• Triggers and Symptoms of Latex Allergies

    Does blowing up balloons leave you with itchy, swollen lips? Do Band-Aids irritate your skin? Do your hands feel raw after you do the dishes, even though you wear dishwashing gloves? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might have a latex allergy. Affecting about 6 percent of the population, a latex allergy is a reaction to proteins in natural rubber latex, which comes from the sap of the rubber tree. How do you know if you have this allergy, and how can you manage it if you are allergic to latex?

    When someone with a latex allergy comes into contact with latex, the body mistakes latex for a harmful substance. This only happens with natural latex, and not with synthetic rubber that’s made from chemicals. Things like latex house paint to do trigger latex allergies, but many common products do.

    Dishwashing gloves, balloons, rubber toys, hot water bottles, baby bottle nipples, rubber bands, erasers, swim goggles, bicycle and motorcycle handgrips, some types of carpeting and some disposable diapers are common items you might have around your home, but that you’d be better off avoiding if you have an allergy to latex. Medical supplies like blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, intravenous tubing, syringes, electrode pads, respirators, and surgical masks can all contain latex, as can condoms, diaphragms, and dental dams. What’s more, some fruits contain the same allergen that’s found in latex, so if you’re allergic to latex, you might also have a problem with avocado, bananas, chestnuts, kiwis, and passion fruit.

    The symptoms of a latex allergy can vary from mild to severe. If you have a latex allergy, you might experience itching, hives, redness and swelling, or a rash, but if your allergy is severe, you risk anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. You don’t even need to come into direct contact with latex to have an allergic reaction: some people experience severe asthma or even anaphylaxis just from breathing in airborne particles of latex protein.

    Some people are at higher risk of developing latex allergy than other people. If you are a healthcare worker or someone else who often wears latex gloves, if you’ve had many surgeries, if you are often exposed to natural rubber latex, or if you or your family members have other allergies, you’re more likely than others to develop an allergy to latex. The people at highest risk of latex allergy are those with spina bifida, a birth defect affecting the spine’s development. The risk is high because people with this condition are exposed to latex frequently and early in life while receiving health care.

    If you suspect you may be allergic to latex, a board-certified allergist can determine whether this is an accurate diagnosis, and help you develop a plan to manage it. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, examine your skin, and perform a skin test to see how your skin reacts to the latex protein. You might also have a blood test to check for latex sensitivity.

    There’s no cure for latex allergy. There are medications that can reduce the symptoms, but the best way to avoid an allergic reaction to latex is to stay away from products that contain latex. Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid latex, so if you have ever had a severe reaction to latex, you may need to keep injectable epinephrine with you wherever you go. If you experience anaphylaxis, you should go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.

    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.

  • Woof, woof, achoo! Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds

    It’s been said that a dog is man’s best friend, but if you suffer from allergies, you may find that friendship difficult. The good news? An allergy to pet dander does not have to keep you from enjoying the companionship of a dog. While no breed of dog is totally hypoallergenic, there are several breeds that cause fewer allergic reactions than other dogs.

    The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology estimates that about ten percent of the population of the United States is allergic to dogs. The allergic reactions that many people experience around dogs are actually to allergens in dog saliva and, more often, pet dander, which is the dog’s dead skin cells. Because dander is attached to fur, dogs that don’t shed very much are better for people who are allergic, and so are dogs that require frequent bathing. Dogs that produce less saliva, typically smaller dogs, can also be easier on the allergies.

    So what are the best dog breeds for allergy sufferers? There are several, and they come in all shapes and sizes.

    • Small dogs sometimes make the list by virtue of their size. A Yorkshire Terrier is an example of this. Other small dogs, however, cause fewer allergies their hair continually grows and doesn’t fall out. These dogs include the Bichon Frise and the Lhasa Apso. Sometimes, small dogs require frequent bathing, brushing, and other grooming, which keeps their allergen levels low. Examples of this include the Maltese, the Shih Tzu, and the Coton de Tulear.
    • Some dogs simply do not have very much hair to shed. These breeds include the Chinese Crested, the Peruvian Inca Orchid, the American Hairless Terrier, and the
    • Several terriers are considered good for those with allergies. The Bedlington Terrier, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, and the Kerry Blue Terrier are all excellent choices.
    • Some “hypoallergenic” dogs come in a variety of sizes. Poodles are an example of this, as are Schnauzers, and all the different varieties of these dogs are good for those with allergies.
    • Whatever style of dog you like, you can probably find one that suits you and won’t aggravate your allergies. From the aloof and dignified Afghan Hound, to the energetic, funny Irish Water Spaniel, to the athletic, intelligent Portuguese Water Dog, a close relative of the Poodle, to the hardworking, protective Spanish Water Dog, there are low-allergen dogs to suit every family and lifestyle.

    No matter which kind of dog you choose, you can also help keep allergens at bay with some careful housekeeping. Wash your pet’s bed often, keep him well groomed, and even if you want to let him sleep with you, stick to a firm “no dogs on the bed” policy. Removing heavy drapes and carpets can also be helpful because those things tend to trap dander.

    Understanding your allergies can help you live a healthy, symptom-free life. When you call 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.

  • Staying in Shape with Asthma

    It’s a catch-22 with which most people with asthma can identify: regular exercise is important for those with asthma, yet exercise can also trigger an asthma attack. How can you maintain a healthy, active lifestyle when exercise causes you to cough, wheeze, and have difficulty breathing? Good news! Your allergist can help you come up with a plan to manage your asthma while remaining active.

    Exercise can trigger asthma symptoms, so is it safe to exercise with asthma? Yes. In fact, there are many benefits to exercising if you have asthma. Regular exercise helps your heart and lungs work better, boosts your immune system, helps you lose weight, and create chemicals in your body that make you feel good, helping to ward off stress and depression.

    Short bursts of exertion, like the kind you get when playing volleyball or baseball, or participating in gymnastics or wrestling, are good for people with asthma. Walking, biking, hiking are also beneficial, and swimming is particularly good because it helps build upper-body strength and gives you an opportunity to breathe in warm, moist air. It may be harder for you to do things that require long periods of exertion, like soccer, basketball, field hockey, and distance running. Cold weather sports like ice hockey, cross-country skiing, and ice skating, may be even more challenging. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take part in these activities if you have asthma.

    Before you start any exercise program, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. An experienced asthma doctor can help you determine the best exercises for you, and prescribe asthma medications that you may find helpful. People with asthma often benefit from taking a short-acting bronchodilator about 15 minutes before they begin exercising. Your doctor can also advise you on the best practices to observe when exercising with asthma.

    • People with asthma may need to be mindful of the temperature, allergens, air quality, and pollution. If it’s very cold out, you may want to exercise indoors or wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth. If allergies trigger your asthma, pay attention to pollen counts and air pollution counts, refraining from exercising outdoors when they’re high. It’s also a good practice to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, to help filter the air and keep from triggering your asthma.
    • If you have asthma, it’s important to avoid overexerting yourself. Always warm up before you exercise, and include a cool-down routine in your exercise plan. Don’t exercise when you’re sick, and pay attention to your level of exertion, to make sure you’re exercising at a pace that’s right for you. Aim for an exercise routine that includes at least 30 minutes of exercise, four to five days a week.
    • Talk to your doctor about exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. Also known as exercise-induced asthma, this just refers to the constriction of your airways during exercise that can cause asthma symptoms. If you’re experiencing exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, you may cough, wheeze, and experience chest tightness and shortness of breath. Your doctor can help you with an asthma treatment plan that includes instructions for how to handle this kind of problem. You might need to use your rescue inhalers or, in extreme cases, seek emergency medical attention.

    Having a plan in place will allow you to live confidently, knowing your asthma is under control. When you call an experienced asthma doctor, you can be confident that your doctor will find the solutions you need to manage your asthma. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, both fast acting and long-term treatments are available while providing safe, effective medical care focused on controlling asthma in a comfortable environment. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about available services.

  • A Look at How Asthma Can Affect Your Vocal Cords

    Many patients with asthma also suffer from vocal cord dysfunction (VCD). While the two problems can overlap, they are separate medical conditions. People with VCD experience the closing in of one or both vocal cords upon inhaling. This can lead to symptoms similar to asthma, such as shortness of breath, throat tightness, and wheezing. One of the key differences between VCD and asthma is that when VCD is triggered, patients primarily have trouble breathing in, as opposed to breathing out. Asthma specialists may consider a diagnosis of VCD when a patient’s asthma is not well-controlled or when exercise-induced symptoms are not responding to treatment.

     

    To diagnose VCD, the asthma doctor may use a laryngoscopy or video stroboscopy to examine the vocal folds. Abnormal movements, swelling, inflammation, and irritation are all signs of VCD. Patients with both asthma and VCD must learn to differentiate the two sets of symptoms to determine when to use an asthma inhaler and when to use breathing exercises to treat VCD.

     

    For compassionate care for cases both simple and complex, you can turn to Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM in Blue Bell, Lansdale, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Pottstown, Doylestown, King of Prussia, or Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Use the online appointment scheduler tool at www.AllergyandAsthmaWellness.com or call 1-800-86COUGH to request an appointment with a board-certified asthma specialist.