when to see jacksonville allergy specialist or ent

When to Contact an Allergist vs ENT

It’s common for people with allergy symptoms to go directly to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor for treatment. ENT doctors are surgeons who are experts in resolving structural problems involving the head, face, sinuses, nose, throat and voice box.  Allergist/immunologists are expert physicians who manage inflammatory (allergic) conditions of the nose, sinuses, ears, throat and lungs without surgery. Symptoms such as trouble breathing, sinus pressure, episodic ear discomfort, or a raspy voice can be caused by allergies and may not require surgery.

If you’re wondering whether your symptoms require visiting an Allergist or ENT doctor, continue reading to help decide the right course of action for you.

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

back to school food allergy tips

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

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

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

Request a meeting with the school nurse.

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

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

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

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

Share your emergency care plan.

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

Download Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan

Share pictures of typical reactions your child has.

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

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

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

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

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

Speak with school lunch staff.

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

Keep an epinephrine injector at school.

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

Use safety tattoos for notifying staff.

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

Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet.

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

Create a “safe food box.”

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

Ask for a list of birthday party dates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Request advance notice of all field trips.

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

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

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

Don’t forget to address recess, physical education classes, and sports.

Recess is probably the most enjoyable part of the day for kids — but if your child suffers from allergies or asthma, it can be easily turn into the worst part of the day.

For kids with allergic rhinitis (hay fever), parents can sign up for National Allergy Bureau pollen count alerts. When pollen count levels are expected to be high, you’ll be able to plan accordingly. If your child takes medication to control their symptoms you’ll be able to be ready for days when they’ll be highly affected. You may also ask your child’s teachers and school staff to do their best to keep windows closed to keep as much pollen out as possible.

Children with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction or general asthma may find participating in physical activities difficult. However, it is very important for children to be active and participate with their classmates. Parents should work with the school staff determine the best strategies to keep your child as symptom-free as possible while allowing them to participate in recess and exercise.

Some strategies may include:

  • Using short-acting inhaler 15 minutes before gym or recess
  • Ensuring they drink plenty of liquids before, during and after exercise
  • Sometimes it may be necessary to limit what sports and exercise kids can participate in to lessen the chances of triggering their symptoms and an attack.

Another issue that can affect kids during playtimes and gym are insect bites. Insect bites can cause severe allergic reactions in kids with an insect allergy. Make sure the school nurse, school staff, and your children’s teachers are aware of their insect allergy and its symptoms and ensure your child always has an autoinjectable epinephrine at the school (or with them if allowable).

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

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

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

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

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

treatment for adult onset allergies

Adult-Onset Allergies: Things You Need to Be Aware Of

With spring in full swing and summer on the way, we get to enjoy the benefits warmer weather and longer days. But with warmer weather comes allergies for many people. Even if you’ve never had allergies in the past, it’s possible to develop allergies as an adult. Adult-onset allergies, such as hay fever or food allergies, often appear in your twenties or thirties but can come on at any age. If you have dealt with a runny nose, scratchy throat, or continuous cold this spring, don’t count out spring allergies.

What Are Allergies?

Allergies develop when your immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as a threat. Common allergens include pollen, animal dander, dust, mold, and food. When an allergen enters your body, your immune system cells release chemicals, such as histamines, which attack the allergen and cause allergy symptoms.

Common allergy symptoms include:

  • Itchy, runny nose
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Congestion
  • Skin irritation
  • Digestive system issues

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and in some cases, can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic condition.

Why Am I Getting Allergies Now?

The exact reason for adult-onset allergies is hard to pinpoint as experts still don’t know exactly what triggers it. What we do know is allergies, such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), are increasing rapidly in the U.S. and around the world.

Theories as to why increases in allergies are occurring include:

  • High concentrations of airborne pollutants
  • Diets
  • Less ventilation in offices or homes
  • Sedentary lifestyles

Another popular theory is the hygiene hypothesis which states a sanitary environment without exposure to bacteria increases the susceptibility to allergies. Sanity environments could be suppressing the natural development of our immune systems. With our homes and food being much cleaner than past generations, our immune systems may not be seeing the repertoire of environmental substances needed to develop a tolerance, so they overreact to allergens.

Am I at Risk?

If you had allergy symptoms as a baby or toddler (e.g., food allergy), they may fade during the teen years and return as an adult. However, this isn’t the case for all. Some people experience allergies for the first time as adults. As we age, our immune systems change too. Experiencing an illness, getting a pet, being pregnant, or moving to a new location with different allergens may launch an immune response and the development of allergies.

Managing Your Adult-Onset Allergy Symptoms

While no one likes the idea of developing allergies late in life, there are plenty of ways to cope with them and treat them. First, see an allergist for proper diagnosis of an allergen and to discuss proper treatment options for the type of allergen. Management may include avoiding the allergen, taking antihistamines, or immunotherapy (allergy shots) which is a way to retrain your immune system to stop reacting to allergens. Some allergies, such as food allergies or insect venom allergies, can be more serious than others. Be sure to discuss with your allergist the best options for managing and treating your specific allergies.

While allergies can be unpleasant no matter the age, the board certified allergists at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida are here to help. Schedule an appointment today for allergy testing and to set up a treatment plan.

sinusitis & asthma connection jacksonville allergy specialists

Sinusitis and Asthma: What’s the Connection?

Sinusitis and asthma symptoms may be connected. Nearly half of individuals with moderate to severe asthma also experience sinusitis. Experiencing sinusitis on top of asthma can be difficult to manage when the symptoms leave you feeling sick and miserable. If left untreated, symptoms can worsen and even result in more severe cases of asthma.

If you’ve experienced a combination of sinusitis and asthma, you’re not alone. Learn more about the link between these two conditions and how to treat them.

What Is Sinusitis?

When the lining of your sinuses (the small cavities around the nose) become inflamed, this is referred to as sinusitis. As your sinuses become inflamed, they can fill with mucus and the drainage tracts can become blocked.

Common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Pain where the sinuses are located (cheeks, forehead, top of the nose)
  • Blocked nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Green or yellow mucus coming from the nose
  • Toothache-like pain
  • Fever

The condition can last for days-to-weeks (acute sinusitis) or for three months or more (chronic sinusitis). Acute or chronic sinusitis can be caused by allergies, viral infections of the upper respiratory tract, bacterial infections, fungal infections, smoking, or a compromised immune system.

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease causing inflammation in the airways. An asthma flare-up or asthma attack can happen at any time. While mild symptoms may only last a few minutes, severe symptoms can last for hours or days.

Common symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Tight chest

The Link Between Sinusitis and Asthma or Allergies

According the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, there is a link between chronic sinusitis and asthma in some people. Both asthma and sinusitis may be triggered by inflammation to an allergen or irritant. In addition, postnasal drip caused by sinusitis may trigger coughing arising from the throat which can aggravate asthma symptoms.

Chronic sinusitis can sometimes be associated with allergic conditions such as hay fever. An allergic response can cause drainage channels to become blocked and result in an infection or inflammation in the sinuses.

How Are Sinusitis and Asthma Treated?

Treatment for sinusitis can depend on whether the condition is acute or chronic and the root cause. Acute symptoms due to a viral infection typically go away on their own within a couple of weeks. Decongestant and other over-the-counter medications can help clear the airways and offer relief of headaches. If symptoms persist after 10 days, it’s best to see your doctor.

If your doctor suspects a bacterial infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics to clear the infection and reduce the inflammation.

An allergy specialist can help determine if you have underlying allergies or asthma that may be contributory. Allergists can also assist by developing a better management plan for your asthma, including preventive treatment, can help reduce inflammation and persistent symptoms. Work with an asthma specialist to develop a treatment plan to prevent and reduce asthma and sinusitis symptoms.

Don’t let sinusitis or asthma get the best of you. Contact the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida to schedule an appointment and develop an effective treatment plan.

how to deal with grass allergies in jacksonville

Top 10 Tips for Dealing with Grass Allergies

The benefits of living in Florida are plentiful. Sunny days, beautiful plants, and warm temperatures are all a part of daily life in the sunshine state. The only downside to such a warm, welcoming climate are the allergies that many residents deal with throughout the year.

Florida grasses, such as Bahia, Bermuda, and Johnson grasses, are significant allergy culprits in the spring and summer months. Long summers cause grasses to grow longer and produce pollen which results in prolonged exposure grass allergens.

Grass pollen allergies typically cause itchy and watery eyes, a runny nose, scratchy throat, nasal congestion, fatigue, and even asthma attacks in severe cases. The symptoms can appear similar to colds and the flu that many may confuse allergy symptoms with a viral illness.

10 Tips to Reduce Grass Allergy Symptoms

While grass allergy season happens every year, it doesn’t mean you should be miserable. Use the following tips for dealing with grass allergies so you can enjoy life as normal this spring.

  1. Schedule an appointment with your allergist as soon as possible. Don’t try to tough it out. An allergist can recommend the most optimal medications or other allergy treatments such as immunotherapy (allergy shots) so you don’t have to suffer all summer long. Don’t wait until the symptoms start, schedule your appointment early.
  2. Download an allergy app or check the pollen forecast daily. On days with high pollen counts, enjoy indoor activities such as going to a movie or wandering around the mall. Warm days typically result in higher pollen counts. Damp or wet days hold pollen to the ground and are better days to enjoy the outdoors.
  3. Keep grasses in your yard short. The shorter your lawn is, the less pollen will likely be released into the air.
  4. Delegate yard work duties. If you suffer from grass allergies, mowing your lawn or doing yard work increases your pollen exposure. Delegate these tasks to another family member or hire a yard crew. If you must do the work yourself, wear an N95 protective mask and take an antihistamine beforehand.
  5. Change your clothes after being outside. Don’t risk bringing pollen indoors on your clothes and wash your clothes often.
  6. Clean your children and pets. Wash the clothes of babies and toddlers often to avoid inhaling pollen they pick up. Also, wipe down your pets and bath them often during the spring and summer to keep them from bringing pollen indoors.
  7. Dress children appropriately. If your child suffers from grass allergies and will be playing on the grass, dress them in cool but long pants and sleeves to avoid contact as much as possible.
  8. Avoid hanging clothes out to dry outside. While the fresh smell and economic benefits of hang drying your laundry may be preferred, it exposes your clean clothes to pollen. Dry your clothes indoors during the spring and summer months in the dryer or on a hanging rack.
  9. Keep the windows shut. A breeze is nice, but not on days with high pollen counts. Keep your home cool by closing blinds or drapes and using air conditioning.
  10. Clean the air in your home. To ensure you have clean air in your home each day, change your HVAC air filter every three months. It may also be beneficial to invest in a HEPA filter air purifier to reduce the allergens in your home.

Don’t let spring and summer grass allergies get the best of you. Schedule an appointment with an allergist at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida today.


Exercise-Induced Asthma: Not Just an Excuse to Skip a Workout!

Exercise is important for everyone (including people with asthma) to maintain a strong, healthy body. Regular exercise is one of the body’s strongest defenses against disease. Yet people with asthma can often experience asthma episodes when they exercise.

Don’t let your asthma be an excuse to skip a workout. With proper prevention and management, you should be able to exercise without asthma symptoms.

What Is Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (Asthma)?

Exercise can cause shortness of breath for anyone. But for some people,  the airways in the lungs abruptly narrow in response to strenuous exercise and this called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), commonly known as exercise-induced asthma. Nearly 90% of people who suffer from asthma will experience EIB during exercise, but not everyone with EIB has asthma.

Symptoms of exercise induced bronchospasm include the following during exercise:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing and coughing
  • Tightness in chest
  • Decreased endurance

Symptoms usually begin during exercise and can get worse 5-10 minutes into your workout. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and typically resolve within 20-30 minutes with rest.

What Causes EIB?

When you exercise, your breath deepens and you breathe faster because your body needs more oxygen. It’s common to inhale through your mouth drawing in dry or cool air, the main trigger for narrowing airways. When you’re exposed to cold, dry air during exercise, you’re more likely to develop asthma symptoms than you would with warm, humid air. Other triggers can include high pollen levels and other airborne irritants such as smoke or strong fumes.

How to Diagnose EIB

An allergist can help determine whether your symptoms are induced by exercise alone or if you are reacting to other irritants or allergens in the air. During the examination, your allergist will ask questions about your history including if any relatives have asthma. Your doctor may have you do a series of tests to measure your breathing and lung function before, during, and after exercise.

Treatment and Management of EIB

After a diagnosis, your doctor will help you create a plan to prevent asthma symptoms during physical activity. They will also inform you of what to do if you experience an asthma episode during exercise.

Proper management of EIB may include:

  • Preventing symptoms by covering your nose and mouth with a scarf when exercising in cold, dry weather
  • Taking medication recommended by your doctor before exercising
  • Doing a proper warm-up for up to 10 minutes before vigorous activity
  • Watching your respiratory status before, during, and after exercise

If your children have EIB, be sure to inform teachers and coaches. Most children can still participate in activities but may need to take medication beforehand.

Consult with your allergist or health provider before starting an exercise program. With proper management, you can still perform well and excel in a variety of sports.

Activities likely to trigger EIB:

  • Skiing
  • Ice skating
  • Ice hockey
  • Snowboarding
  • Soccer
  • Long distance running

Activities that may be less likely to trigger EIB:

  • Volleyball
  • Baseball
  • Gymnastics
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Swimming in warm water

Common Medications for EIB

Your allergist may prescribe one of the following types of medications to prevent exercise-induced asthma.

  • Short-acting beta-agonists / bronchodilator: When taken 10-15 minutes before exercise, this medication can prevent symptoms. This can also treat symptoms of EIB if they occur.
  • Long-acting beta-agonists / bronchodilator: This medication only prevents symptoms and does not offer quick relief once symptoms start. It must be taken 30-60 minutes before an activity and can only be used once in a 12-hour period. It can help prevent EIB symptoms for 10-12 hours.
  • Leukotriene inhibitor: This medication is a pill and is typically taken at least 2 hours before exercise and is effective at preventing EIB symptoms for up to 24 hours. There is some evidence that this medication may be more effective than long acting bronchodilators for prevention of EIB symptoms.

If you or your child have EIB, don’t let this keep you from enjoying exercise. Consult with an allergist at The Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida to begin a treatment plan.

Spring Break Travel Tips for Kids with Allergies

Across the country, families are counting down to spring break to enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation while the kids are out of school. Yet, springtime can also be the worst time of the year for allergies.

Before you head out on your spring break adventures, keep these travel tips in mind so both you and your kids can enjoy a fun and relaxing spring break.

Choose a Proper Destination

Your vacation destination can be key. Certain locations may make your or your child’s allergies even worse. Locations with lush vegetation and pollen-producing plants are more likely to keep you sniffling and sneezing all week long. Popular allergy friendly locations include the desert, beaches, snowy locations, and cruises.

Schedule an Appointment with an Allergist Before You Go

Allergies can come at any age. An allergist can tell you exactly what allergens you or your child is allergic to through allergy testing. These tests are typically conducted as skin tests or blood tests. Skin tests are most common and involve testing an area on the back or forearm. If your child allergic to an allergen, they may briefly experience a small hive at the test spot.

Blood tests are also helpful and may be used as a confirmatory test or when certain medical conditions prevent allergy skin testing. Once you receive a diagnosis, your allergist can recommend the most optimal treatment plan to reduce symptoms.

Start Allergy Medications Before Symptoms Start

The key to making it through allergy season unscathed is by starting allergy medications before the symptoms start. Medications can be useful after symptoms are present, but it takes longer to feel relief. Speak with your allergist to get your kids started on allergy medications before spring break starts.

Keep Windows and Doors Shut

If you’re headed to a location with higher levels of pollen and other outdoor allergens, reduce exposure by keeping the windows and doors shut in the home and in your car. Use air conditioning for fresh, filtered air and make sure the air filters are clean and working properly.

Avoid Peak Times of Day

Download an allergy app or check the pollen count in the area you’re traveling to each day. Some days may be worse than others and you may need to keep the kids inside during peak hours. Pollen counts peak in the afternoon and is lowest in the morning and late afternoon or evening.

Travel Prepared for Anaphylaxis

While most allergies aren’t severe, there’s the potential for a life-threatening reaction to foods or certain stinging insects. Go on vacation prepared by carrying an epinephrine pen if there is a history of severe allergies to foods or insects (such as bees, wasps, hornets or fire ants). Always have the epinephrine pen available in the event your you or your child is exposed to a serious allergen and experiences anaphylaxis.

Get your family ready for a fun and relaxing spring break by thinking about allergy prevention before you go. If you think you or your child needs allergy testing, contact the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida for testing and treatment options.

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.