• 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.

  • Allergy Facts and Figures

    Did you know that allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the United States? In fact, more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. Still, there’s confusion about exactly what allergies are and how they differ from intolerance and sensitivity. Let’s look at some facts about allergies and answer some common questions.

    An allergy is an immune system reaction to a foreign substance. This substance, called an allergen, could be something you ate, or it could be something you inhaled, injected, or simply touched. When your body comes in contact with an allergen, the result is an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions vary from mild to extreme. Mild responses include coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a scratchy throat. More severe reactions include rashes, hives, low blood pressure, breathing trouble, or asthma attacks. In the most severe cases, allergies can even be fatal.

    Allergies are treatable, but there’s no cure. Managing allergies is accomplished with prevention and treatment. While often overlooked as a disease, it is one of the most common diseases in the United States. In fact, allergic conditions are the most common health issues affecting children in the U.S., and food allergies cause about 200,000 visits to the emergency room each year.

    • How deadly are allergies? Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, is most often triggered by medicine, food, and insect stings. Of these allergens, medicines cause the most deaths. The groups that have the deadliest reactions to allergens are elderly people and African-Americans.
    • What are indoor/outdoor allergies? Indoor and outdoor allergies cause sinus swelling, seasonal allergies, hay fever, nasal allergies, and asthma. Allergens include tree, grass, and weed pollen, dust mites, mold spores, cockroaches, rodent dander, and pet dander. The triggers for indoor/outdoor allergies can also trigger eye allergies, and most people with allergies suffer from more than one type of allergy. Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, is an example of an indoor/outdoor allergy, and it affects 2 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children.
    • What causes skin allergies? The most common triggers for skin allergies are plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Coming into contact with cockroaches or dust mites, certain foods, or latex can also cause symptoms of skin allergies. Skin allergy symptoms include skin inflammation, eczema, hives, and contact allergies. Nearly 9 million children in the U.S. have skin allergies, with kids between 0 and 4 being the most likely to experience them.
    • Are drug allergies common? Reactions to drugs may affect 10 percent of the world’s population, and up to 20 percent of hospital patients. The most common trigger for those with drug allergies is penicillin.
    • How serious is a latex allergy? For most people with a latex allergy, exposure to latex causes mild to severe dermatitis, some time after exposure. The most serious response to latex shows up immediately, and presents as a nasal allergy, conjunctivitis, cramps, hives, and severe itching. Symptoms can also include rapid heartbeat, tremors, chest pain, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, or anaphylaxis. There’s a growing concern among medical professionals about latex allergies because risk of allergy increases with repeated exposure, and 8-12 percent of health care workers develop a latex allergy.
    • How common are insect allergies? About 5 percent of the population is allergic to insect stings, which cause 90-100 deaths each year.
    • What are the most common food allergies? Believe it or not, most food allergies are caused by just eight foods. These allergens are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Children are more likely than adults to have food allergies.
    • What’s the difference between a food allergy, a sensitivity, and an intolerance? A true food allergy can cause a serious, even life-threatening reaction. Sensitivity to a certain food can cause an immune response, typically not as serious as an allergy, but disruptive in its own right. Symptoms include joint pain, stomach pain, fatigue, rashes, and brain fog. Gluten is a common trigger of food sensitivity. Food intolerance is the inability to digest certain foods, like dairy products, and typically cause diarrhea or bloating.
    • How are allergies best managed? Avoiding triggers is the first step toward managing allergies. There are also medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, that your allergist can recommend. For about 85 percent of people with allergic rhinitis, immunotherapy, in the form of allergy shots, drops or tablets, is helpful in reducing or nearly eliminating symptoms. The best strategy is to see an allergist to devise a treatment plan.

    If you’re struggling with allergy symptoms and would like to feel better, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists . In one visit, the board certified allergist will help you identify your triggers and develop a treatment plan that is best for you.   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. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about services available to help you with your allergies.

  • Asthma Facts and Figures

    Over 235 million people worldwide have asthma, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That number includes 25 million Americans, making it one of the most common chronic diseases in our country. Here, we offer some facts and figures to help you better understand this chronic condition.

    • What is asthma? Asthma is a condition that causes swelling of the airways, which narrows the passage through which air moves from the nose and mouth to the lungs. It can be triggered by allergens or other irritants, and symptoms include wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest, and trouble breathing. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed with the right treatment.
    • Exactly how common is asthma? Numbers like 25 million are hard to digest, and don’t tell the whole story, so let’s look at it some other ways. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 1 in 13 people have asthma. That includes 7.7 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children, and the numbers have been increasing since the early 1980s.
    • Who is most affected by asthma? Asthma affects more children than adults, and about 6.2 million children under the age of 18 have asthma. That’s 1 in 12 children, which makes it unsurprising that asthma is the top reason for missed school days. In fact, it’s the leading chronic disease in children. It’s more common in boys than girls but, interestingly more common in women than men.
    • How serious is asthma? Asthma can be extremely serious- even deadly. In fact, 10 Americans die every day from asthma: in 2017, 3,564 people died from asthma. Adults are four times more likely to die from asthma than children, and women are more likely to die of it than men. However, boys are more likely than girls to die of asthma.
    • What are the statistics on medical care for asthma? Most deaths from asthma could have been avoided with proper treatment. Still, more than 11.4 million people report asthma episodes or attacks annually, including more than 3 million children. This condition accounts for 9.8 million doctor’s office visits, nearly 200,000 inpatient hospital stays, and 1.8 million emergency room visits every year. It’s the third-ranking cause of hospitalization in those younger than 15 years of age.
    • Does asthma vary according to ethnicity? Asthma affects people of color African-American, Hispanic, and Indigenous people in the United States have the highest asthma rates, deaths, and hospitalizations. However, while Puerto Ricans are more likely to have asthma than any other ethnic group, African Americans are three times more likely than people of other races to be hospitalized or die from asthma. African-American children have the highest prevalence of asthma, and Black children under the age of 4 have the highest number of emergency room and urgent care visits of any group.
    • Why is asthma more common in some groups than others? Racial and ethnic disparities in asthma frequency and severity have to do with many factors. These include:
      • Structural determinants like segregation, discriminatory policies, and systemic racism
      • Social determinants like education, environment, employment, socioeconomic status, social support, and access to health care
      • Biological determinants like ancestry and genetic makeup
      • Behavioral determinants like adherence to medicines and the use of tobacco
    • How can asthma be controlled? Your doctor will come up with a plan based on factors like your age, symptoms, triggers, and the severity of your asthma. Prevention and long-term control can keep asthma attacks at bay.

    Board-certified allergists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and will give you the education, tools and confidence you need to manage your condition. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all of our physicians are board-certified in allergy, asthma 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.

  • The Different Symptoms of COVID-19, the Flu, a Cold, Allergies and Asthma

    COVID-19 is still spreading, which makes every cough and sniffle suspect. It’s important to remember, though, that even with the new coronavirus spreading COVID-19, it’s still cold and flu season, and other respiratory ailments are still in play. How can you tell if you have a cold, a flu, allergies, asthma, or COVID-19? Let’s look at the symptoms of each condition separately to help you understand the differences.

    Asthma is chronic and causes inflammation of the airways. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and chest tightness, and they can either come on gradually or suddenly. There’s no cure for asthma but it can be managed by identifying triggers and treating symptoms with medication.

    COVID-19 is new, and there’s not yet a comprehensive list of symptoms because scientists are still learning about it. We do know that symptoms can include fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, fatigue or weakness, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, pinkeye, blue or purple lesions on toes, and hives or rashes. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor and follow the doctor’s instructions carefully. If you have severe symptoms, like trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest that won’t go away, confusion or an inability to wake up, or a bluish tint on the lips, face, or fingernails, call 911. While vaccines for COVID-19 are available, the best way to prevent its spread is currently still wearing a face mask, washing hands frequently, socially distancing, and cleaning and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces. If you think you have COVID-19, isolate yourself, even from those who live in your house, and wear a face mask any time you’re around someone.

    Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. It can be mild or severe, and the symptoms can come on suddenly. In the most severe cases, the flu can be fatal. Symptoms include a fever that often gets very high, headache, extreme fatigue, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches in bones and/or muscles, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to lower your risk of getting and transmitting the flu and is especially important if you’re in a high-risk group, like senior adults and people with pre-existing conditions, like asthma. Because it’s possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, this year it’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine. If you develop flu symptoms, contact your doctor right away so that you can start on anti-viral treatments. These treatments can lessen flu symptoms but must be taken within two days of getting the flu.

    The common cold is comparably mild. It’s not as bad as the flu or COVID-19, but it still should be taken seriously, especially because colds can trigger asthma symptoms. Symptoms of a cold include a mild cough, sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, a short fever, and aches and pains.

    Allergies, unlike these other respiratory ailments, are not contagious. Rather, an allergy is caused by a reaction of your immune system. Allergy symptoms can include itchy nose and eyes, sneezing, stuffy or runny nose, and post-nasal drip. If you have allergy symptoms, you can control them by avoiding contact with allergens. There are also allergy treatments that can help.

    If you’re struggling with respiratory issues and would like to determine exactly what’s troubling you, 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.

  • Is it an Allergy or an Intolerance?

    If a certain food gives you trouble, you might think you’re allergic to it, but is that really the case? Not always. In fact, in some cases you may just be sensitive to that particular food or have an intolerance. An allergist can help you determine whether you’re dealing with a true allergy or a food intolerance.

    However, there are some key differences in the two conditions that may help you gain a pretty good idea of what you’re experiencing.

    A true food allergy causes an immune system reaction. This reaction affects numerous organs and can cause a range of symptoms. Your body responds to a specific food with an immunoglobulin E (IgE) response that triggers the release of histamine. This can cause an almost immediate reaction with potentially severe symptoms like anaphylaxis or hives. The reaction to a food allergy can be life-threatening.

    Food sensitivity, on the other hand, can cause vague symptoms, often with delayed reaction times. The symptoms, which can include bloating, diarrhea, and migraines, can be delayed for a few days after ingesting the trigger food.

    Food intolerance triggers a digestive response that’s typically much milder than the symptoms of an allergy. You may be able to eat small amounts of the food without a problem, or there may be a way for you to prevent the reaction, perhaps by taking a medication when you eat the food. Food intolerances tend to run in families, and it often just causes digestive issues.

     

    While allergies are fairly straightforward, food intolerance can have several different causes. These include:

    The absence of an enzyme your body needs to fully digest a food: One common example of this is lactose intolerance. Often, people who are lactose intolerant can take a lactase enzyme pill in order to eat or drink dairy without incident.

    Irritable bowel syndrome: IBS is a chronic condition that can cause cramping, constipation, and diarrhea.

    A sensitivity to food additives: One example of this is sulfites. These are an additive used in wine, canned goods, and to preserve dried fruit. If someone is sensitive to sulfites, they might experience trigger asthma attacks after consuming them.

    Recurring stress or psychological factors: It’s not understood why, but sometimes just thinking about a food can make someone sick.

    Celiac disease: Celiac disease is somewhat like a true food allergy. This is because it involves the immune system. Symptoms often include gastrointestinal issues, but they also be unrelated to the digestive system. People with celiac disease may experience symptoms like joint pain and headaches, but they are not at risk of anaphylaxis. Celiac disease is a chronic digestive condition triggered by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains.

    If you’re struggling with food issues, and would like to determine whether it’s an allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance, 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.

  • Welcome Winter: Prepping For an Allergy Free Home

    It’s almost winter and, for allergy sufferers, getting ready for the season means more than pulling your sweaters out of storage. You might not think of winter as an allergy season, but if you experience a runny nose, sinus congestion, sore throat, shortness of breath and coughing for longer than two weeks, it is most likely allergies. While there’s less pollen floating around, closing the house and turning on the heat causes a concentration of animal dander, dust mites, mold, smoke and emissions from heating systems that can trigger an allergic response.  Ahead of winter’s arrival, it’s smart to identify these allergens and do all you can to make your home an allergy-free zone.

    Indoor heating causes increased allergens for many people. During the warmer months, when your heater is off, contaminants can build up in your ducts. The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA) considers HVAC systems possible pathways for pollutants and contaminants like dust, bacteria, and, especially, mold. Before the winter season arrives, have your HVAC system inspected. If there’s mold growth in the ducts, consider having them cleaned before you run your heater.

    Even a clean heating system can be problematic, however, because indoor heating dries out the air in your house. When the air is too dry, it can aggravate respiratory ailments like asthma and allergies, as well as causing dry, irritated sinus passages, itchy skin, and sore throats. Keeping your home at an appropriate relative humidity level- between 30-50% is best for health and comfort.

    Humidity is not the only issue your home’s air can face.  Common indoor allergies include pet hair and dander, dust particles, dust mites, mold, and cockroach droppings. Your indoor air can also be polluted with cigarette smoke and emissions from gas stoves as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your cleaning products. Even your Christmas tree can be harboring mold spores and dust mites! What can you do to rid your home of all these potential allergy and asthma triggers?

     

    Consider an air purifier. Air purifiers are designed to remove potential allergens from the air in your home. There are many different air purifiers on the market, so be sure to look for one with a HEPA filter, which is the most efficient and allergy-friendly filter you can choose. While it’s not always feasible to have an air purifier in every room of your house, you can make a dent in your home’s indoor allergens by placing them strategically, in the most used rooms of your house. Want a little bit of extra purifying power? Consider houseplants like English Ivy, Lady Palms, or Peace Lilies, which naturally remove pollutants from the air.

    Change your HVAC’s filter regularly. The filter in your heating and cooling system should be changed monthly, to keep things like dust mite feces, pet dander, and mold from circulating through your home.

    Vacuum and dust frequently. Keeping your home free of dust can make a big difference for allergy sufferers in your family. Every week or two, use a damp rag to wipe down your bedframe, counter tops, shelves, and any other surface that has begun to accumulate dust. After you’ve dusted, vacuum or steam clean your floors, in order to remove dust, dust mites, pet dander, and other allergens. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter is especially effective. If you have pets, make sure to groom them frequently as well.

    Clean your bathroom and kitchen. Dust, grease, mold, and mildew in these areas can aggravate allergies. Keep your kitchen and bathroom clean and well-ventilated.

    Change your bedding. You should be washing your bedding at least once a week, but it may also be helpful to consider hypoallergenic bedding. At the very least, use a dust mite mattress cover, to keep your mattress clean.

    Be mindful of your cleaning products. Instead of harsh chemicals, choose natural cleaners like vinegar and baking soda. A steam cleaner is also a very useful tool for cleaning your house without polluting your indoor air.

     

    Controlling your environment is the first step in preventing allergic reactions during the winter months. However, if your allergies do flare up and persist, identifying the triggers is the next best step.  In one visit with the allergist, your allergy triggers can be identified, and an effective treatment plan can be determined.

    When you’re ready to get help with your allergies and get back to living your life, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM for help. 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.

  • Halloween Safety Tips for 2020

    The spooky decorations and scary movies around Halloween make this holiday a favorite for many adults and children alike. But for parents of kids with food allergies, there’s an entirely different reason to be frightened. Wheat, milk, soy, egg, and other common food allergens are found in everything from chocolate bars to caramel candies to fruit chews. What’s more, many goodies are processed on the same equipment as peanuts and tree nuts, making them unsafe for sensitive individuals.

    Then, there’s the coronavirus pandemic looming over this year’s holiday festivities. To reduce the spread of this illness, everyone must take extra precautions. If you want Halloween 2020 to be more thrilling than chilling, follow these safety tips to avoid exposure to food allergies and COVID-19.

    Food Allergy Safety Tips for Halloween

    Whether you’re attending a Halloween party, hosting an event at your house, or simply going trick-or-treating, it’s important to take food allergies seriously. Here’s how to make the holiday a safe and fun experience for children with food allergies:

    Bring epinephrine with you: Carry your child’s epinephrine auto-injectors while trick-or-treating, attending parties, visiting stores, or going anywhere else that might involve handing out candy. In fact, you should keep an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times.

    Talk to Halloween party hosts: Make sure a responsible adult who knows about your child’s allergies will be supervising any Halloween parties your child attends. Teach your child what to do if they think they’re having an allergic reaction, including seeking help from an adult.

    Read food labels before eating: Discourage your child from nibbling on goodies while trick-or-treating. Wait until you get home to examine the labels for possible food allergens. Keep in mind that many individually wrapped fun-size candies don’t contain ingredient lists, so you may need to look them up online. If any products are homemade or have no label, throw them out.

    Trade out allergen-filled candies with non-food treats: Remove any goodies from your child’s stash that could cause an allergic reaction. To make this process easier, swap out candy for glow sticks, Halloween-themed pencils, stickers, plastic spider rings, and other non-food treats.

    Bring your own goodies to share: Host parties at your house so you can easily serve allergen-free snacks. When attending events elsewhere, consider bringing goodies you know are safe for your child to eat. Bring enough for everyone so your child doesn’t feel singled out.

    Teach your child to “always ask first”: A well-meaning friend may offer your child a piece of candy, forgetting that they’re allergic. To prevent a mishap, make sure your child knows to always ask you, a teacher, or another adult who knows about their allergies whether the food is safe to eat.

    Talk to your neighbors: Friends and neighbors may want to provide allergen-free candy at parties and for trick-or-treaters, but they’re not sure what to buy. Share with them what to look for when purchasing candy, or provide them with a list of safe goodies they can give your child.

    Look for teal pumpkins: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) created the Teal Pumpkin Project in 2014 to raise awareness and provide safe options for trick-or-treaters with food allergies. Participants place a teal pumpkin outside their home, indicating they have allergen-free, non-food treats available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign does not include a teal pumpkin map this year, but the website has plenty of other resources to explore.

    COVID-19 Safety Tips for Halloween

    Many Halloween activities have a high risk of spreading the coronavirus. Traditional trick-or-treating, crowded costume parties, indoor haunted houses, and hayrides with people who live outside your household should all be avoided this year. Consider these alternative, lower-risk ways to enjoy Halloween with family and friends:

    – Follow day-to-day coronavirus safety precautions, including maintaining a six-foot distance from others, wearing a cloth face covering, and regularly washing your hands.

    – Keep in mind that a plastic Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a mask designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Avoid wearing a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because this could make it difficult to breathe. Instead, consider wearing a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

    – Carve pumpkins with members of your household and display them on your porch.

    – Carve pumpkins with friends or neighbors in an outdoor setting where tables are set up at a distance.

    – Decorate your living space for the fall season.

    – Participate in socially distant trick-or-treating. One idea is to place individually wrapped goodie bags on a table at the end of your driveway. This way, trick-or-treaters can grab and go without reaching into a communal candy bowl or crowding your front porch.

    – Seek out open-air events, such as an outdoor costume parade, pumpkin patch, apple orchard, haunted forest, or corn maze where guests are required to wear face coverings and remain at least six feet apart.

    – Host an outdoor Halloween movie night, with friends and neighbors spaced out appropriately.

    – Hold a virtual Halloween costume contest with your children and their friends.

    – Have a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt, either with household members around your home or with neighbors walking from house to house.

    – Do not participate in any in-person Halloween festivities if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

    With these food allergy and coronavirus safety tips in mind, you should be all set to enjoy Halloween safely this year. Remember, accurately diagnosing food allergies is the first step toward proper treatment. Whether your child shows minor signs of food intolerance or experiences a severe allergic reaction, Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM can help. To request allergy testing or treatment, please call 610-825-5800 to set an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area.

  • Delicious Treats for Those With Food Allergies

    Food allergies may seem complicated. It’s hard to avoid allergens when they often hide where you’d least expect them. Fortunately, you don’t have to let food allergies limit you. There are plenty of different recipes for delicious, allergy-free baked goods that you can make at home.

    If you’re dairy-free, you’ll love this Blueberry Breakfast Cake. Light and fluffy, not too sweet, and bursting with blueberries, it’s perfect for breakfast or brunch. Play around with the recipe if you want, using different kinds of flour, to cater to your dietary needs and suit your preferences. The recipe is also vegan.

    You may find it hard to believe these Chocolate Chip Cookies are glutenfree. Gluten-free baking can be tricky, so finding a recipe that tastes good and has the right texture is an accomplishment. These cookies are chewy and chocolatey, and they’re also easy, because they start off with a store-bought mix.

    This Banana Cake is not only glutenfree, but also nut-free. Overripe bananas make it flavorful and moist, and a rich cream cheese frosting makes it spectacular. You can bake it in less than an hour, and if you need it to be egg-free as well, just substitute applesauce for the eggs.

    For an allergy-friendly dessert, try this recipe for Apple Pie. Gluten-free and vegan, it’s got a delicious, buttery crust and the perfect sweet-tart apple filling. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving or any other time you want a special dessert, and you can make it the night before.

    If you’re allergic to eggs, it pays to get familiar with egg replacers. It’s easy to purchase egg replacers, but you can also use common foods as egg substitutes.

    – Baking powder: Baking powder is a great option if you’re making pancakes. It contains sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar, which react with liquid and make the batter rise dramatically.

    – Baking soda and vinegar: Think “science fair volcano” and you’ll get the idea for the chemical reaction this causes in your baking. That’s why it’s the perfect choice for cakes, cupcakes, and muffins.

    – Ground flax seeds: Combine one tablespoon of ground flax seed with three tablespoons of water for each egg the recipe requires. After a few minutes, the mixture will become gelatinous, resembling an egg. This is a good choice for denser recipes.

    – Chia seeds: Just like with flax seeds, one tablespoon of chia seeds is mixed with three tablespoons of water. The downside is that, unlike golden flax seeds, chia seeds are visible in the final product.

    – Yogurt: This substitute binds batter together and adds moisture, so it’s good for cakes, cupcakes, and muffins. You can use traditional or non-dairy yogurt, using three tablespoons for each egg in the recipe.

    – Applesauce: 1/3 cup of applesauce replaces one egg and works well in most recipes. You can also choose to use a different pureed fruit if you prefer.

    – Aquafaba: This is the liquid from a can of chickpeas. It’s good for baking, making mayonnaise, and making vegan meringue cookies.

    The physicians of Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM specialize in food allergy testing and high risk food challenges.  A&AS has successfully transitioned many peanut allergy patients to eating 1 -2 peanuts per day without a reaction using peanut sublingual immunotherapy. The board certified allergists of A&AS are the regions leading practice for the management of food allergies. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about services available to help you with your allergies.

  • Autumn Ailments: Tips on Living with Ragweed & Dander

    So, you lived through spring and summer allergens, and if pollen Is your problem, you may get a break when the weather gets cooler. However, the arrival of fall doesn’t mean the end of allergens. Indoor allergies may actually get worse as you start spending more time inside, and ragweed can cause problems all the way into early fall. That’s because it releases pollen when the weather is warmer during the day and cooler at night. What can you do about autumn allergens? We have a few tips to help you stay healthy.

    What are the fall allergens that may have you sniffling and sneezing, with a stuffy nose and itchy, watery eyes? Outside the culprits are usually pollen and ragweed, while indoor allergens include mold, dust mites, and pet dander. Keeping your house clean and washing your bed linens once a week in hot water should keep dust mites at bay, while keeping your home well-ventilated and fixing leaks immediately can help control the growth of mold. Ragweed and pet dander, however, are a little trickier to control.

    If you’re sensitive to the pollen released by spring plants, you’re likely to react to ragweed as well, because about 75 percent of people with spring allergies are also allergic to ragweed. Don’t think you’re safe just because ragweed doesn’t grow in your area: wind can carry ragweed pollen hundreds of miles. What are some good ways to handle ragweed?

    Stay inside when pollen counts are high. Peak ragweed hours are between 10 a.m.-3 p.m., so if you don’t need to go out during those hours, stay inside. It’s also wise to check the weather forecast every day, being aware that pollen counts tend to be higher on hot, dry, windy days than they are on cool, damp, rainy, windless days. If you can’t stay inside, keep pollen out of your hair and eyes by wearing a hat and glasses.

    Keep pollen out of your house. When you do go outside, take off your shoes, shower, and change your clothes when you come inside. That way, you’ll avoid tracking pollen through your house. Another way to reduce airborne allergens in your house is by using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in your air conditioner and keeping the windows closed.

    Take your medicine. It can be helpful to take antihistamine medications during your most active levels of the day, to block the effects of the histamine released by your body during an allergic reaction. Decongestants and corticosteroid nasal sprays can also help, and allergy shots provide long-term relief.

    Be aware that the proteins similar to those in ragweed pollen are found in other sources, too. Bananas, melons, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea can all trigger allergies if you’re sensitive to ragweed.

    Pet dander is another problem when you’re spending a lot of time indoors. Your warm-blooded companion animals, including cats, dogs, birds, and rodents, all have dead skin cells we call animal dander. The proteins found in this dander, or in saliva or urine, causes the pet allergies; you’re not allergic to the actual animal. HEPA filters can help keep dander under control, especially when your vacuum has one, and damp dusting is also helpful. Our most helpful piece of advice, though, is to keep your pets out of your bedrooms if you’re allergic, and bathe them once a week.

    You can also try home remedies, staying hydrated, and nasal sprays. Many people find that healthy lifestyle habits can help combat allergies. Eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and practicing mindfulness are all healthy habits to pursue, and they may help alleviate allergy symptoms. For real relief, though, trust a professional, board-certified allergist.

    If you’re suffering the effects of autumn allergens, enlisting the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist, can help you find the solutions you need to manage your allergies. All of the physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM 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 available services.