• Celebrating National Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month and Celiac Awareness Month

    May is not only Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month, it’s also Celiac Awareness Month. Established in 1984, National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month is a great time to educate people about these diseases, because it’s a peak season for people with asthma and allergies. Celiac has no season, but May is the month designated to help raise awareness and funds to accelerate celiac disease research.

    Did you know that over 60 million Americans have asthma and allergies? About 19 million adults and 6 million children have asthma, while 26 million adults and 6 million children have food allergies. Another 20 million adults and 5.6 million children have hay fever, rhinitis, or nasal allergies. These conditions are often challenging to manage, but they’re also somewhat misunderstood.

    That’s why raising awareness is so important. So what can you do to take part in this campaign? There are plenty of resources and opportunities available through the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), the World Allergy Organization (WAO), or the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA). Maybe you’ll participate in a photo contest, use social media to share information, or attend virtual awareness events. You might even decide to take part in research and clinical trials designed to expand treatment. You could find ways to advocate for support politically, or simply wear a gray ribbon for asthma or a teal ribbon for allergies.

    The organizations behind Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month have organized May into specific days and weeks.  These include:

    • Air Quality Awareness Week, May 1–7: The first week of May, the EPA encourages people to raise awareness of air quality in our communities. Each day has a different theme, to help people understand air quality, since pollution and poor air quality can trigger the symptoms of allergies and asthma.
    • National FPIES Awareness Day is May 4th: Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome is a severe kind of food allergy. It affects the intestines and can result in vomiting and diarrhea or even dehydration and shock.
    • World Asthma Day is May 5th: Typically the first Tuesday of the month, this day is dedicated to the discussion of new research, statistics, treatments, funding, and quality of life for people living with asthma. There are resources available to be downloaded and presented at World Asthma Day events.
    • National Eosinophil Awareness Week, May 17-24: Eosinophilic disorders, including eosinophilic asthma, are the focus of the third week in May. Eosinophilic asthma involves elevated levels of eosinophils, a type of white blood cell that fights infections, bacteria, and certain parasites, in the blood, lung tissue, and mucus.

    While you’re advocating and raising awareness of asthma and allergies, don’t forget about celiac disease. A serious autoimmune disease that affects about 3 million Americans, celiac disease is still unknown to many people. It’s a terrible disease, though, weaponizing gluten and causing devastating effects. Anemia, anxiety, infertility, the inability to absorb nutrients, osteoporosis, and an increased risk of diabetes and cancer are all part and parcel of this brutal illness. So how can you help raise awareness, as well as funding?

    • Share: If you suffer from celiac, share your story. You can also visit BeyondCeliac.org to find great resources to share, like infographics, news stories, and videos. Social media can be powerful, and as more people share information, more people will understand the truth about celiac disease.
    • Donate: You can donate directly, or encourage others to do so by having a Facebook fundraiser on your birthday or just in honor of Celiac Awareness Month. Those are two really easy ways to raise money that will fund celiac research, but if you give it some thought, you can probably think of many more ways!
    • Join: BeyondCeliac.org supports a unique online community aimed at collecting and compiling individual stories about celiac disease, in order to help find a cure. That’s one great place to plug in, but there are plenty of others, too, so look around your community for ways to get involved.

    Whether you’re facing the challenges of allergies, asthma, or celiac disease, enlisting the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist will give you confidence that your doctor can help you find the solutions you need to manage your condition. 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.


  • Easter Baskets and Childhood Allergies

    Spring can be hard on allergy sufferers. The most common allergens that affect people this time of year include tree pollen, grass, and mold. Common symptoms of seasonal allergies include congestion, sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes.

    For children with food allergies, spring brings more unique challenges. Even a seemingly innocent Easter basket can be a hazard. However, being allergic to eggs, nuts, or artificial food coloring doesn’t have to take all the fun out of Easter. On the contrary, with a little ingenuity, you can make exciting new traditions for your family! Here’s how to put together an allergy-free Easter basket for children with food allergies.

    Use Artificial Eggs

    Eggs are among the most common food allergies. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you have to skip the tradition of decorating Easter eggs—you simply need to get creative about what kind of eggs you use. Here are some options:

    • Wooden eggs – To rival the experience of dyeing real eggs without exposing your child to allergens, consider using wooden eggs. You can submerge them in dye or paint them by hand. Since they never go bad, feel free to brighten your Easter decorations with the same wooden eggs year after year!
    • Plastic decorating eggs – These dyeable craft eggs are made from 100% recyclable plastic. Each egg is a blank canvas for your child’s creativity to shine! This particular kit comes with four non-toxic dyes in red, green, yellow, and blue.
    • Papier-mâché eggs – Skip the dyeing altogether with this unique idea from Not Martha. First, inflate water balloons to achieve an egg shape. Then, wrap the balloons with tissue paper and brush with liquid laundry starch. Once dry, pop the balloon and fill the papier-mâché shell with goodies. This creates a delicate, yet delightfully heavy object—much like a real egg—for you to place in your child’s Easter basket.

    Keep Candy to a Minimum

    While it’s nice to get treats for the holidays, these special times don’t need to revolve around candy. Plus, most children with food allergies don’t crave sweets as much as kids who don’t, especially if ingredients in the candy make them feel sick or develop a rash. Fortunately, there are plenty of non-food prizes you can include in an Easter basket instead of candy:

    • Small toys or stuffed animals
    • Temporary tattoos
    • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
    • Coloring books, sticker books, or craft kits
    • Water bottles or plastic tumblers
    • Flower seed packets
    • Frisbees
    • Gift cards to stores or movie theaters
    • Decks of cards
    • Small puzzles
    • Travel-size games
    • Hot Wheels cars
    • Nail polish or makeup
    • Chapstick or lip gloss
    • Headphones
    • Kid’s baking kits or cookbooks
    • Tie-dye shirt kits
    • Jewelry-making kits

    When looking for non-food Easter basket ideas for children with food allergies, the Dollar Store is a great place to check out! You’ll find all sorts of fun, small toys to fill an Easter basket without risking exposure to a dangerous food allergy.

    Include a Few Edibles

    Just because you want to avoid allergens doesn’t mean you can’t include anything edible in your child’s Easter basket. Feel free to add a few of their favorite treats, being sure to read labels for any signs of peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, or anything else your child is allergic to. Here are some ideas that may be safe to include:

    Print Allergy Labels

    If your child is participating in an event where someone else fills their Easter basket, it’s a great idea to affix a label indicating their specific food allergies. You can find cute printable allergy labels online, which you can customize for your child’s needs.

    For more help with childhood food allergies, please call Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM at 610-825-5800 and set up an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area.

  • 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.