• Adult-Onset Food Allergies: What to Know and How to Cope

    Allergy doctors most commonly diagnose peanut allergies and other food allergies in children. However, a food allergy can develop at any age—even after eating the food for years without problems. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for food allergies, but it is manageable with strict avoidance of the allergen and treatments prescribed by the allergist.

    Signs of Food Allergies

    An allergic reaction to a food may be relatively mild, such as the appearance of hives, or it may be severe enough to be life-threatening. Even if you’ve previously experienced only mild allergic reactions, you could still potentially suffer from life-threatening symptoms. Some of the indications of a food allergy can include:

    • Tight throat
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Vomiting and stomach cramps
    • Dizziness or feeling faint
    • Swollen tongue
    • Weak pulse
    • Repetitive cough
    • Shortness of breath

    Risks of Food Allergies

    Children who grow up with food allergies learn how to cope with them at an early age. But for newly diagnosed adults, the learning curve can be steep, and making a mistake can lead to serious consequences. While eating out at restaurants or at friends’ homes, for example, it’s more difficult to know if allergens are present in the food. Another risk of food allergies is the potential for cross-reactivity. This occurs when a person experiences a reaction to a food that is similar to the food allergen. For example, patients who are allergic to shrimp may also experience reactions to crab.

    Strategies for Coping with Food Allergies

    Learning how to manage food allergies as an adult can be tricky, but you can cope more easily if you partner with a board-certified allergy doctor. Allergists specialize in the management of food allergies and related conditions. Your doctor will design a personalized treatment plan for you, which will include an epinephrine autoinjector. You’ll need to keep the autoinjector with you at all times, just in case you experience a life-threatening reaction. The doctor will also help you learn how to avoid exposure to your allergen by reading food labels, preventing cross-contamination, and communicating carefully with restaurant staff.

    Patients of all ages can find the specialized medical care they need at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM. Our board-certified allergists are available to assist patients in center city Philadelphia, Blue Bell, King of Prussia, Jenkintown, Doylestown, Lansdale, Pottstown, or Collegeville, Pennsylvania. New and current patients can reach us at 1(800)86-COUGH.

  • What Are Dry Powder Inhalers?

    Your asthma treatment plan might include the use of a dry powder inhaler. The other type of inhaler, a metered dose inhaler, works by propelling medication into the lungs. Dry powder inhalers are different. They rely on the patient taking a deep, fast breath in order to inhale the medication into the lungs. Your asthma specialist will help you learn how to use the device.

    The specific instructions vary between brands. In general, however, you’ll need to adjust the device to load a dose of the medication. Then, turn your head to the side and exhale as much air out of your lungs as you can. Insert the mouthpiece into your mouth and take a very deep, strong, and steady breath to completely fill your lungs. Hold your breath for no longer than 10 seconds. Then, remove the mouthpiece and exhale steadily and slowly. If the delivered medication is a corticosteroid, your asthma doctor may instruct you to gargle with water after taking a dose. Spit out the water—do not swallow it.

    If you have any questions about your asthma treatment, you can call 1(800)86-COUGH to reach your doctor at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM. Our asthma doctors are available in Blue Bell, Center City, Lansdale, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Pottstown, King of Prussia, and Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

  • What Is a Primary Immunodeficiency Disease?

    A primary immunodeficiency disease (PIDD) is a genetic problem that causes part of the immune system to malfunction. Alternatively, part of the immune system may be absent. Primary immunodeficiency diseases can range from mild to severe. Allergists typically diagnose severe PIDDs when the patient is quite young, but mild PIDDs may not be diagnosed until later in life as the health effects become more apparent.

    Types of PIDDs

    PIDDs can occur when there is a mutation in the genetic code. There are more than 300 types of PIDDs. Allergy specialists have categorized them into six main groups.

    • B cell (antibody) deficiencies
    • T cell deficiencies
    • B and T cell combination deficiencies
    • Complement deficiencies
    • Defective phagocytes
    • Idiopathic (unknown PIDD)

    B and T cells, also called lymphocytes, are adaptive immune cells that fight off invading organisms in the body. Phagocytes are another specialized cell of the immune system. It engulfs and absorbs small cells like bacteria.

    Signs of PIDDs

    The defining characteristic of primary immunodeficiency diseases is having a higher susceptibility to infections. People with PIDDs may get infections more frequently, have a harder time fighting them off, and suffer from them for a longer period of time. Some people with PIDDs experience the following health issues:

    • Eight or more new ear infections within one year.
    • Two or more serious sinus infections within one year
    • Two or more months of antibiotics resulting in marginal improvement
    • Two or more bouts of pneumonia within one year
    • Recurrent, deep skin or organ abscesses
    • Failure of an infant to gain weight or grow normally
    • Persistent thrush in mouth or elsewhere on skin after age one

    Additionally, patients with PIDDs are more susceptible to these infections:

    • Pneumonia
    • Bronchitis
    • Sinus infections
    • Skin infections
    • Meningitis
    • Ear infections

    Treatments for PIDDs

    Each treatment plan for a PIDD is personalized to meet the needs of the individual patient. The main goals for treatment include:

    • Improving the function of the immune system
    • Preventing and treating infections
    • Treating the underlying cause, if any

    An allergist might recommend these therapies for PIDDs:

    • Immunoglobulin therapy: The introduction of antibody proteins through IV or subcutaneous infusion.
    • Interferon-gamma therapy: An injected therapy that stimulates the immune system. Appropriate for patients with chronic granulomatous disease.
    • Growth factors: A treatment that increases the amount of white blood cells.

    If you or your child has been diagnosed with a primary immunodeficiency disease, you can find the supportive care you need at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM. Our allergists are available in multiple locations in Pennsylvania, including Blue Bell, Center City, Lansdale, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Pottstown, King of Prussia, and Collegeville, Pennsylvania. New and current patients can reach our office at 1(800)86-COUGH.