Category: The Jacksonville AllerGIST!

fall allergies guide for Jacksonville 2019

The Complete Guide to Fall Allergies in Florida—2019

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

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

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

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

Combined, these factors can trigger severe allergic reactions.

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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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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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tree pollen spring allergies jacksonville

Everything You Need to Know About Tree and Spring Pollen Allergies 2019

Compared to the rest of the U.S., midwinter and early spring in Jacksonville is a really beautiful time of year.

Although, our mild temperatures tend to attract folks from more frigid regions, that doesn’t mean our “cool” seasons are completely free of any downsides. In fact, if you’re allergic to tree pollen — one of the most common allergens we have here on the First Coast — you know this all too well.

Another downside? Jacksonville was amongst the Worst Cities for Spring Allergies in 2018 at #51 in the US (although, on the bright side — that is a slight improvement from the previous listing where we were #50).

Across most of the country, trees don’t release their pollen until early spring. But, thanks to our temperate climate here in North Florida, local trees usually start producing an abundance of pollen starting in early February (but that could start as early as December). And the pollen season in 2019 is expected to come early starting in late January.

If you suffer from tree pollen sensitivity, here’s a helpful guide for tree pollen allergies and our best advice for controlling a reaction this spring season.

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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.

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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halloween allergy safety tips

Our Top Tips for Allergy Safety this Halloween

With pumpkins everywhere and stores filled with Spiderman costumes, it’s almost time for what may be kids’ favorite holiday — Halloween.

Their excitement, however, is tempered by parents’ caution about their children’s safety. For parents of a child with allergies, the concerns are even greater.

The good news is that there is a lot you can to do ensure your kids have a safe, fun Halloween. Here are four tips that can help:

Help Make Your Child’s School Party Safe

Many schools and daycare facilities host Halloween parties, which can be especially stressful for parents since you’re not there to protect your children. In addition, younger children don’t have the awareness to say no to certain types of candy or give in to the temptation to have the same foods their friends are enjoying.

The keys to a stress- and allergy-free class party includes partnering with the teacher, class parent or other school staff member. If you’re unable to volunteer to help or be present on party day, find out who the party host will be and coordinate with him or her in advance about your child’s allergy and any action plan that may be needed to respond to an allergy emergency.

If you can be involved in the party planning, you can encourage a focus on non-food related activities, such as crafts, little toy bags, a scavenger hunt, or Halloween games.

Food will likely be part of the festivities however, so discuss options that would be safe for your child and that can still be enjoyed by everyone. A great way to ensure your child isn’t being left out is to offer to provide his or her treats or find out if there is an allergy-free version of the treat your child will be able to have.

If you are sending your child with their own safe food, ensure the teacher or monitor knows this is the only food that you child can eat at the party.

 Download Our Free Halloween Safety Checklist

Know Ahead of Time What Candies are Safe for Your Child

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Deciding to allow your child to trick-or-treat should depend on how severe his or her allergies are. If you decide it’s safe enough to go door to door, always have a safety plan in place and have precautions ready.

Let your child know before you even leave the house that he or she is not to eat any food until you’ve gotten home and had the chance to check all their candy. Setting the expectation before you head out is crucial for kids of all ages. Older children probably already have a good understanding of why this is necessary, but with a simple and appropriate explanation of the dangers, younger kids can be made to understand why they’ll need to contain their excitement about sampling treats while they’re out.

Before Halloween arrives, consider alerting your neighbors to your child’s allergy. Ask them to not offer any foods to which your child is allergic and suggest they offer a toy, a little money or other non-food item. (You could even provide your neighbors with such items yourself.) Asking in advance allows your neighbors to be prepared.

Once trick or treating is done, sort through the treats and find the safe ones and put them back into your child’s bag – then create a pile of definite no’s. You may have a third pile of “unsure” treats. You may need to do some research to determine if they are safe for your child, or if you feel it’s not worth the risk, simply remove them. Often, mini-bagged treats will have warnings on whether they were produced in facility that processes nuts or other allergens.

Do not leave your child alone with his or her candy. Temptations can be too strong, and you may find your child digging in at the first opportunity.

We’ve found that certain normally safe candies may be produced in different plants for the holiday version of the candy, and this may make them unsafe. This is why it’s so important to read labels on all potentially dangerous candies.

If throwing out a lot of candy seems wasteful to you, one fun tradition we’ve heard of is to place all the unsafe candy in your young child’s trick-or-treat bag and place it on the porch overnight. They will get a visit from the “Great Pumpkin” who will exchange their unsafe candy for something they can enjoy.

If your child suffers from severe allergies and trick-or-treating is just too dangerous, planning a fun party with some of their friends and having Halloween shows and crafts is a great option. Although candy is most associated with the holiday, it doesn’t have to be the most important thing. Kids will have just as much fun dressed up and playing as they do knocking on doors.

Always Have Your Safety Supplies on Hand

You already know this, but we’ll say it again: You must always have your safety supplies ready whether your child is walking your neighborhood, at a school party, or at a friend’s house. If your child is prone to an anaphylactic shock always have an epinephrine auto-injector and other medications that your allergist has provided. If your child’s allergies are less severe, have sanitizing wipes available for contact allergies and any medications you give for minor allergic reactions.

Understand the Signs of Anaphylaxis

An anaphylactic reaction can come on suddenly, and young children may not know what is happening to them so be aware of warning sings. A child might start to complain of:

  • Feeling like they have a lump in the throat (or they start sounding hoarse)
  • Seem to have trouble breathing or begin wheezing. May also start to complain of chest tightness
  • Say they have a tingling feeling in the hands, feet, lips or scalp
  • Begin to flush and get red around the neck or face

Other symptoms of anaphylaxis are dizziness and confusion.

If you, your child, or another child around you begin to experience any of the above symptoms, use an autoinjector (if you have one) and call 911 immediately.

You should also discuss with your child what to do if he or she starts feeling itchy, having trouble breathing or showing any signs of a reaction. Talk with your child in advance about what happens when an allergic reaction occurs and what treatment measures you may have to take. The more they are involved in their treatment, the more in control they will feel.

Candy Is Not the Only Issue – Don’t Forget Costumes

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If your child has contact allergies or suffers from hives or other skin issues, be aware of costumes and face and skin paint accessories that could lead to reactions. Most kids costumes are safe and hypo-allergenic, but some of the accessories may set off a reaction. Look out for nickel in some costume accessories such as cowboy belts, swords, tiaras and magic wands. Nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itch and ruin an otherwise fun night of trick-or-treating.

Be on the lookout for ingredients in cheap Halloween makeup, which may cause allergic reactions.  If your child must use makeup, opt for the higher-quality products. Don’t assume, however, that because it’s more expensive it’s safe – always test makeup ahead of time by applying a little bit to a small area of skin a few days in advance to check for a reaction.

Look for the Teal Pumpkins

The Teal Pumpkin Project is a FARE campaign to help make Halloween safer for kids with allergies.

Launched in 2014 the Teal Pumpkin Project aims to increase awareness of food allergies as well as promote inclusion for all of our trick-or-treaters. There are some great resources to show your support and even to add your house to a crowd sourced map of a list of homes that are participating—most Teal Pumpkin participants are offering treats other than candies.

Do some pre-Halloween planning and keep a few tricks handy, and you and your goblins can be sure to have a safe and awesome Halloween!

If you are worried that you or your child might have allergies or asthma – contact Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida to schedule an appointment or to talk with one of our Board Certified Allergists.

For more great allergy safety information visit our friends at FoodAllergy.org

 Get Your Free Halloween Safety Checklist

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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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.