• 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.

     

  • Summer To-Dos Before You Send Your Child with Asthma or Allergies to School

    As summer winds down and kids gear up for going back to school, a parent’s to-do list becomes lengthy. If you’ve got a child with asthma or allergies, we’re sorry to tell you that you need to add a few more items to your list! It’s not really a bad thing, though, because a little bit of extra planning right now can help prevent trouble down the road. Here are some steps we recommend you take before your children go back to school.

    File a care plan with the school. Contact your child’s school to find out what kind of care plan your child needs, and what medical forms need to be completed before the school year starts. You’ll need to have paperwork in place that lists symptoms, medicines, steps to take to prevent problems, and steps to take if symptoms occur. You’ll probably need to file a medicine authorization and an emergency action plan, as well as a dietary meal accommodation form if your child has food allergies. The plans to manage a child’s medical care are called different things depending on the situation, but the three most common types are:

    Emergency Care Plan (ECP): This is your child’s doctor’s medical plan for the school to follow.

    Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP): A type of nursing care plan, this would include an emergency care plan for a child with asthma or food allergies.

    504 Plan: This is a legal contract between your student and the school, so it offers more legal protection than the other types of plans.

     

    Schedule a doctor’s appointment. Over the summer, and certainly at least two or three weeks before school starts, visit your child’s doctor. Ask the doctor to fill out and sign the forms for the school, updating any medical action plans as needed. These plans should be updated annually, at the beginning of the school year. At the same appointment, you can get refills for your child’s medications. If your child uses an inhaler, ask your doctor for an extra one that can be kept at school. Be aware that many schools are not using nebulizers this year, because they may spread the virus that causes COVID-19.

     

    Meet with school staff. The staff members you need to meet with will vary based on your child’s condition. Certainly, talk to the school nurse and your child’s teacher before the first day of school, to make them aware of your child’s needs. If you have a child with food allergies, talk to the food services director. If your child plays sports and has asthma, talk to the coach or the sports director. It’s important for them to know what your child needs, and for you to know how they handle various situations. Ask questions like:

    Where is medicine kept, and is it easily accessible?

    Do staff receive training on managing asthma and allergies?

    What is the school protocol for handling asthma episodes or allergic reactions?

    How does the school handle bullying?

    How is food handled in the school?

    Will safe food substitutions be provided for a child with food allergies?

    Has the COVID10 pandemic changed how food is served, and if so, what is the new process for managing food allergies?

     

    Teach your child self-care. As children grow, they can- and should- learn age-appropriate self-management of allergies and asthma. Talk to your pediatrician or allergist about your child’s capabilities when it comes to self-carrying and administering medication. If your child needs to bring asthma medication or epinephrine to school, you’ll need to work with the doctor and school to file the proper paperwork. Your child should know how to:

    Recognize asthma or allergy symptoms.

    Let an adult know if there is a problem.

    Properly wash hands.

    Read food labels to identify allergies.

    Report bullying or harassment.

    Carry and use medication.

     

    Take preventive measures. Prevention is easier and more effective than trying to get asthma and allergy symptoms under control. Be aware that September brings a spike in asthma attacks and hospitalizations because fall pollen peaks, viruses and bacteria spread among schoolchildren, and children are exposed to asthma and allergens in the schools. Get your child’s asthma under control before school starts, and talk to the doctor if the treatment plan needs to be adjusted. Have your child vaccinated against the flu, pneumococcal disease, and COVID-19, because these illnesses can be very serious. If you have concerns about classroom triggers for allergy and asthma, talk to the school about reducing them. Find out about your school’s plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and consider having your child wear a mask even if it’s not required or the child is vaccinated. Masks reduce a child’s exposure to triggers like pollen, allergens, and scents, as well as reducing their risk of respiratory infections.

     

    If your child has asthma or allergies, enlisting the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist will give you confidence that your doctor can help you find the solutions you need to manage your condition. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all of our physicians are board-certified in allergy and immunology and 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 about our available services.

     

     

     

     

  • Asthma in the Summer

    Most people think only cold weather triggers asthma symptoms, but summertime heat and humidity can also bring on asthma attacks for some people. Learn more about why summer conditions can worsen your asthma, and follow tips to manage your symptoms as temperatures soar.

    Why Does Summertime Trigger Asthma Attacks?

    Several factors combine to make summer a prime time for asthma flare-ups. Here’s what could be making you cough and feel short of breath:

    Hot air: Sitting in a comfortable room between 70 and 78 degrees is unlikely to trigger asthma without an allergen present. However, breathing hot air can make your symptoms flare up because heat affects the physiology of your airways.

    Humidity: Humid air alone can trigger asthma. Add heat to the mix, and you have a fertile breeding ground for dust mites and mold. These allergens can thrive indoors during the summer, meaning you may not be safe from asthma attacks, even if you stay inside.

    Pollen: In late spring and early summer, grass pollen takes to the air. Then, while July sees little pollen activity, ragweed season begins in August. These allergens can trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.

    Ground-level ozone: Ozone contributes to “smog,” the hazy sky you sometimes see hanging over metropolitan areas. This known lung irritant is more common in the summer when high temperatures and sunlight spur the chemical reaction needed to create it. Ozone can reduce lung function and make it more difficult to breathe deeply, especially if you have asthma.

    Wildfire smoke: Hot, dry conditions can lead to forest fires. Smoke plumes from these blazes can travel hundreds of miles, lowering the air quality wherever they go. Your asthma symptoms could worsen if you’re forced to breathe smoky air.

    Thunderstorms: Sudden weather changes, such as those seen before and during a thunderstorm, can cause chest tightness and coughing in sensitive people. Windy conditions can also blow pollen high into the air, irritating your lungs when they settle back down.

    Swimming pool chlorine: Swimming is a recommended activity for people with asthma, and it reduces the risk of becoming overheated in the summer. However, some people are allergic to the chlorine added to swimming pools.

    Tips to Manage Asthma in the Summer

    If you discover that heat, humidity, summer air pollution, and other factors set off your asthma, try these strategies to help prevent flare-ups:

    Stay indoors during heat waves: Avoid situations where you must inhale hot air. This means staying in a cool, air-conditioned building when it’s hotter than 85 degrees outside whenever possible.

    Lower the indoor humidity: You can’t control the weather, but you can keep your home environment comfortable. Running the air conditioner naturally dehumidifies the air, but this isn’t always enough. If the humidity climbs above 50%, dust mites and mold could become a problem. Setting up a portable dehumidifier is an easy way to prevent excessive moisture.

    Keep an eye on pollen counts: When levels become elevated, stay indoors and keep the windows closed.

    Monitor the air quality index (AQI): Check your favorite weather app. You should find the current AQI, possibly even an air quality forecast for the day. If the index rises above 100, stay indoors if you can. If you must run errands, drive with the windows up and the AC set on recirculation mode.

    Watch the weather forecast: If you know thunderstorms affect you, stay indoors before, during, and immediately after the storm.

    Plan outdoor activities for earlier or later in the day: Most of the time, heat, humidity, poor air quality, and thunderstorms are more likely in the afternoon. That’s why mornings and evenings are typically the best times to be outside if you have asthma.

    Pay attention to symptoms at the pool: Now that you know chlorine is a possible asthma trigger, be more conscious of symptoms that appear while swimming. If you have to reach for your inhaler after a few laps, consider trying a different physical activity, preferably indoors to avoid your summertime asthma triggers.

    Use your inhalers: Take your regular preventer inhaler as usual to reduce the risk of attacks. Then, keep your reliever inhaler with you so you can act quickly if flare-ups occur. Remember, it’s important to store inhalers in a cool place out of direct sunlight, so try keeping yours in an insulated lunchbox when you’re out and about on a hot day.

    Talk with your doctor: If you spend time outside in hot, humid weather, you’ll soon know if summertime conditions pose a problem for you. Don’t feel as though you need to endure worsening symptoms. If you start taking your reliever inhaler three or more times per week, talk to your doctor about possibly changing your medication dosage, at least until the weather cools down.

    Control your allergy triggers: Do you think pollen or mold could be to blame for your heightened symptoms? Get tested for allergies so you can find any undiagnosed conditions, begin taking the proper medications, and start limiting your exposure to the allergens that bother you.

    If you suspect you may have undiagnosed asthma or allergies, 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. Allergy testing for inhalant allergens and foods is also an option you may wish to pursue. To request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area, please call 610-825-5800 today.

  • Common Allergy Symptoms in Kids

    About 50 million Americans have allergies, and it’s the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the nation. It’s estimated that 40 percent of children have allergies, and allergies can get in the way of school and other activities. How do you know if your child is suffering from allergies? There are some common symptoms that are fairly easy to spot.

    Children tend to have different types of allergies at different ages. Younger children are prone to skin allergies and rashes. Older children, however, are more likely to have respiratory allergies that cause coughing and wheezing.

    What is an allergy? Allergic reactions happen when a person’s immune system misidentifies a normal substance as something harmful. This substance, an allergen, doesn’t bother people who aren’t allergic to it. For a person with allergies, however, the allergen triggers reactions, as the immune system goes to battle with it.

    Children with respiratory allergies may have runny, itchy, red, or swollen eyes for more than a week and a chronic runny nose. The child may complain of itchy ears or an itchy mouth or throat. These symptoms may be hay fever or allergic rhinitis, which is the most common form of allergy among children. If your child tends to get this kind of symptoms, notice if they recur each year at the same time of year.

    Respiratory allergies can affect a child’s breathing. Listen to your child breathe and notice if there’s a noisy wheeze, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath. If the child has any of these symptoms, it’s time to see the pediatrician. A dry, hacking cough with clear mucus also signifies respiratory allergies. Respiratory allergies often cause sleep disruptions, causing fatigue and listlessness in school age children. Studies show that student with untreated allergies have significantly lower learning scores that their classmates without allergies along with more missed days from school. Further, if you notice that your child tires more easily than usual when playing, the problem may be allergies.

    Sometimes, a child’s skin will react to an allergen. Did you know that the skin is not just the body’s largest organ but also part of the immune system? Keep an eye on your little one’s skin, looking for eczema, which looks like dry, red, scaly, itchy patches. Hives, too, are a sign of allergy. Ranging in size from the size of the tip of a pen to the size of a dinner plate, hives are red welts on the skin.

    Some allergies can cause trouble with the digestive system. Stomach cramps, repeated diarrhea attacks, headache and fatigue can all point to an allergy. You might also notice a change in your child’s behavior, and an increase in crabby moods or restlessness. Pay attention to what happened right before the symptom occurred, and you might be able to determine the allergen.

    Your child could be allergic to your pet’s dander, saliva, urine and fur, and that allergy may be causing sneezing and wheezing. If the problem is a food allergy, it’s likely to be one of the eight foods that contribute to 90 percent of food allergies:

    Milk

    Eggs

    Peanuts

    Tree nuts- (almonds, cashews, and walnuts)

    Fish

    Shellfish- (crab, lobster, and shrimp)

    Soy

    Wheat

     

    In addition, some children can’t tolerate citrus. Sometimes it’s easy to identify an allergen, but often you have to play detective. Allergens can lurk where you don’t expect them, like traces of peanuts in cereal or soy in processed foods.

    If you think your child may be suffering from allergies, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM. We’ll help you determine the allergen and how to manage it. When you enlist the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist, you can be confident that your doctor will help you find the solutions you need to combat allergies. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all physicians are board-certified in allergy and immunology and 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 about services available to help you cope with your child’s allergies.

  • Are You Allergic to Your Dog?

    It’s been said that dogs are man’s best friend, and they truly are amazing companions. Owning a dog decreases anxiety and loneliness, makes people more social and less isolated, and may even improve cognitive function and cardiovascular health. But what about allergies? If you’re allergic to your dog, does it mean you have to give up your best friend?

    Let’s look at some statistics about dog allergies. Data from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America indicates that between 15 and 30 percent of Americans are affected by pet allergies. You’re more likely to be allergic to cats than dogs, because cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. However, dog allergies typically cause more severe allergic reactions, particularly for people with asthma.

    So how do you know if you have a dog allergy? The symptoms run the gamut from mild to severe, and people who are only mildly sensitive may not exhibit symptoms for several days after exposure to a dog. Symptoms include:

    – There may be itching and swelling of the membranes inside the nose or around the eyes.

    – Skin may redden after being licked by a dog.

    – You may start coughing, wheezing, and feeling short of breath with in 15 to 30 minutes of exposure to a dog.

    – A rash may appear on the chest, neck, or face.

    – A person with asthma may have a severe asthma attack.

    – Children may also develop eczema due to a dog allergy.

    Common wisdom used to be that exposing a newborn to the family dog would make the child more likely to develop an allergy. The good news is that this is the opposite of what actually happens. Many recent studies have determined that exposing babies to pets doesn’t increase their risk of allergies and asthma and can actually protect the child from developing these conditions in the future.

    To understand dog allergies and how to manage them, it’s important to first have a grasp of what causes pet allergies. You’re probably heard the term “pet dander” and what the refers to is the dead skin that animals shed. Dogs secrete certain proteins that end up in that dander, as well as in their saliva and urine. When a sensitive person’s immune system comes into contact with these usually harmless proteins, it causes an allergic reaction. Because different breeds produce different proteins, you can be allergic to one dog breed and not another. Pet hair can hold onto dust and pet dander, spreading allergens as it collects in carpets, on clothing, on the walls, and on the furniture. Pet dander can also remain airborne for a long time, eventually making its way into your eyes and lungs.

    If you have dog allergies, does this mean you have to rehome your dog? Not necessarily. While removing the pet from your home is the only way to totally eliminate the allergens, there are steps you can take to minimize exposure and lessen your symptoms without giving away the family pet.

    You can set up dog free zones. You might keep dogs out of the bedrooms, for example, or off of the furniture. If you live in a climate that lends itself to keeping your dog outside- in a well-contained, comfortable, humanely arranged area- you could keep your dog out of the house entirely.

    Keep your dog clean. A weekly bath with a pet-friendly shampoo, performed by a person who is not allergic to the dog, will help keep dander under control.

    Get rid of things that attract and hold onto dander. This includes carpeting, upholstered furniture, horizontal blinds, and curtains.

    Up your clean air game. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your HVAC can help, and a HEPA air purifier is even better at minimizing airborne allergens.

    Consider a hypoallergenic breed. No dog breed is 100 percent hypoallergenic, but there are several breeds that produce less dander than others or have a non-shedding coat.

    Try out the dog before you get attached. Having a trial period to assess family members’ reactions can help you determine if a dog is the right choice for your family.

    You can also manage allergies and asthma using medications. Antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, decongestants, and cromolyn sodium are all available over the counter, and can help respiratory symptoms. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) expose the body to the animal protein causing the reaction to reduce sensitivity and symptoms. Prescription medications called leukotriene modifiers are sometimes recommended for people who can’t antihistamines or corticosteroids. There are some risks, so it’s important to see a board certified allergist to determine which treatment is right for you.

    Whenever you suspect you’re suffering from an allergy, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM. We’ll help you determine what you’re dealing with and how to manage it. When you enlist the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist, you can be confident that your doctor will help you find the solutions you need to manage your allergies. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all physicians are board-certified in allergy and immunology and 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 about services available to help you with your allergies.

  • Food Allergy or Sensitivity

    A certain food may bother you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allergic to it. Sometimes, the problem is a food sensitivity, and sometimes it’s an intolerance. Does this sound confusing? Let’s clarify some of the basic facts about food allergies and sensitivities.

    Allergies and sensitivities are different because of the way the body responds. If you’re allergic to a food, your body’s response to that food is what causes a systemic allergic reaction. If you’re not allergic to the food, but have a food sensitivity or intolerance, the food itself triggers a more localized digestive reaction.

    Food sensitivities and intolerances are more common than allergies. Fortunately, they’re not life-threatening. While symptoms of food sensitivity can vary, food intolerance affects the digestive system, causing gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, and nausea. Rather than being caused by an allergic reaction, sensitivities and intolerances are the result of the body’s inability to digest a particular food.

    Food sensitivity and intolerance are not immune-mediated. When a food triggers an intolerance, it happens in your digestive tract. For instance, if you are lactose intolerant, your body can’t break down lactose, and this leads to digestion-related symptoms. You might have a sensitivity or intolerance if you don’t have the right enzymes to digest certain foods, have a reaction to food additives or preservatives like sulfites, MSG, or artificial colors, you’re sensitive to chemical additives, or you have a sensitivity to sugars that are found in foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or onions.

    An allergic response involves the immune system. The immune system defends your body against attackers like bacteria, fungus, or viruses. If your immune system identifies a protein in what you eat as one of these interlopers, it tries to fight it by producing antibodies. This causes allergic reactions like the common immunoglobulin E (IgE)- mediated reaction. IgEs are allergic antibodies that cause a reaction as soon as chemicals, like histamine from mast cells, are released.

    Non-IgE mediated food allergies involve the activation of other parts of the immune system. Symptoms of non-IGE reactions don’t typically happen immediately, and they tend to occur in the gastrointestinal tract. These symptoms include bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea, and are generally not life-threatening.

    Food allergies can be serious, or even fatal. Sometimes a person with a severe food allergy doesn’t even have to eat the food to react to it. Something as insignificant as touching the food or inhaling its fumes can be deadly. Symptoms of a food allergy include skin reactions like hives, itching, or swelling, digestive symptoms, and anaphylaxis, which includes trouble breathing, dizziness, wheezing, and even death.

    Eight foods cause the most allergies. In fact, the following foods cause 90 percent of all allergic reactions:

    – Milk

    – Eggs

    – Fish

    – Shellfish

    – Peanuts

    – Tree Nuts

    – Wheat

    – Soybeans

    It’s important to know if you have a food allergy. If you do have food allergies, you have to avoid those foods. In case of accidental ingestion, you need to have self-injectable epinephrine on hand and know how to administer it. Allergies can be serious, but with the right care, they can be managed.

    Whether you suspect you have a food allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM to help diagnosis your symptoms. The allergists at A&AS are the regions experts on identifying food allergies and administering high risk food allergy testing and challenges. When you enlist the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist for proper testing and treatment, you can be confident that your doctor will help you find the solutions you need to manage your allergies. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all physicians are board-certified in allergy and immunology and 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 about services available to help you with your allergies.