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

It’s back-to-school time again, and if you’re the parent of a child in Jacksonville 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.

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The Animal Allergy Sufferers’ Guide To Living With Pets

The Animal Allergy Sufferers’ Guide To Living With Pets

At Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida, we have a lot of patients come through our doors who are desperate for relief from their chronic pet-allergy symptoms but who are also distraught over the prospect of losing their furry best friends. Many allergy sufferers believe that the only way to be free of allergies is to sterilize their homes and live in a sort of bubble-type environment, devoid of any contact with pets. While it is true that some people with severe allergic disease may be required to remove animals from their home, our allergy specialists can work with you to develop a strategy that eases your allergy symptoms and may also allow you to keep your furry friends.

Read on for some easy tips to start reducing your allergy symptoms.

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understanding jacksonville pollen counts forecasts

Understanding Pollen Counts: Pollen Allergy Forecasts FAQs

Living in the Jacksonville area, you know that pollen and other allergy-causing factors can get very bad certain times of the year. In fact, tree pollen is one of the worst and most common allergens we have here in Northeast Florida. Our area produces heavy levels of tree pollen starting in January. This is much earlier than the usual springtime pollen production seen in most other areas of the country. Many people gauge pollen levels by visual factors in the outside environment–like, the layer of yellow sometimes covering our cars. At that point, your allergies have more than likely already kicked into full gear and you can’t stop sneezing.

But learning about, understanding, and paying attention to pollen counts and pollen forecasts can prove to be invaluable in fighting allergies. More importantly, checking the local pollen count can be helpful in preventing the allergic discomfort that the ‘layer of yellow’ causes. Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions regarding pollen counts and pollen allergy forecasts.

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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.

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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 in Jacksonville? 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.

primatene mist otc asthma treatment caution

Primatene Mist is Back OTC: Why We Believe Caution is Needed

Seven years after being pulled from drugstore shelves, Primatene Mist is back! If you’re a fan of this once-popular product, you can thank the manufacturers who came up with a reformulation that would satisfy environmental concerns. By switching up the propellant used in the inhaler, they were able to regain the FDA approval they had lost in 2011.

Unlike the original inhaler, this new version does not use ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Instead, is uses hydrofluoroalkanes (HFAs) as a propellant.

Asthma specialists and advocacy groups, however, have concerns about the renewed over the counter availability of this medication— here’s why:

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allergic asthma are allergies triggering your asthma

Allergic Asthma: How to Know if Allergies Are Triggering Your Asthma

Allergies or asthma can make us feel miserable. But when combined the results and symptoms can be much worse. Indoor and outdoor allergies impact over 50 million Americans with a wide range of triggers. Asthma affects 1 in 13 people and causes the airways inside the lungs to constrict and narrow making it difficult to breathe.

Allergies and asthma are the two most common chronic diseases in the United States, and they occur together more often than many people realize. In fact, allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

In Florida, allergy season begins as early as January when trees begin to release their pollen. The allergy season continues through summer and into the fall with grass pollen, ragweed pollen and molds. These allergens can trigger asthmatic symptoms in people allergic to them.

If you struggle with allergy and asthma symptoms, read on to learn more about how these two chronic diseases can be related and how to treat the symptoms.

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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.

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.