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.  

pollen allergies in jacksonville

10 Tips For Dealing With Pollen Allergies in Jacksonville

One of the more common allergy and asthma problems we see in North Florida are our patients’ responses to pollen. Pollen is a potent allergen that consists of microscopic, grains that are released by plants, then are carried to other plants by wind as part of nature’s pollination process. When pollen is being dispersed, it can be easily inhaled into sensitive nasal passages and trigger an allergic response. When you are allergic to pollen, your body sees it as an invader and mounts a defense that can result in watering eyes, constricted airways and a runny, itchy nose.

Here in Florida, pollen can be very difficult to avoid since each type of pollen in our area is released at different times. Our pollen seasons tend to begin earlier and last longer than those in other states and can be a year-round problem. Typically, Florida’s pollen seasons are December to May for tree pollen, April to November for grass pollen and July to November for weed pollen.

While we can’t control the seasons or the amount of pollen in the air, there are some things we can do to limit the extent of our exposure and our response to it.

Pollen Allergies in Jacksonville: Top 10 Tips to Control Them

Keep Windows at Home and in Cars Closed

When you’re experiencing allergy symptoms during pollen seasons, it’s best to keep your house and car windows shut at all times. While we have some beautiful weather here in Jacksonville, opening windows allows the pollen to get into your car or home and settle on every surface. Once pollen has accumulated on surfaces, even cleaning them can increase the possibility of an allergic reaction.

Use “Recirculation” with your Car’s AC

When you’re riding in the car, keep the air conditioning on the “recirculation” mode. This works to keep the already-filtered air circulating in the car. If the air conditioner is not needed, close all the vents. The vents still allow air flow when the air conditioning is off, so closing them will limit the pollen that makes it into the interior of your car.

Keep Air Conditioning Units Serviced and Clean

While there is no solid evidence that cleaning your air conditioning ducts can help you control your allergies, it is still a good idea to take the precaution of having your air conditioning units cleaned and serviced by an air conditioning company in Jacksonville before allergy season sets in. It is also a good idea to have your air conditioner set to recycle the air in your home (similar to the recirculation setting in your car). Getting your air conditioning serviced and your filters replaced with a HEPA filter can also reduce the amount of allergens in the air around you.

Pay Attention to How Much Pollen You Bring in your House

Limit how much pollen you are tracking into your home, especially into your bedroom. When you come in from the outdoors, take a shower immediately and change clothes. For women especially, hair traps a good amount of pollen, so it’s important to wash your hair before bed each night.

Limit Your Time Outdoors in the Early Mornings

Pollen counts in Jacksonville tend to be highest in the mornings, typically between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Limit your exposure by avoiding outdoors when pollen counts are highest. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, try to schedule your outings for the afternoons instead of the mornings. If you suffer from severe pollen allergies, you might consider engaging in indoor sporting activities only during the peak of pollen season.

Avoid Tackling Lawn and Outdoor Work

Lawn mowing will stir up settled pollens, so mowing duties should be left to family members who aren’t allergic to pollen if at all possible. Wear a protective mask and eye protection while doing yard work during your pollen season. If that’s not an option, consider hiring a local lawn care and control company.

Look Out for the Pollen on Your Pets

House pets that spend time outdoors will bring pollen indoors on their fur. Be sure to wash your pets at least one or two times per week during your peak allergy season. Always keep your pets off your bed and preferably out of your bedroom altogether.

Keep Bedroom Linens Clean

Wash bed linens at least once per week to get rid of any pollen that may have settled there. When doing laundry, avoid using an outdoor clothesline during the pollen seasons.

Carpets are Pollen Traps: Keep them Clean

Keep carpets vacuumed and clean. Vacuuming will remove pollen and other allergens (like pet dander) that have settled in your carpets. It would also be a good idea to steam clean your carpets at the beginning of the allergy season. Either do it yourself or have a professional Jacksonville carpet cleaning company do it for you.

Be proactive and aware!

Check the pollen reports during allergy season. This will help you prepare for your day and know what to expect. For convenience, the Jacksonville area pollen forecast is regularly posted on our website at

Allergic reactions to pollen can be a frustrating and annoying part of your life, but following these tips can help limit your immune system’s response. If you believe your symptoms are worse than normal or you aren’t sure what’s causing your reactions, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified Jacksonville Allergy Specialists.

how to deal with pet allergies

Pet Allergies and Kids: What Parents Need to Know

Pet allergies are your body’s physical reaction to an animal. People are usually allergic to the pet dander (an animal’s skin flakes), but they can also be allergic to a pet’s urine, saliva and even feces.

Allergic reactions to pet dander are not due to the animal’s fur, because fur itself is not an allergen. Fur does trap pollen and dust; however, and the skin flakes that make up dander can trigger allergic reactions. If your child has pet allergies and breathes in dander or comes in contact with saliva or other less “benign” pet products (i.e., droppings), his body will go on alert and may release histamine and other chemicals in response. Histamine acts by inflaming the nose and airways and causes the well-known pet dander allergy symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing.

What Kinds of Pet Dander Allergy Symptoms Will My Child Have?

Good question!

If your child seems to have year-round symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes and frequent sneezing indoors (as opposed to just having them happen at certain times of the year), these are signs that your child may have an allergy to dust mites, mold, or your pet.

In the case of year-round symptoms, you will need to do a little work–and with your allergist’s help– determine if it’s your pet or something else causing the reactions.

Before scheduling that appointment though, do a little detective work yourself…

First, watch your child playing with the pet. You want to try to pay attention to how he is before and after being in contact with the animal. It might also help to have your child spend time away from the house, say a weekend sleepover at Grandma’s or some other place without pets to determine if the symptoms have cleared up. When you re-introduce him to the pet, pay attention to his body’s reaction.

By the way, just removing the pet won’t help — there is likely plenty of pet dander left around to trigger a reaction in the animal’s absence.

If you believe that your pet is causing the allergies, it’s time to schedule an appointment with an allergy specialist. Depending on the symptoms, we may prescribe an antihistamine to handle the reactions. But if the symptoms are more intense or impact quality of life, then you will want to find out exactly what your child is allergic to and what the best treatment options are.

One thing to note: some people with allergic symptoms of the nose or eyes are fearful that if they get tested for pet allergies and are found allergic,  that we will immediately recommend rehoming the pet. We completely understand that pets are ‘part of the family’ for many of our patients. We are very pet friendly and usually work to help our patients tolerate their pets without having to rehome them.

The way allergists determine what your child is allergic to is commonly through a skin prick or skin scratch test, also known as allergy testing. Although it looks like it hurts, in reality it only involves small indentations or “pricks” on the upper layer of the skin. The allergist places a drop of an allergen extract at each scratch location. These extracts include animal dander, mites, pollens, and plant and food extracts. If your child is allergic to any of the extracts, the small bumps like mosquito bites will immediately appear in the test spots. These bumps are a mild immunologic reaction to the allergen extract and are indicative of allergies.

Once all of the testing is done, the only definitive way to know for certain if the family pet is an issue is to remove the pet from your home and do a deep cleaning (especially of the carpets and anywhere the pet has slept). Although direct exposure to your pet may be over, it can take up to six months for the allergen levels in your house to fall enough to stop the reactions.

Is it Possible to Prevent My Child from Developing an Allergy to Our Pet?

Probably not — some children are genetically predisposed to develop some sort of allergy. But if your family is set on having a pet then then do your best to keep the indoor environment as clean and as free of dander as possible

Also, be prepared for allergy symptoms to appear later on. It can take months of exposure before a child begins to have reactions to an animal.

Are Some Pets More Allergenic or Problematic Than Others?

Although it would seem like some breeds or species of animals would be more problematic than others, there is no scientific evidence to prove that. Even though some say that short-haired animals are less allergenic than their long-haired counterparts, this simply isn’t true since it’s not the fur but the dander (skin cells) that causes the reactions. Even a hairless dog is an allergic dog. Keeping your pet well groomed and washed can help prevent dander shedding, but that won’t entirely eliminate the risk of allergic reaction.

One reason people believe cats are more of a problem is because their dander is harder to avoid. Cat dander is smaller and more “sticky” than dog dander. This allows it travel further through the air and stay on surfaces longer.

Some parents opt for small pets like hamsters or other rodents for their allergic children, but even these animals can lead to allergies when children come in contact with their droppings or other body fluids. Think about their environment: when they’re in their cages they cannot avoid their droppings. This gets in their fur and then can cause reactions when your child handles them.

Birds are a somewhat different story. Although extremely rare, bird droppings can cause a chronic lung reaction known as “bird-fancier’s lung.” Symptoms include progressive shortness of breath, fatigue and scarring of lung tissues.  More commonly, we often treat patients who are allergic to the feathers for the bird.

If a pet is a “must-have,” consider our scaly friends: fish and reptiles. Some types of lizards can be very easy to care for, easy to clean and are very friendly. They still don’t make the perfect pet, though: reptiles can carry salmonella, so may not be best suited for small children.

If you do opt for this type of pet, you should follow a few basic safety tips. Make sure your child washes his or her hands after playing with the pet, don’t kiss the pet, and keep the pet in a regularly cleaned cage that’s away from your dining area.

What’s the Best Way to Treat Pet Allergies?

The best treatment option depends on the kinds of reactions your child has to his pet. Typically, for common allergic reactions of the eyes or nose, you can get a prescription medicine to counter the symptoms. Please be aware that some people think they can just take any over-the-counter product but many of these often have undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness. Fortunately, there are several non-drowsy preparations available over the counter these days.

Allergen immunotherapy, or “allergy shots”, is the ultimate allergy therapy for many people with allergies. It works by retraining the immune system to be more tolerant of environmental allergens. Immunotherapy is a long-term solution and often provides decades of relief. This is most beneficial in cases where someone cannot avoid exposure to the animal or if the allergic reactions cannot be relieved with medications.

What Else Can Be Done to Minimize Exposure to Pet Allergens?

Realistically, you may not be able to avoid all of the common allergens, but there are some steps you can take to reduce exposure:

  • Let pets out of the house as often as possible. If that’s not possible, try to restrict your pet to non-carpeted areas of the house and definitely keep it out of your child’s bedroom. Also keep pets off of furniture! The upholstery on your couch is a pet-dander magnet.
  • Invest in an air cleaner or purifier, and/or upgrade your filters. Keeping the tabby cat to one room won’t solve the problem in the other rooms. Air currents still spread the allergens, but you can fit your heating and air conditioning system with an upgraded filter. This alone won’t solve all problems, however, since the pet dander that has fallen on surfaces isn’t airborne.
  • Perform a thorough cleaning regularly. Upholstered furniture, carpets, bedding and even your walls can capture pet dander. If possible, remove carpeted flooring and replace with hard-surface flooring. If this isn’t feasible, make sure you vacuum and dust regularly (every other day is good); this will go a long way toward reducing the amount of allergens in your house.
  • Change your child’s clothes after he is done playing with the pet. Have your child wash his hands regularly and have him avoid touching his eyes or other sensitive parts of his face prone to a reaction. Make sure your child bathes or showers before bed to avoid bringing the allergens into his room and bedding.

We realize that pets often become part of the family and we are confident that through proper treatments you and your children will be able to enjoy your pets without having to remove them from the home.

All of the medications, immunotherapy and cleaning measures will not guarantee the eradication of pet dander allergies, but with the right care and treatment, you can keep allergies under control.

If you believe you or your child has pet allergies, contact Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida today at 904-730-4870 or on our site at and schedule an appointment for allergy testing.

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.


How to Guard Yourself Against Forest Fire Smoke and Other Respiratory Irritants

forest fire smoke allergies treatment jacksonville

When forest fire smoke levels or other outdoor respiratory irritants are high, even healthy people can experience symptoms or health problems. It’s important to understand how forest fire smoke and outdoor irritants can affect your health, including who is most susceptible to reactions.

The Negative Effects of Forest Fire Smoke on Your Health

Forest fire smoke is a mixture of fine particles and gasses from trees and plant material. The gasses and particles can be dangerous if inhaled. Carbon monoxide is a risk to people who work near smoldering areas.

Smoke can irritate your eyes and respiratory system. This can worsen symptoms for chronic heart and lung diseases. If exposure to smoke causes you to experience serious health issues, seek medical attention immediately.

People Most Susceptible to Health Issues from Outdoor Irritants

Those with pre-existing health conditions and those who are sensitive to air pollution may experience worse symptoms. Other groups susceptible to health issues include:

  • Individuals with asthma or other chronic respiratory disease
  • Individuals with cardiovascular disease
  • Individuals age 65 or older
  • Infants and children
  • Pregnant women
  • Smokers (especially those who have smoked for several years)

5 Tips to Reduce Exposure to Respiratory Irritants

While the best thing you can do is limit your exposure to smoke, a combination of strategies may work best to protect you. The more you can do to limit your exposure to forest fire smoke, the more you’ll reduce adverse health effects.

Keep Indoor Air as Clean as Possible

Keep windows and doors closed at home or at work. Use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce indoor air pollutions. In addition, remember to change your air filter on your furnace and air conditioner every few months. Avoid smoking tobacco, burning candles, using wood burning stoves or fireplaces, and vacuuming (which can stir up dust and particles).

Use the AC in Your Car

Avoid leaving your windows down and use your air conditioning on the recirculate setting for fresh, cool air.

Drink Plenty of Water

Flushing your system by drinking plenty of water helps remove irritants from your body. Drink up to reduce a scratchy throat and coughing to stay healthy during fire and pollen seasons.

Reduce Time Spent in Smoky Areas

Whether it’s a forest fire, campfire, or tobacco smoke, avoid being where smoke is present. While sometimes it may be unavoidable, less exposure to smoke is better for your health.

Avoid Outdoor Activities

Vigorous outdoor activities such as running, biking, soccer, or other sports should be avoided during times of high smoke levels or outdoor irritants. Limit your workouts to indoor gyms and sports centers.

Wear Proper Protection

In areas with high levels of forest fire smoke, a simple dust mask isn’t enough. An N95 respirator mask fits over your nose and mouth and can filter 95% of smoke particles. N95 respirators do not filter toxic gasses and vapors.

Be aware that these masks can make breathing seem difficult and may lead to increased breathing or heart rates. If you have a heart or respiratory disease, only use the mask under the supervision of your allergist or other health care clinician.

Are you concerned about exposure to forest fire smoke or outdoor allergies? Talk to an allergist at the Allergy & Asthma Specialist of North Florida about testing and a treatment plan to stay healthy this summer.


Vitamin D Deficiency and Food Allergies: Does One Relate to the Other?

Food allergies are becoming an epidemic in today’s societies with a noticeable increase in cases in just the last decade. In the U.S. and Australia alone, 10% of infants 12 months old have been clinically diagnosed with a food allergy.

Just as food allergies increased, levels of vitamin D decreased. It’s estimated that 50% of the population in Western countries lack sufficient levels of vitamin D with 10% of the population are deficient in vitamin D.

This makes researchers wonder, could there be a correlation between food allergies and vitamin D?

Benefits of Vitamin D[1]

Vitamin D is often known as the “sunshine vitamin” because it is absorbed by the skin. It is also absorbed by eating certain foods or taking supplements.

Oily fish including salmon, sardines, and tuna have the richest sources of vitamin D. Other good sources include egg yolks, liver, and foods specially fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient to support healthy body functions. Sufficient levels of vitamin D helps:

  • Regulate calcium and phosphorus absorption to support healthy bones and teeth
  • Protect against diseases such as type 1 diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and multiple sclerosis
  • Support brain health, the nervous system, and the immune system
  • Aid in cardiovascular health and lung function

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency[2]

How do you know if you are vitamin D deficient? Many people don’t develop symptoms until their levels are low for a while. This can make vitamin D deficiencies hard to diagnose.

Common symptoms include:

  • Bone pain
  • Frequent bone fractures
  • Muscle weakness
  • Difficulty forming clear thoughts
  • Depression

Low levels of vitamin D can lead to more severe health issues such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Cognitive impairment in older adults
  • Asthma in children

Can Vitamin D Affect Food Allergies?  What the Research Says

Studies show locations further away from the equator (areas lacking ultraviolet radiation (UVA)) have higher rates of child food allergy-related hospital visits, peanut allergies, and epinephrine prescriptions. In addition, being born in the fall or winter with less UVA exposure relates to higher risks of food allergies and anaphylaxis in children.

Diet can also be a contributing factor. An Australian study found that children who were introduced to eggs after six months of age had a higher risk for food allergy than infants who were introduced to eggs when they were 4-6 months.

What This Means for You

The research comparing vitamin D deficiencies to food allergies is not conclusive and more research is needed to know if vitamin D can reverse food allergies. What we do know is vitamin D can protect against food allergies and is critical for your overall health and well-being.

If you think you may be vitamin D deficient, your doctor can assess your levels by a simple blood test and recommend supplements. Only take supplements under the care of health care professionals such as your primary care physician or allergist.

If your child is experiencing food allergy symptoms, schedule an appointment with the Jacksonville Allergy & Asthma Specialists for allergy testing. Call us at 904-730-4870 if you have questions about food allergies.


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7 Things You Can Do to Feel Better During Spring Allergy Season

Sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes. The true signs that spring allergy season is here.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAI), pollen season can begin as early as February and lasts through October–depending on weather patterns and your location. In Jacksonville however, we can count on a very long pollen season that begins in early January and ends in November!

If pollen allergies get you down, use these tips to feel better this spring allergy season.

1.    Drink Lots of Water

Water is central to a healthy life. Proper hydration helps fight off excess congestion from spring allergies by thinning out mucus in your nasal passages. Drinking plenty of water also prevents allergy-related sinus headaches.

2.    Avoid Being Outside During Peak Allergy Hours

Each spring, trees release millions of tiny pollen particles into the air. Simply breathing the air can cause allergic reactions. When pollen counts are high, avoid being outside as much as possible. Especially in the morning between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m., on windy days, and dry, hot days.

Protect your eyes with sunglasses and wear a mouth mask when doing yard work. Avoid bringing pollen inside your home by showering, washing your hair, and changing your clothes.

3.    Track Allergy Levels on Your Phone

Use your favorite weather or allergy apps during allergy season to view daily pollen and mold count reports. Check before you head out for the day so you know what to expect.

4.    Take Allergy Medications

Avoiding the outdoors in the spring isn’t always realistic. Your allergist may recommend antihistamines and decongestants which can help relieve symptoms in adults and children.

Nasal sprays can help severe allergies but don’t take effect right away. Relief could take up to a few days. If other medications don’t offer relief, your allergist may suggest allergen immunotherapy, also known as “allergy shots.” These shots contain traces of pollen and help your body build up a defense over time.

5.    Prevent Symptoms Before They Start

Prevention is key. Don’t wait for your allergies to spiral out of control. See your allergist for a treatment plan before spring allergy season begins and take allergy medications at the first sign of symptoms. Start your allergy medication routine one week before allergy season to get the medicine working in your system.

6.    Go All-Natural

Natural remedies may help offer relief. Of course, the best way to manage allergies without medications is being vigilant about avoiding known triggers.  If you’re feeling stuffed up, nasal saline irrigation with a neti pot may help by washing away the pollens, dusts and animal dander from the lining of your nose. Saline irrigation also helps to thin nasal drainage so it can be blown out and it also gently moisturizes the lining of the nose.  Products labeled “natural” or “alternative” may not be safe for all users. Some remedies can cause further allergic reactions. Consult with your allergist on which natural remedies may be right for you.

7.    Allergy Prevention Starts at Home

Keep allergens out of your home by prepping your home for spring allergy season.

  • Enforce a “shoes off” rule when entering your home.
  • Keep windows shut and cool your home with filtered air from your air conditioner. Avoid using ceiling fans which can spread pollen around a room.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum to suck up particles on your furniture, floors, rugs, and in the air.
  • Avoid hanging your clothes outside to dry as pollen can get stuck to sheets, towels, and clothing.

Don’t let allergies get the best of you this spring. Visit us at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida for allergy testing and a personalized treatment plan. Start your spring allergy medications now for long-term relief.