of a plant). This process is called pollination and it’s what allows plants to reproduce.

What Trees Cause the Most Allergy Issues in Florida?

Tree pollen is a well-known, highly allergenic substance. Allergic trees native to Northeast Florida include:

Birch

river-birch-betula-nigra

River Birch are common in Northeast Florida. People with birch pollen allergies will be at their worst when the trees bloom, typically in late winter and early spring. However, birch pollen allergies are a bit different for sufferers — researchers have found that some produce can trigger allergic reactions in people susceptible to birch tree pollen allergies — this is oral allergy syndrome.

Bayberry

bayberry pollen allergies

Bayberry pollen can be easily spread when wind picks up in the spring. It’s a common Florida allergen, and many people are sensitive to the pollen as well as the scent. Bayberry is

Elms

elm tree pollen allergies jacksonville

Large, towering elms can be a beautiful sight, but for allergy sufferers elms can create a significant problem starting in late January though the spring months. Elms are wind pollinated trees and the pollen is easily carried by springtime winds.

Oak

oak tree pollen allergies jacksonville

Oak trees, especially Bluejack Oaks are a severe allergen for Floridians. These trees are common throughout residential areas and parks — so the pollen potential is very high. Oaks cause real seasonal suffering for people with oak pollen allergies because the trees have a long period of pollen production.

Maple

maple tree pollen allergies jacksonville

Red maples are one of the most abundant and widespread trees in North America. Maples are a moderate allergen and they are also one of the first trees to begin pollinating in the Winter and Spring seasons.

Pine

pine tree pollen allergies jacksonville

Although pine tree allergies are fairly uncommon, they do present issues for sufferers. Pines can be produce large amounts of pollen, often leaving layers of pollen on surfaces and spreading easily through the air. Pollen is usually worse in the early mornings, and can sometimes be mitigated by our moist, humid air.

Misconceptions About Tree Pollen Allergies

Most people assume that trees with large or fragrant flowers must be the cause most allergy problems, but actually the opposite is true. Trees with showy flowers have larger, “stickier” pollen that quickly falls to the ground. As a result,  flowering trees depend on insects (not the wind) to carry their pollen. Since these pollen aren’t blowing in the wind, you’re less likely to inhale them and develop allergies to them.

Another common misconception (which can be applied to all types of allergies) is that you cannot develop seasonal allergies as an adult if you didn’t have them as a child. Allergic reactions can come on rapidly and appear even in adulthood. It is also common when people move to new regions and are exposed to allergens they may not have been exposed to where they previously lived.

Also, people believe that there is little to no pollen near the beach — but pollen can be airborne and carried for hundreds of miles well into our beach areas. While our beaches do have lower pollen counts, they also have wild grasses and plants that can increase allergic reactions.

What Triggers Make Tree Allergy Reactions Worse?

Sometimes a perfect storm of factors can trigger allergic reactions.

Here are some common triggers that can make already bad tree pollen allergies even worse:

  • Mild, breezy days with cool evenings. When the wind picks up pollen and disperses it through the air, you don’t need to have trees in your vicinity to suffer. With occasional exceptions, this pretty much sums up the weather in Jacksonville during the second half of December through March.
  • Thunderstorms. While rainy days bring relief for allergy sufferers, thunderstorms can actually make matters worse for you. Pollen grains can be carried by the winds produced in thunderstorms and easily rupture—leading to increased allergic reaction during storms and a phenomenon called “thunderstorm asthma.” If the forecast calls for thunderstorms, stay indoors as much as possible since the rapidly changing weather preceding storms seems to increase pollen load in the air.
  • Some types of fruits or vegetables. You read that correctly! People who suffer nasal allergies from specific tree pollens also have a higher risk of reaction to certain raw fruits and vegetables. If, for example, you have a birch pollen allergy and eat raw apple or pear, you may experience a localized allergic reaction with mild swelling and itchiness inside your mouth. This is called the pollen-food allergy syndrome (formerly known as the oral allergy syndrome) and occurs when the immune system in your mouth mistakes certain raw fruit and vegetable proteins for pollens that you are allergic to. One way to fight this is to simply peel your raw fruits or vegetables and cook them (at least the ones that can be cooked) which will lessen or help you completely avoid a reaction.
  • Proximity to the trigger trees. If you have one of the culprit trees in your yard, you are, of course, more susceptible to allergy symptoms and reactions. But you may be surprised at just how much more susceptible you are: Trigger trees in your yard could expose you to more than 10 times the amount of pollen as a tree down the block.

Tree Pollen Allergy Symptoms

A sensitivity to pollen causes your body to produce an abundance of allergic antibodies called IgE. IgE allows your immune system to launch a full scale allergic response when it sees a culprit tree pollen. These reactions result in a  flood of histamines in your eyes and respiratory tract and can lead to following allergy symptoms:

  • Itchy and tearing/watery red eyes. Your eyes may be inflamed, itchy and red. There might also be “crust” (dried eye mucus) along your eyelids, most commonly experienced upon waking in the morning.
  • Bags under the eyes. You might  also notice dark circles and bags under your eyes. These are sometimes called allergic shiners and are due to congested blood vessels associated with nasal inflammation.
  • Runny nose. People with tree pollen allergies experience nasal congestion and a runny nose at the same time. A runny nose might also result in post-nasal drip. Children can develop a semi-permanent crease along their noses from constantly rubbing the tips of their runny noses upward—a maneuver affectionately termed the allergic salute!
  • Sneezing and congestion. You may sneeze frequently, have an itchy nose, and feel pressure in your nose and sinuses.
  • Coughing fits or sore throats. Allergies to tree pollen may also cause you to experience a scratchy, sore throat. The discomfort can be due to inflammation, post-nasal drip or both. Depending on how much you’re coughing, you could also develop laryngitis and hoarseness.

Airborne pollen can also trigger asthma, making breathing difficult and leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

While these symptoms may seem mild at first, over time they can cause progressive impairment of quality of life, work  and sleep. More severe reactions may occur in people with asthma and other respiratory problems.

In addition to the above symptoms, some of our patients report feeling as if they have the flu for months and just feel physically drained. Pollen allergies are also described like a bad cold that just won’t go away.

Tips for Avoiding or Limiting Tree Allergies

Since we have a good idea of when the tree pollen allergy season will begin each year, it’s easy to start taking precautions early. Some of the precautions are common-sense and, depending on your situation, some may be more realistic than others.

  • Avoid contact with tree pollen as much as possible. It’s best to avoid coming into physical contact with pollen as much as you can. Limit your time outdoors on high pollen days; keep windows in cars closed at all times during tree pollen season; and consider wearing gloves or a mask if pollen counts are very high and you must be outside.
  • Remove trigger trees. If possible, remove any trigger trees that are in your yard. If removing the tree is not an option, get it trimmed back as much as allowable to reduce the amount of pollen it produces.
  • Keep windows and doors shut. On these beautiful days it’s tempting to open up the windows and doors for some fresh air—but high pollen counts and windy days will bring pollen inside to get trapped in carpets and furniture.
  • Do not dry clothes outdoors. Although it can be a money saver, do not hang laundry outside to dry—they will certainly collect pollen.
  • Avoid early morning outdoor exercise. Trees tend to pollinate in the early AM. If you must exercise early, try to do so in a gym or some other indoor setting. Outdoor exercise should be left to later in the day when pollen has had a chance to settle.
  • Always check the pollen forecasts. Be aware of what the coming days will bring. Like our Facebook page for allergy forecasts or visit www.pollen.com or weather.com for other allergy reports around Florida.
  • Shower in the evening. Showering before bed will remove pollen from your hair and will help avoid spreading it all over your pillow and bedspreads.
  • Vacuum often. Vacuum your house at least twice per week to remove pollen and dust that have become trapped in your carpets. Consider wearing a mask when vacuuming, as your machine can kick up dust and pollen articles into the air when vacuuming and emptying it’s contents.
  • Clean out and replace filters as recommended. Many air conditioning units are equipped with whole house filters to trap dust and air particles. Clean and replace filters as recommended by your air conditioning unit and manufacturer’s recommendations.

Allergy Testing and Treatment

The good news is that you don’t have to suffer through tree pollen season. Be sure to contact an allergy and asthma specialist for a formal allergy evaluation, preferably before the season begins or very early in the season. You may already know that you have a seasonal allergy, but do not know just which pollen(s) you are allergic to. Allergists can determine the specific pollens that are causing your problems and can tell you when that pollen is expected to be in the air.

Your allergist will take a detailed history of any reactions you’ve had, then if indicated, he or she can test for allergies to identify the culprit allergen and determine the best course of treatment.

The most common method of testing for pollen allergies is a simple skin prick test. At our office, we use a very fine stylet that is lightly pressed against the skin. The stylet introduces individual pollens and other allergens to the immune system in your skin. If you’re allergic or sensitive to a particular allergen, a small pink raised bump will appear within minutes where the skin prick test was placed.

For some people, a blood test may be the best option to determine your allergic sensitivity. A small amount of your blood is taken and tested to check for antibodies that respond to specific allergens. Depending on your allergy test results, we can offer guidance about the best and most direct course of action for your symptoms.

Treatment options for tree pollen allergies can range from avoidance, to physician-recommended over-the-counter or prescription medicines to allergy shots (also known as allergen immunotherapy) for more severe reactions. Your allergist will work with you to determine what is best for your needs and your lifestyle.

What do you do if you’re caught off guard without allergy medicine?

Here’s a great, quick remedy treatment you can use in case you find yourself in a situation where you can’t take medication or avoid your triggers.

First, check the pollen forecast. Then use nasal saline rinse or irrigation several times throughout the day during the worst of the tree pollen season. The saline irrigation removes pollen particles from the surface of your nasal passages, clears thick or crusted nasal drainage and soothes irritated nasal membranes.

There are a number of studies that found that patients with allergic rhinitis or chronic sinusitis who use regular saline rinses have less bacterial load and require fewer antibiotics. Using a rinse may also reduce your need for medication to control allergies.

You can buy saline rinse or irrigation kits at any drugstore and many grocery stores. These kits usually use a squeeze bottle or gravity to direct saline through the nasal passages. A common squeeze bottle technique is to position your head downward and rotated slightly to the left (do this over a sink). Gently squeeze some of the solution into your right nostril; the solution  will come out through your left nostril. Now repeat on the other side.

Ready or not, tree pollen season is here! If you haven’t already prepared and expect you’ll need help this season, be sure to contact us today to schedule an appointment. This is a gorgeous time of year that should not be missed by staying indoors. Don’t suffer, we’re here to help.

 

asthma prevention jacksonville kids

Tips for Preventing Asthma in Children

Watching any child suffer from asthma can leave a parent feeling helpless. Thankfully, there are a few things a parent can do to prevent asthma in the first place.

By becoming familiar with the most common asthma triggers, a parent can learn to identify and prevent asthma in their child.

Allergies

Does your child sneeze when he pets a cat? Does she come home with puffy eyes and a slight wheeze every time she returns from her friend’s house? Your child might suffer from allergy induced asthma.

Allergies are a very common trigger for asthma, causing a child to progress from allergy symptoms such as a runny nose, puffy eyes and sneezing, to restricted breathing or even an asthma attack.

Familiarizing yourself with the most common allergies – such as dust, mold, pets, and pollen – and keeping a journal or mental note of when and where your child’s asthma flares up, can help you determine which allergies your child might have. Keep in mind, sometimes a child’s allergic reaction will be strongest immediately upon leaving the environment to which he or she is allergic.

Finding it difficult to figure out what things your child might be allergic to? Allergy testing by a board-certified allergist can immediately identify pertinent allergic triggers.

Once you’ve figured out which allergies your child has, discuss how you can work together to avoid environments that cause allergic reactions.

  • If she’s allergic to dogs but loves playing at a friend’s house who has a dog, suggest they play outdoors instead of indoors.
  • If you find he has a mold allergy, teach him to identify mold and avoid the places that have it.
  • If dust is a problem, buy hypo-allergenic products to make her bedroom(where she spends at least one-third of the day) a healthier place for her.

Avoiding exposure to allergens not only prevents an immediate reaction, it can make a significant difference in your child’s health over the long term as well.

Cigarette Smoke

Even a few seconds of second-hand smoke can be enough to irritate the airways of a child with asthma. Exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy has been linked to the development of allergies in children.

If you or your child are exposed to cigarette smoke on a regular basis, consider making changes.

Exercise

Does a short game of tag leave your child coughing or wheezing? They might be suffering from exercise-induced asthma. The majority of those with asthma experience symptoms during exercise.

If you notice your child suffering from asthma after running around the yard or during gym class, discuss with your doctor what you can do to lessen the symptoms when your child is active.

Poor Air Quality

For those who do not suffer from asthma, perhaps the least obvious trigger is the air we breathe: in our homes, at our parks, and in our schools.

According to the American Lung Association, over half of Americans live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Over time, polluted air irritates the lungs and reduces lung function, making a child with asthma even more prone to attacks.

Though it’s often not possible to move to an area with better air quality, there are things you can do to significantly improve air quality for your child. Install a HEPA air purifier in the bedroom and have an indoor air quality check in your home, also check the local air quality index (AQI) before deciding which days are better suited for outdoor activities and which days might be better spent at home.

If you’re concerned about your child’s asthma, contact us to get started on a prevention plan.

Problems in the bedroom? It May Be Your Allergies

bedroom allergy solutions

Coughing, sneezing, sniffling—if you’re an allergy sufferer, you know the drill. What’s worse is dealing with itchy, red eyes and sneezing in the bedroom, the one room in your home that should be a haven.

Did you know bedrooms can cause some of the worst exposure for allergy sufferers? It may surprise you where pesky allergens are hiding. Don’t let allergy symptoms ruin a good night’s rest. Learn more about common bedroom allergies and what you can do to avoid them.

Why the Bedroom?

The bedroom is home to a slew of allergens including dust mites, pet dander, chemicals, dust, and molds. Here you may spend 6-8 hours a day sleeping, getting ready for the day, or simply relaxing—which means you have a longer exposure to microscopic critters and particles that cause allergies and allergy-like symptoms.

Common Allergens in the Bedroom

If you suffer from allergies in the bedroom, it may be one of these three common allergens:

Dust Mitescommon dust mites that cause allergies

Bedrooms are the perfect breeding ground for dust mites. Learn more about them and how to avoid them.

What are they?

Dust mites are microscopic creatures that flourish in warm, damp conditions and often take up residence in mattresses, pillows, carpets, furniture, and fabrics. Dust mites feed on the skin cells you shed, obtain warmth from your body, and extract water from your sweat or exhaled breath. These tiny critters are completely harmless, but their microscopic droppings are known for triggering allergic reactions in allergy sufferers.

What are the symptoms?

Dust mite allergies can be mild or severe in some cases. The following are a few of the major symptoms:

  • Itchy or runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sinus pressure
  • Cough
  • Scratchy throat
  • Watery or red eyes
  • Itchy skin

How can I avoid them?

We recommend that you wash your bed linens and dust your bedroom weekly. Minimize objects in your bedroom that collect dust such as stuffed animals or knick-knacks and protect your mattress, box spring, and pillows with special woven dust mite covers. These covers should have pores less than four microns in diameter. In extreme allergy cases, remove upholstered furniture or carpeting and replace with leather or vinyl furniture or wood, vinyl, linoleum, or tile flooring. Wash bedroom curtains on a regular basis or trade them for shades or blinds that you can wipe clean.

Animal Dander

pet animal dander allergies

If you have cats or dogs in the house, their dander could be affecting your allergies in the bedroom. Here’s how:

What is it?

Animal or pet dander are skin particles containing proteins that become airborne and may produce allergic reactions. It’s not animal hair that causes an allergy as many suspect, it’s the dander produced by their skin. Due to the small size (often smaller than pollen or dust mite particles) dander can remain in the air for long periods of time.

What are the symptoms?

Animal dander can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms including:

  • Itchy skin
  • Red, itchy eyes
  • Wheezing, coughing, or sneezing
  • Asthma symptoms
  • Trouble breathing
  • Tightness in your chest

How can I avoid it?

In extreme pet allergy situations, you may need to remove the animal from your home. To reduce your exposure to allergens in the bedroom, keep pets outdoors or away from bedrooms. Don’t allow pets to be in carpeted areas or on upholstered furniture. Vacuum the floors and furniture weekly with a HEPA filter vacuum and wash your bedroom linens each week. Wash your hands after touching your pet and give your pet a bath once a week to reduce dirt and dander.

Mold

mold causing allergies in bedroom

Mold is a silent offender that creeps in and leaves a mess in its wake. Here’s what you need to know to battle mold in the bedroom:

What is it?

Mold is a form of fungus that grows on objects such as carpet, paper, drywall, insulation, wood, and food. Molds flourish in dark, warm environments with moisture accumulation due to humidity, condensation, or water leaks. Pores can develop in as few as 24-48 hours in wet, warm conditions. Large colonies of mold that are visible to the eye are made from a network of connected multicellular filaments called hyphae. As it feeds on the organism it attaches to, the nutrients cause the mold to flourish and grow.

What are the symptoms?

The following are some common mold allergy symptoms:

  • Itchy, irritated eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Wheezing, coughing, or sneezing
  • Scratchy throat

How can I avoid it?

The first thing you need to do is control the moisture levels in your home by fixing any plumbing, roof, or AC leaks right away. Keep your bedroom well ventilated and avoid using rugs or carpet in this space if possible—if that isn’t possible it’s imperative that you vacuum regularly and use HEPA air filters to decrease indoor mold spores (multiple times per week is best). Shut doors and windows during the rainy season and use your air conditioning to reduce indoor moisture. A dehumidifier is a great tool to decrease the relative humidity in your home to below 40%. Minimize other sources of molds in your bedroom by removing houseplants, damp clothing, aquariums, books, or damp rugs.

Are allergies getting the best of you? Contact the Board Certified Allergists at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida to help diagnose or manage your allergy symptoms. Make an appointment to learn more today.

title image: Copyright: poligonchik / 123RF Stock Photo

dust mites: Copyright: Eraxion / 123RF Stock Photo

pet dander: Copyright: websubstance / 123RF Stock Photo

mold: Copyright: fotostudiod3x / 123RF Stock Photo

Is it a Rash or Chronic Hives? Here’s How to Tell

chronic hives (1)

Chronic hives are more than an uncomfortable itch begging to be scratched. Often confused with other types of rashes, chronic hives are marked by frequent outbreaks that may not have an identifiable trigger.

This skin condition affects around 20% of the population at some point in their lives. While typically not life threatening, the repetitive nature of chronic hives can cause significant discomfort  and  affect a person’s quality of life.

Read on to learn how to identify this skin condition, its symptoms and the appropriate forms of treatment.

What are Chronic Hives?

Chronic hives, also known as chronic urticaria, are hives that come and go for more than 6 weeks.

It’s difficult to determine exactly why hives occur, though some sufferers may be able to pinpoint certain trigger foods, insect bites or medications as the cause. Chronic hives may also occur in conjunction with autoimmune diseases such as  lupus, thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Other factors such as heat, stress, alcohol and even exercise can bring on a case of urticaria in susceptible individuals.

While anyone at any age can have a hive outbreak, it’s young adults and females that are most at risk for developing chronic hives.

What Do Chronic Hives Look Like?

pink and white welts from hives on back
pink and white welts from hives on back

Chronic hives often look like typical hives. An outbreak of hives can manifests  all over the body but are usually most prominent on the arms, legs and torso. They typically produce pink, red  and white puffy welts, which vary in size and shape. Some may be as small as a pen tip while others swell to the size of a dinner plate. Hives can form individually or connect to create larger patches.

The welts typically itch and may cause a brief painful, burning or warm sensation in the involved area.

How Can I Distinguish Them From Other Rashes?

Unlike other rashes, chronic hives often migrate around the body and usually respond well to allergy medications. Chronic hives are sometime associated with with angioedema, a form of tissue swelling that occurs deep in the skin. Angioedema causes swelling of the eyelids, mouth, hands, feet and sometimes can involve the throat.

The key difference between hives and other skin rashes is that each individual hive lesion rarely last more than 24 hours in one place and resolve without leaving marks or bruises. Most other rashes will last more than 24 hours in one spot and resolves slowly, leaving marks, discoloration or bruises.

How Can An Allergist Help Me Manage Chronic Hives?

Board-Certified Allergists & Immunologists are experts in the diagnosis and management of chronic hives. In addition to helping  you better understand your condition, they can often identify common aggravating triggers for your rashes.  Chronic hives can take weeks-years to resolve and often place a significant burden on quality of life.  To make matter worse, over the counter medications can leave you feeling drowsy.

The good news is that there are several very effective, safe and well tolerated treatment options available. Your allergist can help tailor the best long-term treatment plan to assure you have the  most symptom-free days as possible without undesirable medication side effects.

If you are suffering from chronic hives, contact our allergy specialists today and schedule a consultation to discuss the most effective treatments available for you.

Is it the Flu, Cold, or Allergies: How to Tell The Difference

cold flu or allergies

Feeling run down and stuffed up?

Are your eyes itchy and your nose running?

One thing is for sure—you’re not feeling like yourself. But are you suffering from allergies, the common cold, or even worse, the flu?

It’s not always easy to identify the cause as you might think. The symptoms for each of these illnesses frequently overlap. However, there are some tell-tale signs to be aware of that may help you determine what the problem is and decide the best course of action.

Study the following symptoms to make sure you’re properly treating the underlying cause of your discomfort. As always, remember discussing this with your physician is the best option.

Signs of the Common Cold

The dreaded common cold. It’s common enough for everyone to experience it, but somehow it still doesn’t have an cure. It comes around frequently enough to be a problem as adults suffer from an average of 2 to 3 colds a year.

If you’re feeling under the weather, keep an eye on the following cold-like symptoms:

  • Mild fever
  • Thick, green or yellow mucus
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Development of symptoms over a few days’ time
  • Mild body and headaches

Colds are most common in the spring and winter, but can show up any time of year.

Flu Symptoms

Flu symptoms tend to be similar to cold symptoms but are often more severe. An estimated 200,000 Americans are hospitalized due to the flu or flu-related complications each year. Some groups of the general population especially children and the elderly are more likely to suffer from life-threatening cases of the flu.

The following tell-tale signs point to the flu:

  • A high fever lasting 3 to 4 days
  • Severe body aches
  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Development of symptoms over a few days
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat

Like the common cold, it’s possible to get the flu at any time of year but its peak season lasts from December to February.

Allergy Symptoms

Allergies have the uncanny ability to mimic cold and flu symptoms. However, they’re not caused by viruses but instead, provoked by an allergen or allergens. Allergies may develop at any stage of life and can cause chronic symptoms.

If you suspect you have allergies, watch out for the following:

Allergies may develop any time an allergen is present.

When to Talk to an Allergy Specialist

We often think of allergies as being as simple as a sniffle or a cough, but they can progress if not cared for. An allergy specialist will help you manage allergies and help you improve your quality of life.

Allergists can identify what triggers your allergies and then determine the most appropriate course of treatment. In some cases, over-the-counter medications may be ineffective. Your allergist may prescribe medications to reduce the symptoms of your allergies and prevent reactions.

If you’re having trouble performing everyday tasks or your allergy symptoms are getting in the way of you enjoying life, it’s time to meet with an allergy specialist—contact Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida to set up a convenient appointment to meet with one of our board certified allergy specialists.

Symptoms such as chronic infections, chest tightness and breathing difficulties may require immediate attention.