• 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.