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Being Proactive with Allergies:

How to Prepare for Seasonal Spring Allergies

When spring is in the air, we know allergy season is fast approaching. The warmer weather causes plants to bloom and release pollen into the air. If you suffer from seasonal spring allergies, you likely experience symptoms starting in January and lasting through May. Occasionally, tree pollen shows up earlier in pollen counts so it’s important to prepare for spring allergies before the peak season begins.

Don’t wait until allergy season to get prepared. Whether you make an appointment with an allergist now or start taking allergy medications, plan in advance for spring allergies. If you haven’t been allergy tested, now is a great time to do it. Use the following seven tips to be proactive with allergies this spring.

1. Schedule an Appointment with Your Allergist

Don’t wait for allergy symptoms to start before making an appointment to see your allergist. Be sure to schedule your appointment before tree pollen appears in February, sometimes as early as January in Florida. An allergist can run tests to confirm the causes of your allergies and prepare a treatment plan to keep you feeling your best.

2. Start Allergy Treatment Before Symptoms Are Present

Your allergist may recommend antihistamines or other allergy medications to help you combat the spring allergy season. You should start taking medications around two weeks before you typically experience allergy symptoms.

Antihistamines help block or reduce histamines which cause allergy symptoms. Getting the medication in your system early can help ease or reduce a stuffy nose or itchy, watery eyes. If you need treatment beyond mediations, allergy shots (immunotherapy) can desensitize you to bothersome allergens over time. These treatments typically take a few months before patients feel relief but can offer lifelong relief of allergy symptoms, resulting in a significant decrease in medication use.

3. Track Pollen Levels

Grass and tree pollen are the biggest allergen offenders during the spring. Allergy apps for your smartphone or tablet can help you keep an eye on daily local pollen counts. In addition, keep track of the days when your allergies are worse to help you plan. Mid-morning and early evening are peak pollen hours. It’s best to stay indoors on days when the pollen counts are high.

4. Do Your Spring Cleaning Early

When longer days bring more daylight streaming through your windows, it’s easier to notice the dust and cobwebs that took over during the winter. Spring is a great time for allergy sufferers to deep clean their entire home to remove unwanted dust and pollen.

Spring Cleaning Checklist

  • Clean/dust all light fixtures
  • Wash curtains
  • Clean bedding
  • Dust bookshelves/surfaces
  • Dust electronics/appliances
  • Clean rugs
  • Vacuum upholstered furniture
  • Sweep and mop floors
  • Organize closets

5. Keep Windows Closed

As tempting as it is to fling open the windows and let the fresh air inside, keep them shut during peak pollen season. A fresh, spring breeze will likely bring pollen particles with it. Keep windows and doors shut in your home and your car to avoid pollen exposure until levels decline.

6. Refresh Your Air Filters

It’s recommended to change the air filter on your HVAC every three months to keep the air inside your home clean and fresh. It may also be time to change out the HEPA filter on your vacuum.

Don’t forget to consider other products around the house to help decrease exposure to allergens such as quality mattress covers and allergen-friendly pillowcases to reduce dust mites and prevent allergies.

7. Beware of Mold

Spring’s humidity also brings high quantities of mold spores in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, or any areas with high moisture. Check under sinks, around bathrooms, in closets on outside walls, and under the doormat. Clean and remove any mold and keep an eye on humidity levels in your home (below 50% recommended) to keep mold from returning. Repair any leaks and make sure areas have proper ventilation.

Are you ready for spring allergies? Schedule an appointment today with the Allergy & Asthma Specialist of North Florida to make sure you’re prepared. Call us today at 904-730-4870 or request an appointment online.

What Exactly Is Eczema and How Can it be Treated Effectively

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

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

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

What Exactly is Eczema?

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

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

The most common types of eczema include:

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

What Causes Eczema?

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

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

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

How Do You Treat Eczema?

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

Daily Routines & Natural Methods

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

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

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

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

Prescription Creams

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

Manage Stress

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

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

essential oils diffusers and affect on asthma

What Asthma Patients Need to Know About Essential Oils and Diffusers

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

What are essential oils?

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

Is there evidence that essential oils help asthma?

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

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

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

Are alternative treatments safe?

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Outdoor Allergens

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

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

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

Mold Spores

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

Tips to Avoid Exposure to Outdoor Mold Spores

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

Plant Pollen

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

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

Tips to Avoid Exposure to Outdoor Pollen

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

Treatment for Outdoor Allergens

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

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

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

 

allergy and sinus headaches

Allergies and Headaches: What Patients Need to Know

Make an Appointment to Get Relief Now

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

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

Symptoms of a Sinus Headache

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

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

Allergy Headache Triggers

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

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

Managing Allergy Headaches and Triggers

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

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

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

Treatment for Allergy Headaches

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

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

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

how to keep allergic reactions under control

Understand Your Allergic Reactions and How to Keep them Under Control

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

What Causes an Allergic Reaction?

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

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

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

What Are Common Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction?

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

Mild allergic reaction symptoms

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

Severe allergic reaction symptoms

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

Additional severe symptoms include:

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

How Are Allergies Diagnosed?

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

Allergy Skin Testing

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

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

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

Allergy Elimination (or Challenge) Testing

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

Allergy Blood Tests

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

7 Tips for Controlling an Allergic Reaction

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

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

See an Allergist for Diagnosis and Treatment

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

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

5 Factors That Increase Your Chances of Having an Asthma Attack

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

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

1. Having Another Allergic Condition

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

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

2. Having a Relative with Asthma

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

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

3. Being Overweight

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

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

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

4. Air Pollutants

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

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

5. Occupational Asthma

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Connection Between Asthma and Allergies

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

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

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

Why does an allergic reaction cause asthma symptoms?

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

Do allergies always cause asthma?

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

Are allergies and asthma treated the same?

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

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

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

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

How do you keep allergic asthma under control?

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

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

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

oral allergy syndrome

About Oral Allergy Syndrome: Symptoms & Treatments

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

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

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

What Is Oral Allergy Syndrome?

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

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

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

What Causes Oral Allergy Syndrome?

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

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

What Are Oral Allergy Syndrome Symptoms?

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

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

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

Most Common Oral Allergy Syndrome Culprits

How Do You Avoid It?

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

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

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

What are Your Options for Oral Allergy Syndrome Treatment?

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

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

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

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.