Category: The Jacksonville AllerGIST!

The Complete Guide to Fall Allergies in Florida—2016

 

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

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

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

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

Combined, these factors can trigger severe allergic reactions.

What are fall allergy symptoms?

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

Whatever you call it, symptoms include:

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

What are the most common Florida fall allergens?

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

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

Ragweed

ragweed fall allergies
Common Ragweed plant

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

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

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

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

Common Ragweed

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

Giant Ragweed

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

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

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

Treatment and Defense against Ragweed Allergies

The best defense is a good offense.

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

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

Mold Allergies

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

allergy causing dead leaves
Leaves and debris can carry mold allergens

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

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

The damper the conditions, the more mold there will be. Unfortunately, forecasts for the coming fall appear to favor mold conditions as temperatures will continue to be warm and wetter through October, according to Accuweather’s fall forecast: “the Southeast will experience largely beneficial wet weather early” and our region will be humid also.

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

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

Treatment and Defense against Mold and Spore Allergies

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

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

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

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

Other Seasonally Related Triggers

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

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

Additional Tips to Manage and Control Your Fall Allergies

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

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

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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.

Portable Air Cleaners Demystified

We receive loads of questions about home air purifiers. Here’s a recent news article that sheds some light and has a direct link to an Consumer Reports article with a more in depth discussion and reviews. Hope this helps!

“Air cleaners make claims like “capture 99 percent of allergens and irritants,” “remove allergens like dust, pet dander and pollen,” healthier, fresher air.” Consumer Reports tested 26 portable air cleaners to see how well they work.

Testers pump contaminants into a controlled chamber, dust, as well as smoke. Some of the models tested were slow and to removed the contaminants and not terribly effective. The three poorest performers: Hamilton Beach TrueAir 0483, Hoover model WH10600 and Holmes HAP1200-U.

Consumer Reports says also stay away from electrostatic purifiers because they can emit ozone, which can aggravate allergies and asthma.

And be aware, even the best air cleaner isn’t going to be enough if you’re not very proactive about removing contaminants like vacuuming, dusting, making sure the rooms are adequately ventilated. Those things are actually much more important than just using an air cleaner.

If you still want an air purifier, Consumer Reports says opt for one that uses filters to clean the air.Consumer Reports recommends the Honeywell HPA300for $250. It’s relatively quiet and excels at removing dust, pollen and smoke.

Consumer Reports also tested whole-house filters for homes heated and cooled with forced-air. They replace the standard filter in a forced air system. The 3M Filtrete 1550 for about $30 is very good at removing dust and smoke and is one of the least expensive tested. Like many whole-house filters it will need to be installed by a professional.

More free information on buying an air purifier and ridding your home of pollutants is available at http://www.ConsumerReports.org/cro/air-purifiers/buying-guide.htm.”

This article originally appeared here:

http://www.news4jax.com/consumer-news/consumer-reports/portable-air-cleaners-put-to-the-test/29233210

Pregnant Mother Dies from Allergic Reaction to Wasp

 

wasp2n-5-webAnother tragic death from anaphylaxis. Immediate epinephrine administration offers the best chance for surviving life threatening allergic reactions. Every minute counts, which is why it is so important to carry the epinephrine injector with you at all times if you have a severe allergy to insect venom or foods.

 

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/pregnant-va-mom-of-four-dies-stung-wasps-article-1.1888154

7 Ways To Save Money on Allergy and Asthma Medications

Many of our patients have moderate to severe asthma and allergy symptoms. Managing these symptoms often requires medication, which can be expensive, but for the most severe symptoms, simply going without medication is not an option. In addition to shopping around for the best prices, here are a few ways you can save money on asthma and allergy drugs.

Check Online Pharmacies

A reputable online pharmacy can save you a lot of cash. By shipping medications directly to you, they cut out the middleman and they will often ship medication in multi-month supplies.

If you are concerned about potential scams or fake medications, always go with reputable and well-known online pharmacies or the big-name pharmacy branches. Whatever you do, make sure the pharmacy you choose is licensed in the United States where they have to meet certain FDA standards. Also, avoid any service that doesn’t require a prescription.

Still not sure about online pharmacies? Go with a discount pharmacy

The cheapest prescription drug prices around can be found at the so-called big box stores and warehouse pharmacies. Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club (same company), along with BJ’s, Costco, Target and even Publix often have the lowest prices on medication and will match competitors’ prices.

Unfortunately, those savings don’t apply to the name-brand drug stores such as CVS and Walgreen’s. In most instances, those stores are much more expensive than their grocery store pharmacy counterpart.

Opt for generic whenever possible

Many people don’t realize that they can get their medication in generic form. Generics are bioidentical to their name brand version but may have fewer ingredients (such as inactive ingredients that don’t have an affect on your symptoms). You can save more than 50 percent with generic medications versus their name-brand versions.

Not all doctors will prescribe the generic – not because they want you to spend more of your money, but because patients become familiar with the name brand medication and think the generic isn’t as beneficial. Always ask your doctor if you can have a generic if it’s available.

Ask if your allergy specialist has samples available

Some people are really uncomfortable with asking for samples. Don’t be. Your allergist probably has samples available that are meant to be given out if you are starting on the medication for the first time. If you are being prescribed a new medication, ask if there are any samples he or she can offer you.

Be a Google coupon search master

Coupon and discount websites are very popular. Go online and search for coupons for medications. It’s more likely that you’ll find offers and deals for over-the-counter meds, but sometimes you will also find deals for your prescription medications. Simply go to google.com and do a search for “medication” + “coupons” or “medication” + “deals” (replace “medication” with the name of the medicine you’re searching for).

In addition to searching for coupon deals, you can also go directly to the manufacturer’s websites and look for rebates and coupons there.

Look into Patient Assistance Programs

Pharmaceutical companies sometimes have programs that help them provide their drugs at discounts for people in need. If the prescription you need is expensive, check the company web site to see if they have an assistance program. You can also check out needymeds.org for information on thousands of programs for those in need.

Ask your allergist about immunotherapy

No one likes needles, but sometimes immunotherapy (allergy shots) offer the best protection against allergy symptoms. For some patients, immunotherapy helps reduce their reactions to allergens to the point they are almost non-existent. This will save you money on medications over your lifetime.

Trying to save money on allergy and asthma relief doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Asking the right questions of your doctor and doing a little bit of research can help you keep your symptoms under control and keep money in your pocket.

What tips and tricks do you have for saving money on medicine? If you have any share in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

If you are in need of allergy and asthma treatments in Jacksonville, please contact our Board Certified Allergy and Asthma Specialists today to set up an appointment.