• 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

     

  • Understanding How to Use an EpiPen

    EpiPens are commonly prescribed for emergency allergy treatment. There are two versions of the EpiPen. When you watch the featured video, you’ll see a demonstration of using both the branded EpiPen and the generic version. For either version, you’ll remove it from the case first. The branded EpiPen has a blue safety shield that you’ll need to remove. If you’re using the generic version, remove the safety devices from both ends.

    Then, swiftly and firmly plunge the device into the outer thigh. It may take a fair amount of force to penetrate the patient’s jeans and thigh muscle. Remember to always call 911 immediately after administering an EpiPen. Inform the dispatcher that you’ve just administered it. The patient will also need to follow up with his or her allergy doctor.

     

    You can receive comprehensive guidance on managing allergies and treating allergic reactions when you see a board-certified allergist at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM. Schedule an appointment online at www.AllergyandAsthmaWellness.com or call 1-800-86COUGH to request a visit with an allergy doctor serving Blue Bell, Lansdale, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Pottstown, Doylestown, King of Prussia, or Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

  • How to Manage Allergies When Studying Abroad

    If you’ve been living with food allergies for a while, you’ve likely developed a workable routine for dealing with them at home. But things can get trickier if you’re planning to study abroad. You’ll need to take extra precautions, starting with scheduling a consult with your allergy doctor.

     

    Practice your language skills.

    If you’re planning to study abroad in a country in which English is not the predominant language, you’ll need to learn a few key phrases. Learn how to say “I am allergic to” your allergen. You should also learn related words. For example, if you’re allergic to eggs, you should learn the words for yolk and mayonnaise so you can more easily avoid those ingredients. Even with this precaution, it’s still a good idea to carry a “chef card” with you. It should specify your allergy and your dietary requirements in the foreign language.

     

    Research the national cuisine.

    It’s helpful to have a general understanding of the national cuisine ahead of time. Learn which ingredients are typically used in the most common dishes so that you’ll know which are safe and which are off-limits. For example, you might learn that in Italy, eggs are not typically used for thin pastas such as spaghetti. Of course, you’ll still need to check food labels or talk to the waiter to make sure you can safely eat a particular item.

     

    Make arrangements for your medical care.

    Your current allergy doctor can send you off with extra allergy medications, including EpiPens. However, since you’ll be in a foreign country for at least a semester, you’ll also need to find a local doctor. Look for one who specializes in allergy management and contact their office in advance of your trip. You should also know where the nearest ER is, just in case.

     

    For specialized medical care for allergies and asthma, you can schedule an appointment online at www.AllergyandAsthmaWellness.com or call 1-800-86COUGH. Board-certified allergists/immunologists comprise the whole physician staff at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM. Appointments with an allergy doctor are available in Blue Bell, Lansdale, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Pottstown, Doylestown, King of Prussia, or Collegeville, Pennsylvania.

  • FAQs About Pet Allergies

    It’s possible to develop allergies at any point in life, from childhood through adulthood. If you’ve suddenly begun sniffling and sneezing, and your symptoms seem to get worse when you’re near the family pet, it may be time to book an appointment with an allergy doctor. A test will determine whether you’re allergic to your pet, and the allergy specialist can help you learn about your treatment and management options.

     

    How can I tell if I’m allergic to pets?

    If you’re allergic to pets, your symptoms may develop while you’re in the animal’s presence or shortly afterward. It’s possible for your symptoms to linger for quite a while, particularly if you stay in the same setting. This is because the dander can linger in the air or on objects, such as furniture or your clothing. The typical symptoms of pet allergies include sneezing, a runny nose, congestion, and itchy, watery eyes.

     

    What am I allergic to in my pet?

    It’s a common misconception that pet allergies are triggered by exposure to the pet’s fur. Actually, it’s a specific protein in the dander, skin flakes, urine, or saliva that can trigger allergic symptoms. However, if the pet goes outdoors, it’s also possible that pollen or mold spores can collect on the animal’s fur, which can cause allergic reactions.

     

    Which pets are hypoallergenic?

    It’s widely thought that short-hair dogs and cats that shed very little are hypoallergenic. Unfortunately, there are no breeds that are completely hypoallergenic. The amount of shedding and the length of fur don’t make a difference.

     

    Will I need to give up my pet?

    Not necessarily. Pets are part of the family, and you will surely want to do everything possible to keep them in the family home. Talk to a board-certified allergy doctor about your options. It may be possible to effectively manage your symptoms without having to give up your beloved pet.

     

    When it’s time to see a board-certified allergy doctor, you can turn to the trusted team at Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM. Learn how to effectively manage your pet-related allergies during your appointment in Blue Bell, Lansdale, Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Pottstown, Doylestown, King of Prussia, or Collegeville, Pennsylvania. You can arrange an appointment online at www.AllergyandAsthmaWellness.com or call 1-800-86COUGH.

  • Allergy & Asthma Tips for Summer Vacation

    If you have a fun-filled summer vacation planned, you might be worried that your allergy and asthma symptoms could get in the way. After all, you may be quite good at avoiding your triggers at home, but new environments can be unpredictable. Bid a fond farewell to sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and asthma attacks while traveling by following these tips.

    • Consider your timing: Think about the potential allergens at the destinations you’re considering and time your visit right. For instance, if you’re allergic to ragweed, traveling earlier in the summer could be better than waiting until August.
    • Consider your location: If you’re sensitive to poor air quality, Mexico City and Beijing are out of the question. If mold triggers your symptoms, it may not be wise to go camping. And if you’re set off by pollen, you should avoid Washington DC during the cherry blossom bloom.
    • Pack your allergy and asthma medications: Keep quick-relief medicine close at hand, including your inhaler if you have asthma, as well as your regular preventative medicine.
    • Speak with your allergist: Discuss the types of activities you plan on doing and ask for advice. For instance, high elevations, cold weather, and scuba diving could trigger an asthma attack, so make sure what you’re planning is safe.
    • Make sure medical care is available: In case you have an emergency, you want to know a doctor is available. This is important to look into if you’re staying in a remote location, traveling abroad, or going on a cruise.
    • Prepare to travel by car: Taking a road trip? Try to do most of your traveling in the early morning or late evening hours when air quality is better and traffic is lighter. Renting a car? Ask for one where no one has smoked cigarettes. No matter what car you drive, keep the windows rolled up and use the AC.
    • Prepare to travel by plane: Take an antihistamine before you board, and use a saline spray once every hour to keep your nasal cavities moist in the dry air. Also, drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, and avoid alcohol.
    • Prepare to travel by train: Ask if animals are allowed on board. If so, request to be seated several rows away. Ask if smoking is permitted. If so, find out if you can book a seat in the nonsmoking section. Then, find out if it’s okay to pre-board so you can wipe down your seating area.
    • Reduce allergy and asthma symptoms at your hotel: Request a nonsmoking, pet-free room located away from the parking lot and pool where car fumes and harsh chemicals could waft inside. Then, ask if any allergy-friendly accommodations are available with hypoallergenic mattresses and pillow covers, special cleaning products, and portable air cleaners with HEPA filters.

    Need more help getting your summer allergies under control? Contact Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM at 610-825-5800. We have eight locations in the Philadelphia area where you can schedule an appointment.

  • Breaking Down Myths About Stinging Insect Allergies

    Stinging insect allergies can be dangerous, and misconceptions about these kinds of allergies can put people at risk. If you have an allergy to a stinging insect, it is best to consult with an allergy doctor to settle on a course of treatment that meets your needs.

    Watch this video to learn more about stinging insect allergies and the myths that surround them. If your allergy doctor confirms that you have a systemic allergy to stinging insects, you may need to carry an epinephrine injector to avoid anaphylaxis.

     

    If you’re concerned about allergy symptoms, make an appointment with Allergy & Asthma Specialists. There are offices located in Philadelphia, Blue Bell, King of Prussia, Jenkintown, Doylestown, Lansdale, Pottstown and Collegeville, Pennsylvania. Schedule an appointment today online at allergyandasthmawellness.com or by calling 1-800-86COUGH.