• Seasonal Allergies in the Spring and How to Combat your Asthma

    If you seem to always be sniffling and sneezing in the spring, it may be seasonal allergies. Of course, to learn the exact cause, you’ll need to see an allergist, who can help you pinpoint your allergen and help you manage your allergies. In parts of the United States, spring allergies start in February and continue bothering allergy sufferers until the early summer. What causes these allergic reactions, and what can you do to feel better?

    Spring allergies are often caused by pollen. Tree pollination starts early, followed by grass pollination, then ragweed. In warmer areas, though, grass may pollinate throughout the year. What’s more, when the winter is mild, plants can pollinate early, and rain in the spring can promote rapid plant growth. Worse, all that rain can increase mold that can last until fall, causing those allergic to mold to suffer miserably. Considering moving to another part of the country to avoid allergens? Don’t bother, because allergens are everywhere.

    Even if you think you know what you’re allergic to, you may not really know. Eleven different types of tree pollen can trigger allergies in the spring, and you’re likely to encounter mold both indoors and outdoors. If you swim, chlorine can contribute to your allergies, and if you camp, the campfire and bug bites can cause allergic reactions. When holidays like Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Mother’s Day roll around, you may find yourself having a reaction to something in the candy so prevalent on those holidays.

    Seasonal allergies can cause congestion, sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes, but they can also go hand in hand with asthma. That’s because the same substances that trigger your allergies can cause asthma symptoms. When this happens, it’s called allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma. Allergic responses occur when proteins in the immune system mistakenly identify something harmless as an invader. It then releases chemicals to fight the allergen, and sometimes this leads to asthma symptoms. There are many treatments that work for either allergies or asthma, but some treatments can help with both conditions at once. For example, a leukotriene modifier is a daily pill that helps control immune system chemicals, and allergy shots can help your immune system adjust to allergens that trigger asthma.

    Short of seeing an allergist, what can you do to get your allergies and asthma under control? Pay attention to mold and pollen counts, and limit your outdoor activity when counts are high. Keep your doors and windows shut during allergy season, and take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes after you’ve been outside. If you’re mowing the lawn or doing other chores, wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask. You can also try over the counter medications to control your allergy symptoms.

    In truth, it’s better to go ahead and see an allergist. Not only can a board-certified allergist identify exactly what’s causing your symptoms, but he or she can also prescribe allergen immunotherapy, or allergy immunotherapy in 3 forms, drops, injections and tablets. Immunotherapy doesn’t just alleviate the symptoms of allergies and asthma; it actually modifies your disease and makes you less allergic.

    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 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.

  • 8 Common Food Allergies

    Food allergies affect about 5 percent of adults and 8 percent of children, so you probably know more than one person with a food allergy. Here’s something you may not know: most food allergies are caused by one of only eight foods. Any food can cause an allergy, but these eight foods account for 90 percent of food allergies.

    A food allergy is a condition in which foods trigger an abnormal immune response within the body. If you’re allergic to a certain food, your immune system wrongly identifies some of the proteins in that food as harmful and launches a defense that includes releasing chemicals like histamine. Allergic reactions to food may include swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, hives, or an itchy rash. Sometimes, a food allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. So, which are the eight most common allergens?

    Cows milk allergies usually only affect kids under three years of age. It’s seen in about 2-3 percent of babies and toddlers, but most kids outgrow it. Some children have symptoms like swelling, rashes, hives, vomiting, and sometimes even anaphylaxis. Other children have symptoms like vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. The reaction depends on the type of milk allergy. Children with milk allergies must avoid all milk-based products, including milk, milk powder, cheese, butter, margarine, yogurt, cream, and ice cream.

    Most kids outgrow egg allergies by the time they turn 16. Symptoms include digestive issues, skin reactions, respiratory problems, and, rarely, anaphylaxis. It’s possible to be allergic to either the egg whites or the egg yolks while not being allergic to the other, and an egg white allergy is more common. An egg-free diet is the best way to combat an egg allergy, but some people can tolerate eggs in baked goods. In fact, some research suggests that introducing baked goods that contain eggs into the diet can help a child outgrow the allergy. It’s very important to talk to your allergist before trying this, though.

    Tree nut allergies affect about 1 percent of the population of the U. Even if you’re only allergic to one kind of tree nut, it’s advisable to avoid them all, as being allergic to one kind raises your risk of developing an allergy to another kind. Tree nuts include Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pistachios, pine nuts, and walnuts. They can be very serious, and people with tree nut allergies are advised to carry epi-pens at all times.

    Peanut allergies are common, severe, and potentially fatal. About 4-8 percent of kids and 1-2 percent of adults are allergic to peanuts, and about 15-22 percent of kids outgrow their peanut allergy in their teenage years. As with tree nuts, people with peanut allergies should carry an epi-pen and avoid all peanuts and peanut-containing products.

    A shellfish allergy can be triggered simply by breathing in shellfish fumes. A true shellfish allergy can sometimes be hard to distinguish from a reaction to contaminants of seafood because the symptoms for both are digestive issues. Shellfish include shrimp, prawns, crayfish, lobster, squid, and scallops, and people don’t grow out of shellfish allergies.

    Kids with wheat allergies usually outgrow them by age 10. Like other allergies, a wheat allergy can cause digestive distress, skin reactions, and sometimes anaphylaxis. It’s different from a gluten-sensitivity, primarily because wheat allergies can be fatal. Treatment is a wheat-free diet, but gluten from other grains is usually fine.

    About 4 percent of kids have soy allergies. About 70 percent of these kids outgrow the allergy, usually by age 3. Symptoms include an itchy, tingly mouth, runny nose, rash, asthma, or breathing difficulties, and in rare cases, soy allergies can cause anaphylaxis. If your child has a soy allergy, it’s important to read labels, because many products contain soy.

    Fish allergies affect about 2 percent of adults. It’s not uncommon for a fish allergy to appear later in life, and about 40 percent of people with fish allergies develop the allergy as an adult. Symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea, but anaphylaxis can also occur and fish allergies are potentially fatal. Because of this, it’s recommended that people with fish allergies carry an epi-pen.

    Do you think you or your child may be allergic to one of these foods? 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 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.

     

  • New Year, New You: Planning Ahead for a Healthier Year

    There’s no better time than the start of a new year to commit to healthy habits that are designed to keep you healthy and strong. If you were recently diagnosed with asthma, you might feel nervous about learning to manage this condition. By planning ahead, you’ll have everything you need to control your symptoms going forward.

    The allergists of Allergy & Asthma Specialists develop an Asthma Action Plan form personalized for each patient. This document helps you assess your asthma from day-to-day, and it may be modified according to your changing needs. It’s a good idea to share the details of your plan and give a copy to family members, caregivers, and close friends.

    Here are the types of things to include in your Asthma Action Plan as you aim to make 2020 a healthier year with asthma.

    Identify & Avoid Your Triggers

    The first and most important step is to pinpoint what causes your symptoms to develop. You can simply pay attention to your surroundings to identify your triggers over time, or you can meet with an allergist for allergy skin tests without needles.

    Common asthma triggers include:

    • Tobacco smoke
    • Dust mites
    • Outdoor air pollution
    • Cockroaches
    • Pet dander
    • Mold
    • Pollen
    • Perfume
    • Wildfire smoke
    • Physical exercise
    • Cold weather
    • High or low humidity
    • Some foods or food additives
    • Viral infection such as a cold or flu

    Once you know your triggers, you can do your best to avoid them. This may require some lifestyle changes, but with a little effort, you can reduce your risk of having a severe asthma attack.

    Learn to Recognize Your Symptoms

    Asthma symptom tracking can help you spot the precursors to an attack. Once you learn to sense the early warning signs, you can immediately take fast-acting medication or remove yourself from an area with triggers before your symptoms become debilitating.

    Here are some common signs that you should use your inhaler or nebulizer:

    • Exposure to a known trigger
    • Coughing
    • Mild wheezing
    • Chest tightness
    • Coughing at night
    • First signs of a cold

    For moderate to severe asthma, your doctor may recommend using a peak flow meter to measure airflow from your lungs. A reading from this device can verify if your airway has narrowed so you know to use your inhaler, even if you don’t feel symptoms yet. A low enough flow rate can also tell you if you should call your doctor or visit the ER.

    Take Controller Medicines Daily

    Even when your breathing is normal, and you can work and play like usual, it’s important to keep taking your long-term medication every day. Certain drugs help reduce your reliance on fast-acting medicine by relaxing the muscles in your airway, reducing inflammation, and preventing mucus buildup.

    If your controller medication ever seems to lose its effectiveness, talk to your doctor about modifying what drugs you take. An allergist may also recommend immunotherapy a course of treatment that can nearly eliminate allergic reactions and thus reduce the frequency and severity of your asthma attacks.

    Carry Fast-Acting Medicine with You

    Even if you avoid your triggers and take controller medicines as prescribed, asthma symptoms may still come on suddenly. Fast-acting medicine provides temporary relief and may prevent your airway from constricting dangerously.

    However, if your symptoms don’t improve after breathing from an inhaler, call your doctor right away. If you can’t get in touch, seek immediate medical treatment at the ER.

    Eat a Healthy Diet

    There’s no specific diet for asthma patients, but eating healthy is important for everyone. Also, since obesity is associated with more severe asthma symptoms, losing weight could be an integral part of your asthma plan for the new year.

    Of course, if you have any food allergies that trigger an asthma attack or other allergic reaction, avoid them. Besides that, aim to follow a diet that promotes healthy lung function:

    • Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant properties.
    • Eat more food containing omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, tuna, sardines, and flaxseed.
    • Avoid trans fats and omega-6 fatty acids found in some margarine, vegetable oil, and processed foods.
    • Continue eating dairy. It’s a myth that eliminating milk from your diet can improve asthma. Doing so could increase your risk of osteoporosis, especially if you regularly take corticosteroids to control severe asthma.

    If you need help creating an Asthma Action Plan, or you’re interested in changing the way you manage your symptoms, please call Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM at 610-825-5800 to schedule an initial consultation at one of eight office locations in the Philadelphia area.

  • Giving to Those Who Gave 2019: Santa’s Sleigh Deliveries

    This is the 5th year of our Giving to Those Who Gave campaign. Every year is a success and a learning opportunity! Our goal is to provide some financial relief to families of active service members and veterans who are struggling. This year we were able to help a total of 37 people (19 adults and 18 children) with gifts, daily items and gift cards.

    Our first delivery was to Michael and Cara Galob founder and President of Support Homeless Veterans, Inc. We collected items for two veteran families and their combined 6 children ages from 1 month to 12 years old. We collected diapers, wipes, toys and clothes for all the children and each family received a box of toiletries (consisting of laundry detergent, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, body wash, body lotion, razors, shaving cream.) Additionally each family received various gift cards totaling $250.

    The second delivery we filled 2 SUV’s full of donations that were picked up at our main office by Anita Fleming and her daughter-in-law (whose husband is in the service) from Blue Star Mom’s and the Family Readiness Group. Anita provided us information for 5 families in need with a combined 12 children ranging from 10 months to 19 years old.  We were able to provide each family with clothes and gifts for each child and the parents, diapers and wipes for the babies, a box of toiletries for each family and an envelope of gift cards totaling $250.  One of the families, a single disabled vet dad, asked for a Chromebook for his teenagers to share for homework, we were able to collect 2 so each child could have their own!

    The final stop is a continuation of the first stop, two houses run by Support Homeless Veterans, Inc in South Philadelphia and one individual who was formerly with this program.  We delivered an SUV full of donations to the Vet and the 2 homes housing a combined 6 veteran men from all United States service branches.  Each house received items for the men to use collectively, new pots and pans, a microwave, household cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, paper products and other kitchen items.  Each individual vet received a bag of toiletries, new bedding, clothes, a few requested new shoes and each gentleman received a $25 Visa gift card to use for their needs. Each house also received a $100 Visa gift card to use at their discretion for additional communal supplies like laundry detergent, paper towels and toilet paper.

     

    We would not have been able to provide these Christmas gifts and necessary daily items without the help of our staff, families, our patients, and members of our surrounding communities. We sincerely appreciate all the donations received to help these deserving Veterans and Active Service Members.

     

  • Dealing with Asthma in the Cold Winter Months

    Cold, dry air can be taxing on the healthiest of lungs, but if you have asthma, stepping outside on a chilly day can literally take your breath away. If your symptoms seem to worsen in the winter, you may have cold-induced asthma. This is when low humidity and falling temperatures irritate your airway, induce swelling, and cause muscle spasms. Breathing winter air can feel like a chore, and exercising in the cold may be all but impossible.

    Staying indoors might seem like the solution, but dust, mold, and pet dander tend to accumulate in higher concentrations during the winter when windows and doors are shut tight. For some people, these allergens also trigger an asthma attack.

    Then, there’s the fact that winter is cold and flu season. If you get sick, your airway may become clogged with excessive mucus, exacerbating your asthma symptoms even more.

    With so many problems stacked against you, it’s easy to feel helpless as an asthma sufferer in the winter. Thankfully, you have several options for keeping yourself healthy and well. Here’s what we recommend to ease your asthma symptoms in the cold winter months.

    Limit Your Time Outside

    If possible, stay indoors when the temperature drops, especially if it gets below 10 degrees F. When you do go outside, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf. This warms the air before you breathe it in, making it less irritating to your airway and lungs.

    Avoid Exercising Outdoors

    Even people without asthma can experience shortness of breath when exercising in the cold. Do your lungs a favor this winter, and restrict yourself to indoor activities. You still have plenty of choices. For instance:

    • Exercise on a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike
    • Take a fitness or dance class
    • Swim in an indoor pool
    • Play basketball inside
    • Do yoga or other exercise routines in your living room

    Even inside a warm building, you may experience exercise-induced asthma. To help prevent this, follow these tips:

    • Use your inhaler 15 to 30 minutes before starting your workout. This opens up your airway so you can breathe better.
    • Warm up for several minutes to gradually increase your heart rate.
    • Keep your inhaler nearby in case you have an asthma attack. This is characterized by shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, pain or tightness in your chest, and difficulty speaking.

    Keep Your Home Clean

    Follow these steps to reduce indoor allergens that can trigger an asthma attack in the winter:

    • Vacuum and dust at least once a week. Wear a dust mask, if necessary, or ask a family member to help out if these chores make you sneeze and cough.
    • Wash your bedding once a week in hot water to eliminate dust mites.
    • Keep pets out of your bedroom.
    • Consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting with wood, tile, or laminate flooring.
    • Replace the furnace filter once a month.

    Run a Humidifier

    Furnaces have a drying effect on indoor air. You might notice that your skin feels itchy, lips feel chapped, and hair becomes frizzy as the height of winter approaches. Combat these symptoms—and help ease your breathing—by running a humidifier.

    Inexpensive portable models can move from room to room, but the most important place to run a humidifier is in your bedroom while you sleep at night. Just be sure to follow the instructions for cleaning the water tank so it doesn’t harbor mold growth.

    Make Efforts to Avoid Getting Sick

    If you can prevent catching a cold or the flu, your asthma symptoms should remain more manageable this winter. Follow these tips to keep respiratory illnesses at bay:

    • Get a flu shot in the early fall to maximize your protection all winter long. While you’re at it, talk to your doctor about whether you need a pneumonia vaccine.
    • Avoid visiting people who are sick.
    • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap frequently throughout the day.
    • Use hand sanitizer when you’re out and about. Don’t forget to wash your hands as soon as you get home.
    • Keep your hands away from your face to prevent germs from entering your body through your mouth, nose, or eyes.
    • Drink extra fluids to keep the mucus in your lungs thinner, making it less likely for your airway to become blocked.

    Begin a New Asthma Treatment

    If you still struggle to keep your asthma symptoms under control, visit Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM to explore your treatment options. The doctors there can help develop a plan to meet your needs, which might include a combination of fast-acting inhalers, long-term prescription medication, and immunotherapy.

    To learn more about dealing with asthma in the winter and all year-round, please call 610-825-5800 or schedule an appointment at one of Allergy & Asthma Specialists’ eight locations in the Philadelphia area.

  • Preparing for an Allergy-Friendly Thanksgiving

    When it comes to food-focused holidays, none are as pronounced as Thanksgiving. The celebration centers on gathering around a table piled high with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and rolls. This may be perfectly enjoyable for most people, but the holiday can be a challenge for those with food allergies.

    Then, there are the environmental factors that come with traveling and sleeping at a family member’s house. You appreciate their hospitality, but you might fear that the dusty guest room and furry dog will trigger an asthma attack.

    Thankfully, you have plenty of options for enjoying the holiday just as much as your friends and family members who don’t have allergies. You simply need a plan in place to ensure an allergy-friendly Thanksgiving.

    Address Thanksgiving Food Allergies

    Help avoid an allergic reaction at the dinner table with these tips:

    • If you’re a guest, call the host well in advance and ask about the menu. Explain your food allergies, and ask if you can contribute a dish that would be safe for you to eat. Request easy modifications on a dish or two, if it’s not inconvenient for the cook, such as choosing an organic turkey and using chicken broth in the mashed potatoes instead of milk.
    • If you’re hosting, let your guests know what entrees you’ll be serving. If you intend to skip any dishes that everyone would expect to be there, such as wheat rolls or stuffing, consider delegating contributions from your guests. This divides up some of the cooking responsibility and prevents you from preparing foods you’re allergic to, which could be dangerous.
    • Don’t arrive starving. If you’ve made the proper preparations, you should have access to some safe food, but you might not be able to load up your plate like everyone else. Have a hearty allergen-free breakfast or snack to tie you over in case you have to skip more entrees than you anticipated.
    • If you have a child with a food allergy, make sure they know which foods are safe for them to eat and which ones to avoid.
    • Request that the meal not be served buffet-style to prevent cross-contact between safe foods and those you’re allergic to.
    • Don’t assume that traditional ingredients are always used in certain dishes. For instance, seemingly innocuous cranberry sauce could be prepared with pecans, and gravy could be thickened with peanut butter. Double-check the ingredient list with the cook before scooping anything onto your place.
    • When in doubt, bring your own trusted meal. Handle this discreetly, and focus on enjoying time with friends and family. This gives you peace of mind, knowing that you won’t accidentally eat anything harmful.
    • If you have an epinephrine prescription, carry two auto-injectors at all times, just to be safe.

    Modify Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes

    Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner or looking for a few allergen-free recipes to contribute that you know you can eat? You have more options than you might realize for transforming traditional holiday dishes into allergy-friendly foods. Here are some ideas to inspire you:

    • Avoid self-basting turkeys, which may contain soy, wheat, and dairy. Opt for an all-natural organic turkey instead, which is required by law to contain nothing but turkey and water.
    • Make stuffing from gluten-free bread.
    • Make allergen-free mashed potatoes with chicken broth or coconut milk instead of cow milk, and swap out the butter with margarine or olive oil.
    • Thicken gravy with cornstarch, potato starch, or rice flour instead of wheat flour.
    • Skip the slivered almonds on the green bean casserole. Serve them in a side dish for those who want to sprinkle them on top.
    • Make pumpkin pudding instead of pumpkin pie to avoid the wheat crust.

    Work Around Environmental Allergies

    If you’re sensitive to environmental factors, keep your allergies at bay when traveling for Thanksgiving with these tips:

    • If you’re prone to allergic contact dermatitis, pack your own hand soap, body wash, shampoo, and other toiletries you know are safe.
    • If you’re allergic to dogs or cats, politely ask your host to prevent their pet from sleeping or spending a lot of time in the bedroom where you will be staying. Then, to combat existing dander in the air, arrive with allergy medications in your system and bring more to take throughout the trip. You can also use an anti-allergy spray that denatures the allergy causing protein in pet dander, mold, and dust mites.
    • If dust mite triggers your asthma, pack your own pillow or hypoallergenic pillowcase.
    • If you are allergic to mold and your bedroom smells moldy or musty, ask to be moved.

    Do you think you might have allergies or asthma, but you’re not sure? The experts at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM can help diagnose and treat your condition to improve your quality of life on Thanksgiving and throughout the rest of the year. To learn more, please call 610-825-5800 or schedule an appointment at one of the eight locations in the Philadelphia area.

  • Treat Yourself to an Allergy-Friendly Halloween

    It’s fun to be frightened on Halloween, but the treats your children want to eat shouldn’t be what scares you. If your kids have allergies, though, Halloween may feel like something to fear. From class parties to fall festivals to trick-or-treating, we’ve got some guidelines and suggestions that can help make your Halloween fun and safe.

    • Party snacks can be safe and fun. Rice Krispy treats, for instance, are a good option for kids with allergies, because they have no eggs or wheat, though most brands of crispy rice cereal do contain gluten. You can make the treats even safer for allergic kids by using coconut oil instead of butter, making them dairy-free. There are plenty of allergen-free dips and snacks, and fruit and vegetables are a great idea, especially made into something representative of the season, like Mandarin oranges made to look like pumpkins. Consider the dietary needs of the kid who will be attending the party, get creative with your menu, and make sure everything is adequately labeled.
    • If your kids are trick or treating, talk to them about safe options. Make a rule that no one eats any candy until you get home from trick-or-treating, and then carefully read the labels before the children eat anything. Even if one type of candy is considered safe, this may vary between brands, so scrutinizing the labels is vital. While taking these precautions, though, it’s still important to make sure you have epinephrine and your cell phone at the ready, in case of an emergency. Keep wipes handy, too, so that you can wipe down children’s hands and faces if they come into contact with an allergen. If your child will be spending the holiday with someone else, make sure the child and the adult in charge each know not just the plan for handling Halloween, but also the signs of an allergic reaction and how to manage one.
    • If you’re handing out candy, consider being a friend to those with allergens and displaying a teal pumpkin to let kids know your treats are safe. If you want to be 100 percent sure that your treats are allergy-friendly, opt for non-food items. If you’d rather give candy, though, there are some easy to find candies that are safe for most allergy sufferers. Swedish Fish, Skittles, Spangler Circus Peanuts, Starburst, and Sour Patch Kids are all free of the most common allergens. So are Dots, Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales, Smarties, and Peeps- just make sure the Peeps are not chocolate-covered. Almond Joys are a good treat for kids with egg allergies, though they are not safe for children who are allergic to nuts.

    Knowing how to manage Halloween for kids with allergies can be the difference between a happy holiday and one that ends in tragedy. In the same way, understanding your allergies and knowing how to manage them can help you live a healthy, symptom-free life. 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 are specially trained and have extensive experience in evaluating and diagnosing your reaction to foods.  Known in the region as caring for the most high risk food allergic patients, the allergists of A&AS regularly supervise food testing and food challenges.  High risk food challenges are sometimes performed in a hospital so the patient can be closely monitored. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about their available services.

  • Back to School Prep: Allergies & Asthma Edition

    Are you ready to head back to school? You may think you’re prepared, with the first-day outfit picked out, the school supplies all purchased, and the coming year’s schedule well in hand, but what about allergies and asthma? If your child suffers from either of these, it’s important to make sure you’ve got a handle on the school environment, so that your child will remain safe and well outside the comfort of your own home.

    • Get well-acquainted with your child’s school. Find out how they handle kids with allergies. Is there paperwork you need to complete? Is there a nurse on-site? Talk to your child’s teachers, and let them know the severity of the allergies, what the child needs to avoid while at school, and the signs of an allergic reaction. One great way to become familiar with the school and its policies is to get involved personally. Volunteer at the school and get to know the people your child is around every day. When you feel connected to the school, it’s easier to communicate your child’s needs.
    • Have a plan in place. Take medication to the school, and create a plan that lets the teachers, school nurse, and administrators know exactly what to do in case of an allergic reaction. Talk to the school nurse, learn the protocol, and make sure the right medication is being kept where it will be accessible in an emergency. It’s also smart to have your child wear a medic alert bracelet.
    • Be aware of allergens in the classroom and at recess. Peanuts and bee stings aren’t the only things to look out for if you have a child with allergies or asthma. Allergens in the classroom may include chalk dust, mold, dust mites, and even animal dander. Out on the field, allergies can be triggered by pollen or insect bites, so make sure your child knows how to cope with these allergens.
    • Educate yourself and your child. Learn as much as you can about allergies and how to manage them, and make sure your child knows exactly what he or she needs to avoid. Make sure your child knows never to share food with friends, and what to do in case of an allergic reaction.
    • Remember that the teacher isn’t your child’s only caregiver. Bus drivers, after-school caregivers, coaches, and babysitters all need to know the allergens to avoid and what to do if your child experiences an allergic reaction.

    Understanding your allergies can help you live a healthy, symptom-free life. 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 available services.

  • When Pollen Counts Are High: How to Treat Hay Fever

    Hay fever is a miserable thing to experience. The runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, and itchiness in your nose, mouth, throat, eyes, or ears are actually symptoms of a pollen allergy known to experts as seasonal allergic rhinitis. It’s caused by pollen carried through the air, and when the pollen count is high, hay fever is at its worst. What can you do to combat it?

    • First, establish the specifics of your allergies. For most people with hayfever, grasses and weeds are the cause of their suffering. Ragweed is a major culprit, but there are many other sources of weed pollen, including sagebrush, pigweed, and tumbleweed. Trees like birch, cedar, and oak get into the act as well, producing pollen that’s highly allergenic. Your doctor can identify your specific allergies using a plastic skin testing applicator holding a drop of the allergen that is applied to your back. If you’re sensitive to that allergen, you’ll have a reaction as a hive within about 20 minutes, although a reaction does not necessarily mean you have the allergy. Your health care provider can interpret the results and let you know for sure
    • Keep track of pollen counts. If you monitor pollen counts in your area, you can limit your exposure on the days when the counts are high. Pollen counts are different than a pollen forecast because while a forecast is a prediction based on the previous year’s counts and current conditions, the counts are more specific. Measured with an instrument that collects spores for a 24-hour period, pollen counts are reported for specific trees, grasses, weeds, and mold.
    • If you can’t steer clear of pollen, do what you can to remove pollen from your home. During pollen season, keep your windows closed and use an air conditioning filter designed to help prevent asthma and allergies. Bathe and shower before you go to bed, so that you don’t carry pollen onto your bedding, and wash your bedding in hot soapy water once a week. Wear sunglasses and a hat when you’re outside, and limit your contact with pets who’ve been outdoors. After you’ve been outside, change and wash your clothes, and don’t hang your laundry out to dry, but dry it in a clothes dryer.
    • Make sure you’re taking the right medication in the right way. Typically, allergy medications work best if you use them proactively before your symptoms start. If you know you’re likely to come in contact with allergens, it’s smart to take your medication ahead of time to prevent the symptoms from becoming severe. In fact, you might even want to start taking your medication before pollen season begins. Your doctor can recommend the best medicine to combat your allergies, which may include antihistamines, decongestants, nasal corticosteroids, nasal spray, or leukotriene receptor antagonists.
    • If you don’t respond well to medications, and your allergies are still bothering you, an allergist can recommend further treatment. Allergy immunotherapy is a tried and true remedy for allergic reactions, and most people experience complete relief from symptoms within one to three years of starting immunotherapy, and long after discontinuing them. The physicians of Allergy & Asthma Specialists prescribe immunotherapy is three forms, injection, drops and tablet.

    Whatever the season, understanding your allergies and knowing how to manage them can help you live a healthy, symptom-free life. 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 available services.

     

  • That’s Nuts! Surprising Places Nuts Are Hiding In Your Home

    If you or someone in your family is allergic to nuts, you’re no doubt very careful with dietary options. Still, sometimes nuts lurk where you don’t expect them. Could nuts be hiding in your home without your knowledge? More importantly, do you know where to look for them?

    Peanut allergies are among the most common causes of anaphylaxis-related fatality, so it’s crucial to keep peanuts away from someone who is allergic. Unfortunately, allergen exposure doesn’t just happen when an allergic person eats peanuts. It can happen during food preparation and and when utensils are shared.   What’s more, peanuts, peanut oil, and peanut shells are often found in non-food products, from stuffed toys, to landscaping elements, to sunscreen lotion, to fireplace logs. Peanut-related ingredients can even be found in pet food and dental cleaners.

    Tree nuts are major allergens as well. People who are allergic to tree nuts can experience anaphylaxis from contact with nuts like walnuts, cashews, almonds, and hazelnuts. In addition to the nuts themselves, tree nut elements can be found in soaps, lotions, beauty products, shampoo, bath oils, and suntan lotion. Small pets like gerbils and hamsters often eat food that contains tree nuts.

    Obviously, it’s important to read labels, but what do you look for on those labels? Labels will often specify if the product contains nuts or peanuts, but there are other words to watch for as well. Artificial nuts, nut butters and oils, and peanut products like peanut flour, peanut starch, and peanut oil can trigger allergic reactions. Sauces, ice cream, baked goods, and candy often contain nuts, as do many flavorings, thickeners, salad dressings, and roasted or fried foods.

    Be extremely careful with unfamiliar ingredients, and try to stick to food with labels. Foods from deli counters, salad bars, and bakeries are often unsafe for those with nut allergies. Remember, too, that a different version of a favorite food may not be as safe as the one you’re accustomed to, because the ingredients may vary. If you’re out at a restaurant, don’t be shy about speaking up and asking how a dish is prepared, because reading the menu won’t always tell you everything that’s in your food.

    Be careful of sneaky sources of nuts, including:

    • Chili: Sometimes, chili is thickened with peanut butter. Whether it’s a bowl of chili or a chili burger, don’t assume this comfort food is safe.
    • Ethnic foods: Mexican mole sauce often has peanuts or peanut butter, and Indian and Thai cuisines are loaded with nuts. Even if nuts are not listed on the menu as part of the dish, they may be used to thicken sauces.
    • French fries: Most of the time French fries are ok to eat, but you have to ask about the oil in which they’re fried. Some restaurants, like Five Guys, cook their fries in peanut oil. Interestingly, peanut oil made in the United States is so refined that it doesn’t trigger allergies, but many restaurants use peanut oil from China, which is less refined. Because it’s impossible to know the source of the peanut oil, it’s best to avoid it.
    • Deli meat: You wouldn’t necessarily think that meat would have nuts in it, but in fact, some deli meats are studded with pistachios. Other meats cut on the same slicer can be cross-contaminated and trigger allergies. Rather than buying lunch meat from a deli, look for a prepackaged version with a label that specifies that it’s nut safe.
    • Cocktails: Many liqueurs get their flavor from nuts, some vodka is infused with nuts, and many gins are flavored with almonds. Even beer may not be safe, as brown ales often contain peanuts or tree nuts.
    • Pet food: Let’s face it: sometimes kids put dog food in their mouths. Be careful, because pet foods are not subject to allergen labeling, and may contain nuts. Bird food almost always contains nuts, unless you feed your birds food-grade sunflower seeds that are labeled as nut-safe.
    • Gluten-free goodies: Lupin, which is often used as a flour in gluten-free products, is a legume that can cause reactions in people with peanut allergies. Almond flour is also used frequently in gluten-free treats.
    • Nut butters: Obviously, you’re not going to feed nut butter to someone who is allergic to nuts. However, nut butter often pops up in random places; sometimes it’s even found in kale chips.

    Understanding your allergies and knowing how to avoid triggers can help you live a healthy, symptom-free life. 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 available services.