However, if you have allergies or asthma, you could end up spending more time sneezing, blowing your nose, and using your inhaler than actually soaking up the time with your loved ones. While you should always carry quick-relief medications just in case, the key to enjoying yourself at outdoor BBQs is to avoid your allergy and asthma triggers. Here’s how.

Steer Clear of Smoke from Grills or Fire Pits

Grilling is a fun, healthy way to prepare food in the summer. It also prevents heating your house on hot afternoons. Unfortunately, combustion pollutants from BBQs, bonfires, and fire pits can trigger an asthma attack. Even gas grills and fire pits can be problematic.

If you’re hosting the cookout, position the grill as far as possible from where your guests will gather. If you’re attending an event at someone else’s home, pay attention to which way the wind is blowing so you can steer clear of smoke and fumes.

Avoid Pollen Exposure

While flower and tree pollen peak in the springtime, grass pollen remains a common allergy trigger all summer long. Then, ragweed pollen becomes an issue late in the season. Common symptoms of pollen exposure include runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes.

If you have a pollen allergy, check pollen counts before heading outdoors. If you choose to venture out, wear sunglasses and a hat to help keep pollen out of your eyes and off your hair. When the outdoor event is over, change your clothes and plan to shower before bed.

Manage Mold Exposure

Pollen isn’t the only environmental allergy and asthma trigger you’re likely to face at an outdoor BBQ. Mold on rotting logs, compost heaps, and damp outdoor furniture may also threaten your chances of having fun.

If you’re the event host, you can take steps to prevent and remove mold outdoors, such as applying a mold protectant to vulnerable surfaces and improving drainage on your property. If you’re a party guest and your mold allergy symptoms become severe, take your prescribed medication or consider excusing yourself.

Prevent Insect Bites and Stings

No one wants insects at an outdoor party, but they’re almost certain to attend anyway. Not only are bugs a nuisance, but they can also be a dangerous threat for people with insect allergies. Bites and stings from certain pests can even cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that blocks the airway and makes breathing difficult.

If you know you have severe reactions to stings from bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, fire ants, or mosquitoes, bring an epinephrine auto-injector to the BBQ. If you’re hosting the get-together, tidy up the landscape and eliminate standing water to avoid attracting bugs. If you’re a guest, wear close-toed shoes in the yard, keep your sugary drink covered, and avoid wearing flowery perfume.

Stay Away from Scented Products

Many bug repellents, such as scented candles and tiki torch oil, can trigger asthma in sensitive individuals. Strong perfumes and odor-hiding air fresheners are also common asthma triggers.

Steer clear of scented items as much as possible. If a product is bothering you, consider asking the host to remove it. Also, bring a mask to wear to the bathroom in case others before you have sprayed fragrances.

Read Sunscreen Labels

Overexposure to the sun can cause sunburn, premature wrinkles, and skin cancer. Some people even experience an allergic reaction called solar urticaria, developing a rash or hives on any skin exposed to sunlight. It’s beneficial to wear sunscreen whether or not you have solar urticaria, but you might also be allergic to your sunscreen.

Benzophenone, octocrylene, and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) are the chemicals most likely to cause contact dermatitis from wearing sunscreen. Opt for a natural product that doesn’t contain these ingredients so you can protect yourself from the sun’s rays without developing a rash or other uncomfortable symptoms.

Skip the Fireworks

Fireworks have become a part of many summer holidays and celebrations. Unfortunately, they release smoke and small particulate matter that can trigger asthma. Fireworks are also a safety hazard and can spark fires.

Avoid launching your own fireworks this summer. If you attend a professional show, enjoy the display from farther away or even from indoors, if possible.

Are you struggling to control your asthma and allergy symptoms this summer? You may need a new treatment plan. Rely on the physicians and board-certified allergists at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM to provide optimal care. If you’re ready to breathe easier this summer, please call 610-825-5800 and request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area.

  • How to Plan a Menu for an Allergy-Free Spring Party

    Allergy & Asthma Specialists℠ offers suggestions for throwing an allergy-free spring party.

    Did you know that about 32 million Americans suffer from food allergies? That number includes about seven million children, most of whom are allergic to more than one kind of food. If you’re planning a party, whether for adults or kids, it’s a good idea to try to avoid the most common allergens in your party foods.  Here, we’ve got some tips for throwing an allergy-free spring party that will be fun for everyone on the guest list!

    Know the most common allergens. Hopefully, you’ll be aware of any allergies your guests have, so that you can prepare dishes that cater to their particular needs. If you’re unsure, though, plan a menu that avoids these common allergens: milk, peanuts, eggs, fish, wheat, sesame, shellfish, soy, and some tree nuts like cashews, almonds, and walnuts.

    Rethink cake. Reading through the above list, you know doubt noticed that some of the most common allergens are also the ingredients in cake. Fortunately, you can make non-traditional cakes that are dairy-free and even wheat-free. To make sure everyone at the party can have an allergy-free treat, consider making multiple cakes.

    Plan a healthy snack table. Avoid serving nuts because even putting them on the table can create contamination. Instead, serve snacks like vegetable sticks, raisins, hummus and popcorn. Fresh fruit is a great option because you know exactly what’s in it. Make fruit kebabs, a fruit salad, or a platter with different types of fruit, for a sure-fire hit.

    Offer some gluten-free options. Gluten free cookies, doughnuts, and flour-less cakes can be delicious. For savory treats, buffalo wings and dip with carrots and celery are good options. And did you know that popcorn is gluten-free? Go for butter and salt popcorn for a healthy, popular snack.

    Consider making it a BYO affair. Encouraging guests to bring their favorite snacks to share is a great way to ensure that everyone has something safe to eat and enjoy. It’s also fun because it gives everyone the opportunity to taste things they may not have ever tried before!

    Don’t just focus on the menu. Did you know that some arts and crafts supplies can have allergens, too? For example, wheat ingredients in play dough have been known to trigger allergies. Be careful with party favors, too. Candies can sometimes be an issue, so stick to things like stickers, puzzles, bracelets, and games for party favor bags that are safe for everyone.

    When in doubt, choose a venue. Sometimes, your best option is really just to let someone else handle the details. Professional party venues can accommodate children’s allergy needs, as long as they’re informed ahead of time. Make sure the staff and manager know about the allergies so that you can be sure the menu and facility are free of any allergens that could be hazardous to your guests.

    Taking some time to plan can make your party fun and safe, even for your guests with allergies. If you or your children suffer from allergies, it’s a good idea to look for an experienced, board-certified allergist. The physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are the region’s most experienced allergists in high-risk food allergy testing and challenges.  Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more.

     

  • How to treat a Bee Sting and Identify an Allergic Reaction

    Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM explains what to do in case of a bee sting, how to treat it, and what to watch for in terms of allergic reactions to bee stings.

    Spring and summer are wonderful seasons for getting outside and enjoying nature. It’s important to remember, though, that humans aren’t the only species out and about in the warmer weather. We share our peaceful natural spaces with many little creatures, some of whom can cause some pain if we encounter them. Bee stings are something that can happen quickly and cause pain to the average person, but can cause much worse effects for someone who is allergic to them. Do you know what to do in case of a bee sting? Just in time for the warmer weather, here’s a guide on how to treat bee stings and identify an allergic reaction.

    Be aware that the most important thing to do is to get the stinger out as quickly as possible. A bee’s stinger releases venom the entire time it’s in a person’s skin, so the longer it stays in, the more pain and swelling the person will experience. Another note: the following apply not only to bee stings but also to the stings of wasps and hornets.

    Keep your cool. If you are stung by something, walk calmly away from the area. While bees are typically only able to sting once, wasps and hornets can sting again after they’ve already stung you. To avoid additional stings, get out of the vicinity of the bugs.

    Get the stinger out of the skin. Wasps and hornets don’t leave their stingers behind, but if you were stung by a bee, there’s likely to be a stinger in your skin. You can remove it by scraping over it with a piece of gauze, your fingernail, or even a credit card, but never use tweezers to pull out a stinger. Tweezers can squeeze the stinger and cause it to release more venom into your skin.

    Wash the area that has been stung with soap and water. This will help to reduce the chance of a bacterial infection resulting from the sting.

    Use a cold pack to ease pain and swelling. If this does not help, or the swelling moves to another part of your body, seek emergency medical attention as quickly as possible.

    Try over-the-counter pain relievers. A sting from a bee, wasp, or hornet can be very painful, but the pain can often be alleviated with medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow the instructions on the label for appropriate dosage.

    Signs of an allergic reaction. Localized swelling of the sting site is not an allergic reaction. Systemic symptoms, i.e. symptoms away from the sting site are of concern. Swelling, especially in your face or neck, can be a sign of an allergic reaction. Also, pay attention to other symptoms of allergic reaction like trouble breathing, nausea, dizziness, or hives. Now is the time to go to the emergency department.

    For most people, bee stings do not cause a severe reaction. It’s important to pay attention after someone has been stung, though, because serious symptoms could be a sign of an allergic reaction. Do not ignore even a mild allergic reaction. A mild allergic reaction will be more severe if an individual is stung again, possibly resulting in anaphylactic shock.  Seek help from an experienced, board-certified allergist highly trained in testing for stinging insect allergies and prescribing life saving treatment.  Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more.

     

     

  • Six Tips for Preparing Your Sinuses for Spring

    Spring is upon us! There are many things to appreciate about this season but if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may not be looking forward to everything being in bloom. This year, instead of dreading the season, be proactive about preparing your sinuses for what’s about to happen.

    Understand what’s about to happen to your sinuses. If you suffer from allergies, allergic triggers can cause your sinuses to become inflamed. This inflammation causes the nasal passages to swell and creates drainage, leading to headaches, snoring that disrupts your sleep, and post-nasal drip that can upset your stomach and cause gastric reflux.

    Be proactive in avoiding pollen. If you’re experiencing allergic symptoms in the spring, they’re probably caused by a reaction to grass and tree pollen. It’s hard to get away from pollen because it can travel great distances, but you can work on avoiding pollens and keeping them out of your home by taking some simple steps.

    Use your air conditioning and keep the windows closed, at home and in your car.

    Pay attention to pollen counts and stay inside when they’re high, as well as when the weather is dry and windy.

    Because tree pollen peaks in the early morning, grass pollen in the afternoon, choose other times for your outdoor activities.

    Shower and wash your hair nightly to keep pollen out of your bed.

    Don’t mow your lawn or be around the freshly-cut grass. If you have no option but to mow, wear goggles and a mask.

    Use your dryer instead of hanging your laundry to dry outdoors.

    Wash your hands frequently and don’t touch your face or rub your eyes, especially when you’ve been outside.

    Keep your pets clean, cleaning their paws and fur when they come inside to reduce the allergens they carry into the house.

    Make your home airway friendly. Change your HVAC filters frequently to remove dust and dander from the air in your home and use a humidifier to keep the air moist. Moist air can help to soothe irritated mucus membranes and thin the mucus in your sinuses so that it’s easier to expel. When you keep your sinuses clear, you’ll be less likely to develop sinus infections.

    Stay hydrated. The proper hydration can help your mucus membranes function properly and successfully ward off congestion and infections. When your body is well-hydrated, your mucus will remain thin and able to flow freely. You can drink sports drinks, juice, and tea to support hydration, but water is the best option for protecting your mucus membranes and helping your sinuses to drain.

    Stock up on sinus-pampering supplies. There are plenty of products available to help keep your sinuses healthy by promoting good nasal drainage. One device is the Neti Pot, a small container with a spout-like shape, used to introduce water into one nostril and allow it to drain through the other. You can effectively use this device to flush your sinuses, as long as you make sure to use distilled or sterile water rather than tap water, which can raise your risk of sinus infection. Saline spray is a great over-the-counter treatment for promoting healthy mucus membranes. Keep warm compresses on hand, to relieve sinus pressure and inflammation, and if you’re feeling stuffy, take a hot shower or steam your face over a sink full of hot water.

    Know how to treat sinus inflammation. Talk to your doctor about the best medications to help you alleviate sinus inflammation.

    Over-the-counter antihistamines, like Benadryl, Dimetapp, Zyrtec, Claritin, Clarinex, and Allegra may offer relief. Pay attention to the specific side effects of whichever medication you decide to try.

    Decongestants can help too and are especially effective when used in combination with antihistamines.

    Nasal steroids work well when used on a daily basis as treatment for seasonal and perennial allergies.

    Allergy immunotherapy may be recommended for you if other treatments aren’t working or are causing side effects, or if you have symptoms regularly and prefer not to take daily medications. Talk to a board-certified allergist for more information about whether immunotherapy is right for you.

    When you want help preparing your sinuses for spring or you need assistance with your allergies, look for an experienced, board-certified allergist. The physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are board-certified in allergy and immunology. They can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more.

     

  • Spring Has Sprung, Don’t Let Your Allergies Spring Up

    Each year, as the weather warms up and temperatures rise above 50 degrees, seasonal spring allergies hit. Why? Because that’s when plants begin to bloom, releasing their pollen into the air. The allergy season hits its peak between March and June, so it’s important to start preparing for it now.

    What causes spring allergies? An allergic reaction happens when your immune system mistakes allergens for dangerous substances and produces antibodies to fight them. In the spring, tree pollen starts to appear in the air in the beginning of February, and it’s joined by grass pollen later in the season. These are two of the worst offenders for triggering spring allergies. When your body tries to fight allergens like pollen with antibodies, it produces histamine, and that’s what leads to allergy symptoms. Spring allergens typically produce respiratory reactions like sinus congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing, coughing, itchy or watery eyes and, sometimes shortness of breath.

    You don’t have to wait until your spring allergies symptoms are making you miserable to take action. Preparing for allergy season ahead of time can help you get ahead of it and that will mean fewer allergy symptoms. If you’ve never seen an allergist, do it so you’ll know what your allergies are and how to treat them. Here are some ways to prepare for springtime allergies.

    Get the jump on allergies by taking medicine before you have symptoms. About two weeks before you normally begin to experience allergies, start using over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays. An allergist can provide a treatment plan to help you select the right ones for you. This can help prevent inflammation and ease your symptoms. If your symptoms are relentless and disrupt your daily activities, you can also try immunotherapy (allergy shots). Allergy shots treat the underlying cause and provide a near total cure of your allergic disease.  It takes a few months for patients to get relief from symptoms with immunotherapy, so it’s smart to begin it ahead of time. You do not have to be experiencing  symptoms to see the allergist and start a personalized treatment plan for spring allergies.

    See to your spring cleaning. Deep cleaning your home by dusting it from top to bottom, washing curtains, sweeping floors, and vacuuming rugs and furniture, can help remove dust and pollen from inside your house. When you’re cleaning or working in the yard, wear an allergy mask to reduce your allergen inhalation. When you finish up for the day, change your clothes and shower, including shampooing your hair, taking care not to carry pollen spores through your house on your clothes.

    Keep an eye on the pollen. Watch the local pollen counts and stay inside during peak pollen hours in the midmorning and early evening on days that pollen count is high.

    Don’t open your windows. It’s warm and breezy out there, but don’t let the outside air into your house. Keeping your house sealed up will help keep pollen out and give you a place to retreat from allergens. Think about this with your car, too, keeping your windows closed and your AC circulating.

    Change your air filters. Most air filters need to be changed every one to three months, so take note of the manufacturer’s instructions and change yours as often as is recommended. Use other tools, too, like zippered pillowcases and mattress covers to reduce dust mites and pet dander.

    Mind the mold. While tree and grass pollen are prominent spring allergens, mold can be a problem as well. Spring can be damp, and moisture makes a hospitable environment for mold. Keep your home’s humidity level below 50 percent and stay vigilant about signs of mold, cleaning it as soon as you see it.

    If you are suffering from seasonal allergies and over-the-counter medicines aren’t working, an experienced, board-certified allergist can help you determine how to manage them. The physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are board-certified in allergy and immunology. They can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more.

  • 15 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Health

    Have you set any New Year’s resolutions yet? Most people want to be healthier, but this is easier said than done, especially if asthma or allergies get in your way. It’s not enough to say, “I will be healthier in 2022”—your goals must be measurable and actionable if you hope to achieve them. If you have asthma or allergies, check out these 15 New Year’s resolutions for your health that you can actually keep this year.

    1.    Meet with an Allergist to Identify Your Triggers

    If you don’t already have an asthma and allergy treatment plan, it’s time to make one. An evaluation from a board-certified allergist can be highly beneficial. Your allergist will assess your condition, help determine your triggers, and suggest ways to manage your symptoms. Allergy symptoms can sometimes be controlled with easy modifications to your environment. Asthma can be better controlled with a personalized combination of fast-acting treatment (such as a prescription inhaler) and long-term treatment (including oral medications and immunotherapy).

    2.    Review Your Existing Treatment Plan

    If you’re already taking steps to manage your asthma and allergies, review your plan with your doctor at the start of the year. Discuss what is and isn’t working for you, including any lifestyle or economic barriers you face. Also, the allergists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists are on the forefront of prescribing biologic drugs for asthma, eczema and hives that are acclaimed as life changing. For the medications you are currently prescribed, ask questions to make sure you’re taking them correctly, and review your inhaler technique with your doctor. After all, the medicine won’t work if it doesn’t reach your lungs.

    3.    Create an Anaphylaxis Emergency Action Plan

    Ask your doctor for help creating an emergency plan in case you ever go into anaphylactic shock. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology has a form you can fill out and keep with your other medical records or first aid kit.

    4.    Take Medications and Use Immunotherapy as Directed

    Allergen Immunotherapy is the only available treatment for allergic disease that can reduce symptoms, improve quality of life, alter the course of the disease, and induce long-term clinical remission safely and effectively in patients with allergen sensitivity. Maintaining a compliant schedule is very important.  

    Inhalers don’t “cure” asthma , but using them properly can help you control your condition. For the best results, set a goal to follow the instructions recommended by your doctor and allergist.

    5.    Start a Symptom Diary

    Are you unsure why flare-ups occur when they do? Chances are you’re coming in contact with asthma and allergy triggers without knowing it. Set a goal to keep track of your medication use, activities, and symptoms every day. Track where you go, what you eat, and what environmental hazards you’re exposed to so you can begin recognizing what causes your symptoms to flare up.

    6.    Reduce Your Exposure to Asthma and Allergy Triggers

    Thanks to your symptom diary, you may realize your asthma worsens at night and in the morning. This means there could be a trigger in your bedroom, such as the wall-to-wall carpet, dust mites in your bedding, or pet dander in your pillow. Experiment with changes to your environment, such as replacing the flooring, covering your pillow and mattress with dust-mite-proof cases, and keeping pets out of the bedroom. Such efforts may allow you to reduce your exposure and minimize your symptoms naturally. Allergists are experts at helping to identify environmental triggers and how to eliminate or avoid them.

    7.    Keep Up with Weekly Chores

    Cleaning your home can help cut down on indoor allergens, so set a goal to sweep, vacuum, and dust weekly. Wear a respirator to reduce your exposure to dust, pet dander, and mold spores, or ask someone else to complete these chores for you.

    8.    Buy an Air Purifier

    Another way to keep your indoor air clean is to run a purifier. This traps dust, mold, smoke, and other allergens circulating through the air to help relieve your symptoms. Discuss your needs with your doctor or allergist, who may be able to recommend specific a product.

    9.    Buy a Nasal Irrigation System

    Nasal rinses use saline solution to clean your sinuses and flush out germs before they take hold. Nasal irrigation is recommended for anyone with asthma, allergies, sinus infections, and other upper respiratory conditions. Make a point to buy a nasal irrigation system this year so you can take advantage of this natural way to manage your symptoms.

    10.   Stay Ahead of Seasonal Allergies

    If you know you’ll start sneezing, coughing, and having itchy, watery eyes come spring, start taking your allergy medication three to four weeks in advance. This primes your system and makes your symptoms more manageable once the pollen arrives. Schedule reminders on your phone if you think you’ll forget to take medicine when you’re not experiencing any symptoms.

    11.   Get Your Annual Flu Shot

    Flu season runs from October to May. If you haven’t gotten your shot by the start of the New Year, set a resolution to get it done before the end of January. This simple protective measure reduces your risk of catching the flu, which would only worsen your asthma and allergy symptoms.

    12.   Exercise More

    The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. Following this advice makes a great New Year’s resolution for anyone, but it’s especially beneficial if you have allergies or asthma. After all, exercising opens your airways and releases endorphins, which makes you feel better. It also boosts your immune system and helps you lose weight. Dropping a few pounds can make your asthma symptoms easier to control. Just remember, you may need to use your rescue inhaler before working out to prevent an exercise-induced asthma attack.

    13.   Adopt a Mediterranean Diet

    Eating healthy is the other major factor for losing weight. Plus, foods high in antioxidants, vitamins C and E, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to benefit patients with asthma. As a result, you may want to start the New Year by following the Mediterranean diet. This involves eating more fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and olive oil. Of course, no foods can cure asthma and allergies, but good nutrition is essential for anyone managing a chronic medical condition.

    14.   Drink 8 Cups of Water per Day

    Staying hydrated is critical for good health. In fact, every bodily function relies on adequate hydration. Drinking enough water also keeps your nasal passages and lungs from building up too much mucus. While each person’s ideal water intake varies slightly, you should aim to drink at least eight cups per day.

    15.   Go to Bed One Hour Earlier Than Usual

    Getting enough rest boosts your immune system and increases your energy level. Sleep is also when your body heals the most. So if you average only six hours of shuteye every night, aim to go to sleep one hour earlier all year long. That extra hour could be just what your body needs to improve your allergy and asthma symptoms.

    Do you have undiagnosed respiratory problems? Is your current asthma or allergy treatment plan not working for you? Rely on Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM to provide optimal treatment, from your initial diagnosis to your ongoing care. Please call 610-825-5800 today to request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area.

     

  • How to Host an Allergy-Free Holiday Dinner

    Food allergies affect about 50 million Americans. Some cases are so severe that they can be life-threatening. If you’re cooking for guests with wheat, dairy, or nut allergies, don’t stress—simply adjust your menu and food preparation techniques to help you host an allergy-free holiday dinner.

    Plan Ahead

    As soon as you find out one or more guests have food allergies, you can adjust your dinner menu accordingly. Planning ahead takes the stress out of preparing food when the big event arrives. Here’s what to do:

    Communicate with Your Guests

    Not all guests speak up about their allergies and preferences because they “don’t want to inconvenience you.” However, as a courteous host, you should contact all your guests and ask about any allergies. If the dinner is a potluck, remember to tell anyone contributing dishes about the allergies among the other guests.

    Read Ingredient Labels

    About 90% of all food allergies fall into one of these eight categories:

    • Wheat
    • Peanut
    • Tree nut
    • Egg
    • Milk
    • Soy
    • Fish
    • Shellfish

    It can be daunting to check ingredient labels for all potential allergens, so just keep your guests’ specific allergies in mind. Even if you’re confident a product is allergen-free, double-check the nutrition label. After all, a manufacturer may process nut-free cookies on the same machinery as peanuts. Contamination concerns like this should be identified on the label.

    Try New Allergy-Free Holiday Recipes

    You may have go-to favorites you return to year after year, but this is a good excuse to try out some new recipes. If you’re having trouble finding certain products without allergens, consider making your own from scratch. Use the following recipes and helpful hints to ensure your holiday dinner is safe, healthy, and fun for everyone in attendance:

    Appetizers

    There are plenty of allergy-free alternatives to the traditional cheese-and-cracker appetizer. Here are some ideas:

    Side Dishes

    No holiday dinner is complete without several tasty side dishes. Choose from these crowd-pleasers:

    Main Dishes

    On to the main event! Ensure your guests enjoy allergy-free entrees by selecting poultry, ham, pork, lamb, or tofu made without marinades or sauces, which could contain allergens. To prevent skimping on flavor, create your own marinades with fresh herbs, orange juice, and lemon zest. Here are some allergy-free recipes to try:

    Desserts

    There are plenty of ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about food allergies. Here are some tasty ideas:

    Cook Wisely

    Once you’ve picked out your recipes and bought all the ingredients you need, it’s time to get cooking! These tips can help ensure a smooth, stress-free process:

    Avoid Cross-Contamination

    The kitchen can become a chaotic mess during holiday dinner prep. However, if you’re serving dishes designed to be allergen-free, you need to avoid cross-contamination. To do this, set up a safety zone to help limit allergens to a corner of the kitchen. Don’t mix utensils or cutting boards, and cover freshly cooked dishes to prevent stray allergens from drifting in.

    Make Allergy-Free Dishes Ahead of Time

    One effective way to avoid cross-contamination is to cook allergy-free dishes on a different day than the rest of your menu. Spread out your cooking a week or more in advance and freeze casseroles until the day of your holiday meal. Then, stick them in the oven when you’re ready to bake, being sure to allow for a longer cooking time. If you have fridge space, you can also fully prepare things like soups and pies one day ahead without impacting the taste.

    Don’t let food allergies stop you from enjoying holiday dinners this season! If you or someone you know struggles to keep their allergies under control, reach out to Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM, the regions most experienced allergists for high risk food allergy testing and challenges. The team can help identify undiagnosed food allergies and offer care to reduce adverse reactions that impact your quality of life. To request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, please call 610-825-5800 today.

  • What’s lurking indoors during the ‘non-allergy’ season?

    When the ragweed has subsided, the leaves have fallen, the weather has turned cooler, and fall is well and truly over, you’re probably ready for a break from allergies. Now is a great time to shut yourself into your nice, cozy house, sip a hot beverage, and not have to deal with allergy symptoms until spring, right? Not so fast. While winter is not considered an allergy season, it’s actually when indoor allergies do some of their finest work. Why? Because when people are spending more time indoors, they have more exposure to certain allergens.

    • Dust mites cause year-round symptoms but are especially bothersome in winter. Dust mites are tiny arthropods, only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter in size. They thrive in warm, humid places, so they really enjoy living in beds, carpet, and upholstered furniture. They feed primarily on human skin flakes, and both their waste and their bodies can cause allergic reactions. People who are sensitive to dust mite allergens may experience sneezing, a runny nose, itching, red, watery eyes, itchy skin, postnasal drip, and a cough. In some people, a dust mite allergy can trigger asthma, causing difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and trouble sleeping because of coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. You can find out if you’re allergic to dust mites through an allergy skin test. Treating this allergy involves reducing exposure and may require medication or immunotherapy. Vacuuming regularly, covering pillows, mattresses, and box springs, and washing your bedding frequently can all help reduce dust mites in your home.
    • Mold can cause serious health problems. This is because molds produce both allergens and irritants, which can cause allergic reactions when touched or inhaled. Mold spores are everywhere, but if they find a damp place in your home in which to get a foothold, the mold will start growing and may become problematic. Mold is most common in bathrooms and around windows. Allergic reactions to mold exposure include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash. In addition, mold can cause asthma attacks in those who are allergic and irritate the eyes, skin, throat, nose, and lungs of people regardless of whether or not they’re allergic.
    • Man’s best friend is sometimes the source of man’s persistent misery. There’s no doubt that we love our companion animals, but pets of all types produce allergens. This can be the family dog, cat, bird or even the schoolroom gerbil. These allergens are proteins that can cause an allergic reaction, and they’re found in animal hair, dander, saliva, and urine. When a pet lives inside, the allergen levels are highest in rooms where the pet is allowed. What’s more, in addition to releasing their own allergens, dogs and cats can bring dust and pollen inside on their coats! Pet allergy symptoms manifest with a stuffy or runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and sometimes hives or a rash. If you’re not willing to part with your four-legged friend, there are multiple treatments available to help you manage your allergies.

    If you suffer from allergies or asthma, an experienced, board-certified allergist can help you determine how to manage your conditions. The physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are board-certified in allergy and immunology and will help you identify triggers so that you can learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more

  • Halloween Candy Tips for Kids with Food Allergies

    Halloween can be a great time for family fun, with tasty treats and spooky scares! Unfortunately, for many children with allergies, the scariest part of Halloween can be the risks found in their trick or treat bags. How can you have a fun and safe Halloween when the treats seem like tricks. We’ve got some tips for how to manage the holiday and make it fun and safe despite your child’s allergies.

    • Many Halloween candies contain common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, and wheat. That’s why it’s important for families with children who are allergic to teach their kids to wait until they get home to eat any candy. If your children have allergies, teach them how to politely refuse homemade treats and that they should never share another child’s treats.
    • No children should trick or treat alone, but it’s especially important for kids with allergies to be accompanied by an adult. Adults should also make sure they’re well prepared for the evening, with an epi-pen and fully charged cell phones in case they need to call 911. Refill any prescriptions in advance of the holiday so that you’re not left without an epi-pen at a crucial moment.
    • Here’s something that might surprise you: fun-sized Halloween candy may not be the same as the regular-sized treats. Sometimes the smaller sizes are made with slightly different ingredients, or they could be made on different machinery and exposed to different allergens. Even if you’re familiar and comfortable with certain brands of candy, it’s extremely important to read the labels before allowing your child to eat the candy.
    • Of course, trick or treating isn’t the only way kids celebrate Halloween. If your children are in school or daycare, make sure the teachers are aware of their allergies and know what to do in case of emergency. When you know there’s going to be a Halloween celebration or event, go over safety rules with your child in advance.
    • Look for alternatives to celebrating with food. Host a scary movie party, carve pumpkins with friends, or do some Halloween crafts. Just because it’s Halloween, that doesn’t mean you have to load the kids up with sugar.
    • Consider participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project. It’s easy to do! Just display a teal pumpkin on your porch and hand out non-food, safe, treats. Glow sticks, stickers, small toys, pencils, and more options can make Halloween both fun and safe for all the kids in your neighborhood. You can even hand out candy as well. Just keep the non-food treats in a teal pumpkin or bowl and the candies in a separate container. Be careful about the non-food items you’re distributing, making sure they’re also latex-free and don’t contain allergens like wheat.

    You can make Halloween a fun holiday, even if your child has allergies! If you suspect your child has food allergies, an experienced, board-certified allergist can help you determine how to manage this condition. The physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are board-certified in allergy and immunology. They can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more.

  • Tired of Coughing, Snoring or Clearing Your Throat?

    Do frequent coughing spells exhaust you? Is your family annoyed at your constant throat clearing?  Does your significant other wish you did not snore? And what is that snorting sound you make with your nose?

    These symptoms can all be the noisy consequences of poorly controlled allergies, medically called Allergic Rhinitis.

    Allergic rhinitis occurs when your immune system overreacts to a substance that may be harmless to others. These substances, known as allergens, can be pollen, organisms found in dust, mold, or animal dander.

    Release the histamines

    If you come into contact with allergens and you are allergic, your immune system considers it dangerous and releases a chemical called histamine. You body’s intention is to keep you safe but the over-reaction causes allergy symptoms. When your body comes across an allergy trigger, your immune system launches a chain reaction to defend you.

    First, it sends a chemical signal to cells in your lungs, nose, mouth, gut, and blood. The message is, “Release histamines,” which are stored in certain cells.

    As histamine leaves these cells, it boosts blood flow in the area of your body the allergen affected. This causes inflammation.

    The irritation of it all

    If your nose is affected, histamines infect the membranes causing more mucus to be produced. You can get a runny or stuffy nose. And you’ll sneeze. You may get itchy eyes. The mucus drains down your nasal passages to your throat, making you cough. You snort, a lot. The inflammation caused by the histamine further narrows your nasal passages. As the nasal congestion persists, sinus disease, sore throat, and post nasal drip develop causing chronic coughing. Eventually you live with sleep apnea, snoring, and chronic fatigue.

    What to do?

    The first impulse for many allergy sufferers is to go to the pharmacy and try to figure out the antihistamine-decongestant combination that will work for you.  With so many options, this can be futile and expensive. You can also deal with side effects of these medications that make you feel worse, such as nervousness, dry mouth, drowsiness, high blood pressure, high blood pressure, or constipation.

    The more effective first step is to make an appointment with a board certified allergist. The most important step in treating your allergy symptoms is to identify your allergy triggers by skin testing (without needles). Once the cause is identified, a treatment plan including lifestyle changes will be discussed. A treatment plan may be a simple as identifying the right medication or tips on avoiding the allergen. This can all be accomplished in one appointment with the allergist.

    Improved quality of life

    Individuals who have suffered long term with allergic rhinitis often don’t realize how much better they can feel.  Most patients who have their allergies properly diagnosed find an improved quality of life as a result.

    If you suspect you may have undiagnosed allergic rhinitis, it is advisable to get tested as soon as possible. Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM offers asthma screening and treatment to help you manage your condition successfully. To request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area, please call 610-825-5800 today.