• What’s lurking indoors during the ‘non-allergy’ season?

    When the ragweed has subsided, the leaves have fallen, the weather has turned cooler, and fall is well and truly over, you’re probably ready for a break from allergies. Now is a great time to shut yourself into your nice, cozy house, sip a hot beverage, and not have to deal with allergy symptoms until spring, right? Not so fast. While winter is not considered an allergy season, it’s actually when indoor allergies do some of their finest work. Why? Because when people are spending more time indoors, they have more exposure to certain allergens.

    • Dust mites cause year-round symptoms but are especially bothersome in winter. Dust mites are tiny arthropods, only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter in size. They thrive in warm, humid places, so they really enjoy living in beds, carpet, and upholstered furniture. They feed primarily on human skin flakes, and both their waste and their bodies can cause allergic reactions. People who are sensitive to dust mite allergens may experience sneezing, a runny nose, itching, red, watery eyes, itchy skin, postnasal drip, and a cough. In some people, a dust mite allergy can trigger asthma, causing difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, wheezing, and trouble sleeping because of coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath. You can find out if you’re allergic to dust mites through an allergy skin test. Treating this allergy involves reducing exposure and may require medication or immunotherapy. Vacuuming regularly, covering pillows, mattresses, and box springs, and washing your bedding frequently can all help reduce dust mites in your home.
    • Mold can cause serious health problems. This is because molds produce both allergens and irritants, which can cause allergic reactions when touched or inhaled. Mold spores are everywhere, but if they find a damp place in your home in which to get a foothold, the mold will start growing and may become problematic. Mold is most common in bathrooms and around windows. Allergic reactions to mold exposure include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and a rash. In addition, mold can cause asthma attacks in those who are allergic and irritate the eyes, skin, throat, nose, and lungs of people regardless of whether or not they’re allergic.
    • Man’s best friend is sometimes the source of man’s persistent misery. There’s no doubt that we love our companion animals, but pets of all types produce allergens. This can be the family dog, cat, bird or even the schoolroom gerbil. These allergens are proteins that can cause an allergic reaction, and they’re found in animal hair, dander, saliva, and urine. When a pet lives inside, the allergen levels are highest in rooms where the pet is allowed. What’s more, in addition to releasing their own allergens, dogs and cats can bring dust and pollen inside on their coats! Pet allergy symptoms manifest with a stuffy or runny nose, itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and sometimes hives or a rash. If you’re not willing to part with your four-legged friend, there are multiple treatments available to help you manage your allergies.

    If you suffer from allergies or asthma, an experienced, board-certified allergist can help you determine how to manage your conditions. The physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are board-certified in allergy and immunology and will help you identify triggers so that you can learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more

  • Halloween Candy Tips for Kids with Food Allergies

    Halloween can be a great time for family fun, with tasty treats and spooky scares! Unfortunately, for many children with allergies, the scariest part of Halloween can be the risks found in their trick or treat bags. How can you have a fun and safe Halloween when the treats seem like tricks. We’ve got some tips for how to manage the holiday and make it fun and safe despite your child’s allergies.

    • Many Halloween candies contain common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, soy, and wheat. That’s why it’s important for families with children who are allergic to teach their kids to wait until they get home to eat any candy. If your children have allergies, teach them how to politely refuse homemade treats and that they should never share another child’s treats.
    • No children should trick or treat alone, but it’s especially important for kids with allergies to be accompanied by an adult. Adults should also make sure they’re well prepared for the evening, with an epi-pen and fully charged cell phones in case they need to call 911. Refill any prescriptions in advance of the holiday so that you’re not left without an epi-pen at a crucial moment.
    • Here’s something that might surprise you: fun-sized Halloween candy may not be the same as the regular-sized treats. Sometimes the smaller sizes are made with slightly different ingredients, or they could be made on different machinery and exposed to different allergens. Even if you’re familiar and comfortable with certain brands of candy, it’s extremely important to read the labels before allowing your child to eat the candy.
    • Of course, trick or treating isn’t the only way kids celebrate Halloween. If your children are in school or daycare, make sure the teachers are aware of their allergies and know what to do in case of emergency. When you know there’s going to be a Halloween celebration or event, go over safety rules with your child in advance.
    • Look for alternatives to celebrating with food. Host a scary movie party, carve pumpkins with friends, or do some Halloween crafts. Just because it’s Halloween, that doesn’t mean you have to load the kids up with sugar.
    • Consider participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project. It’s easy to do! Just display a teal pumpkin on your porch and hand out non-food, safe, treats. Glow sticks, stickers, small toys, pencils, and more options can make Halloween both fun and safe for all the kids in your neighborhood. You can even hand out candy as well. Just keep the non-food treats in a teal pumpkin or bowl and the candies in a separate container. Be careful about the non-food items you’re distributing, making sure they’re also latex-free and don’t contain allergens like wheat.

    You can make Halloween a fun holiday, even if your child has allergies! If you suspect your child has food allergies, an experienced, board-certified allergist can help you determine how to manage this condition. The physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are board-certified in allergy and immunology. They 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.

  • Tired of Coughing, Snoring or Clearing Your Throat?

    Do frequent coughing spells exhaust you? Is your family annoyed at your constant throat clearing?  Does your significant other wish you did not snore? And what is that snorting sound you make with your nose?

    These symptoms can all be the noisy consequences of poorly controlled allergies, medically called Allergic Rhinitis.

    Allergic rhinitis occurs when your immune system overreacts to a substance that may be harmless to others. These substances, known as allergens, can be pollen, organisms found in dust, mold, or animal dander.

    Release the histamines

    If you come into contact with allergens and you are allergic, your immune system considers it dangerous and releases a chemical called histamine. You body’s intention is to keep you safe but the over-reaction causes allergy symptoms. When your body comes across an allergy trigger, your immune system launches a chain reaction to defend you.

    First, it sends a chemical signal to cells in your lungs, nose, mouth, gut, and blood. The message is, “Release histamines,” which are stored in certain cells.

    As histamine leaves these cells, it boosts blood flow in the area of your body the allergen affected. This causes inflammation.

    The irritation of it all

    If your nose is affected, histamines infect the membranes causing more mucus to be produced. You can get a runny or stuffy nose. And you’ll sneeze. You may get itchy eyes. The mucus drains down your nasal passages to your throat, making you cough. You snort, a lot. The inflammation caused by the histamine further narrows your nasal passages. As the nasal congestion persists, sinus disease, sore throat, and post nasal drip develop causing chronic coughing. Eventually you live with sleep apnea, snoring, and chronic fatigue.

    What to do?

    The first impulse for many allergy sufferers is to go to the pharmacy and try to figure out the antihistamine-decongestant combination that will work for you.  With so many options, this can be futile and expensive. You can also deal with side effects of these medications that make you feel worse, such as nervousness, dry mouth, drowsiness, high blood pressure, high blood pressure, or constipation.

    The more effective first step is to make an appointment with a board certified allergist. The most important step in treating your allergy symptoms is to identify your allergy triggers by skin testing (without needles). Once the cause is identified, a treatment plan including lifestyle changes will be discussed. A treatment plan may be a simple as identifying the right medication or tips on avoiding the allergen. This can all be accomplished in one appointment with the allergist.

    Improved quality of life

    Individuals who have suffered long term with allergic rhinitis often don’t realize how much better they can feel.  Most patients who have their allergies properly diagnosed find an improved quality of life as a result.

    If you suspect you may have undiagnosed allergic rhinitis, it is advisable to get tested as soon as possible. Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM offers asthma screening and treatment to help you manage your condition successfully. To request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area, please call 610-825-5800 today.

     

  • Summer To-Dos Before You Send Your Child with Asthma or Allergies to School

    As summer winds down and kids gear up for going back to school, a parent’s to-do list becomes lengthy. If you’ve got a child with asthma or allergies, we’re sorry to tell you that you need to add a few more items to your list! It’s not really a bad thing, though, because a little bit of extra planning right now can help prevent trouble down the road. Here are some steps we recommend you take before your children go back to school.

    File a care plan with the school. Contact your child’s school to find out what kind of care plan your child needs, and what medical forms need to be completed before the school year starts. You’ll need to have paperwork in place that lists symptoms, medicines, steps to take to prevent problems, and steps to take if symptoms occur. You’ll probably need to file a medicine authorization and an emergency action plan, as well as a dietary meal accommodation form if your child has food allergies. The plans to manage a child’s medical care are called different things depending on the situation, but the three most common types are:

    Emergency Care Plan (ECP): This is your child’s doctor’s medical plan for the school to follow.

    Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP): A type of nursing care plan, this would include an emergency care plan for a child with asthma or food allergies.

    504 Plan: This is a legal contract between your student and the school, so it offers more legal protection than the other types of plans.

     

    Schedule a doctor’s appointment. Over the summer, and certainly at least two or three weeks before school starts, visit your child’s doctor. Ask the doctor to fill out and sign the forms for the school, updating any medical action plans as needed. These plans should be updated annually, at the beginning of the school year. At the same appointment, you can get refills for your child’s medications. If your child uses an inhaler, ask your doctor for an extra one that can be kept at school. Be aware that many schools are not using nebulizers this year, because they may spread the virus that causes COVID-19.

     

    Meet with school staff. The staff members you need to meet with will vary based on your child’s condition. Certainly, talk to the school nurse and your child’s teacher before the first day of school, to make them aware of your child’s needs. If you have a child with food allergies, talk to the food services director. If your child plays sports and has asthma, talk to the coach or the sports director. It’s important for them to know what your child needs, and for you to know how they handle various situations. Ask questions like:

    Where is medicine kept, and is it easily accessible?

    Do staff receive training on managing asthma and allergies?

    What is the school protocol for handling asthma episodes or allergic reactions?

    How does the school handle bullying?

    How is food handled in the school?

    Will safe food substitutions be provided for a child with food allergies?

    Has the COVID10 pandemic changed how food is served, and if so, what is the new process for managing food allergies?

     

    Teach your child self-care. As children grow, they can- and should- learn age-appropriate self-management of allergies and asthma. Talk to your pediatrician or allergist about your child’s capabilities when it comes to self-carrying and administering medication. If your child needs to bring asthma medication or epinephrine to school, you’ll need to work with the doctor and school to file the proper paperwork. Your child should know how to:

    Recognize asthma or allergy symptoms.

    Let an adult know if there is a problem.

    Properly wash hands.

    Read food labels to identify allergies.

    Report bullying or harassment.

    Carry and use medication.

     

    Take preventive measures. Prevention is easier and more effective than trying to get asthma and allergy symptoms under control. Be aware that September brings a spike in asthma attacks and hospitalizations because fall pollen peaks, viruses and bacteria spread among schoolchildren, and children are exposed to asthma and allergens in the schools. Get your child’s asthma under control before school starts, and talk to the doctor if the treatment plan needs to be adjusted. Have your child vaccinated against the flu, pneumococcal disease, and COVID-19, because these illnesses can be very serious. If you have concerns about classroom triggers for allergy and asthma, talk to the school about reducing them. Find out about your school’s plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and consider having your child wear a mask even if it’s not required or the child is vaccinated. Masks reduce a child’s exposure to triggers like pollen, allergens, and scents, as well as reducing their risk of respiratory infections.

     

    If your child has asthma or allergies, 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.

     

     

     

     

  • Asthma in the Summer

    Most people think only cold weather triggers asthma symptoms, but summertime heat and humidity can also bring on asthma attacks for some people. Learn more about why summer conditions can worsen your asthma, and follow tips to manage your symptoms as temperatures soar.

    Why Does Summertime Trigger Asthma Attacks?

    Several factors combine to make summer a prime time for asthma flare-ups. Here’s what could be making you cough and feel short of breath:

    Hot air: Sitting in a comfortable room between 70 and 78 degrees is unlikely to trigger asthma without an allergen present. However, breathing hot air can make your symptoms flare up because heat affects the physiology of your airways.

    Humidity: Humid air alone can trigger asthma. Add heat to the mix, and you have a fertile breeding ground for dust mites and mold. These allergens can thrive indoors during the summer, meaning you may not be safe from asthma attacks, even if you stay inside.

    Pollen: In late spring and early summer, grass pollen takes to the air. Then, while July sees little pollen activity, ragweed season begins in August. These allergens can trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.

    Ground-level ozone: Ozone contributes to “smog,” the hazy sky you sometimes see hanging over metropolitan areas. This known lung irritant is more common in the summer when high temperatures and sunlight spur the chemical reaction needed to create it. Ozone can reduce lung function and make it more difficult to breathe deeply, especially if you have asthma.

    Wildfire smoke: Hot, dry conditions can lead to forest fires. Smoke plumes from these blazes can travel hundreds of miles, lowering the air quality wherever they go. Your asthma symptoms could worsen if you’re forced to breathe smoky air.

    Thunderstorms: Sudden weather changes, such as those seen before and during a thunderstorm, can cause chest tightness and coughing in sensitive people. Windy conditions can also blow pollen high into the air, irritating your lungs when they settle back down.

    Swimming pool chlorine: Swimming is a recommended activity for people with asthma, and it reduces the risk of becoming overheated in the summer. However, some people are allergic to the chlorine added to swimming pools.

    Tips to Manage Asthma in the Summer

    If you discover that heat, humidity, summer air pollution, and other factors set off your asthma, try these strategies to help prevent flare-ups:

    Stay indoors during heat waves: Avoid situations where you must inhale hot air. This means staying in a cool, air-conditioned building when it’s hotter than 85 degrees outside whenever possible.

    Lower the indoor humidity: You can’t control the weather, but you can keep your home environment comfortable. Running the air conditioner naturally dehumidifies the air, but this isn’t always enough. If the humidity climbs above 50%, dust mites and mold could become a problem. Setting up a portable dehumidifier is an easy way to prevent excessive moisture.

    Keep an eye on pollen counts: When levels become elevated, stay indoors and keep the windows closed.

    Monitor the air quality index (AQI): Check your favorite weather app. You should find the current AQI, possibly even an air quality forecast for the day. If the index rises above 100, stay indoors if you can. If you must run errands, drive with the windows up and the AC set on recirculation mode.

    Watch the weather forecast: If you know thunderstorms affect you, stay indoors before, during, and immediately after the storm.

    Plan outdoor activities for earlier or later in the day: Most of the time, heat, humidity, poor air quality, and thunderstorms are more likely in the afternoon. That’s why mornings and evenings are typically the best times to be outside if you have asthma.

    Pay attention to symptoms at the pool: Now that you know chlorine is a possible asthma trigger, be more conscious of symptoms that appear while swimming. If you have to reach for your inhaler after a few laps, consider trying a different physical activity, preferably indoors to avoid your summertime asthma triggers.

    Use your inhalers: Take your regular preventer inhaler as usual to reduce the risk of attacks. Then, keep your reliever inhaler with you so you can act quickly if flare-ups occur. Remember, it’s important to store inhalers in a cool place out of direct sunlight, so try keeping yours in an insulated lunchbox when you’re out and about on a hot day.

    Talk with your doctor: If you spend time outside in hot, humid weather, you’ll soon know if summertime conditions pose a problem for you. Don’t feel as though you need to endure worsening symptoms. If you start taking your reliever inhaler three or more times per week, talk to your doctor about possibly changing your medication dosage, at least until the weather cools down.

    Control your allergy triggers: Do you think pollen or mold could be to blame for your heightened symptoms? Get tested for allergies so you can find any undiagnosed conditions, begin taking the proper medications, and start limiting your exposure to the allergens that bother you.

    If you suspect you may have undiagnosed asthma or allergies, it is advisable to get tested as soon as possible. Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM offers asthma screening and treatment to help you manage your condition successfully. Allergy testing for inhalant allergens and foods is also an option you may wish to pursue. To request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area, please call 610-825-5800 today.

  • Common Allergy Symptoms in Kids

    About 50 million Americans have allergies, and it’s the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the nation. It’s estimated that 40 percent of children have allergies, and allergies can get in the way of school and other activities. How do you know if your child is suffering from allergies? There are some common symptoms that are fairly easy to spot.

    Children tend to have different types of allergies at different ages. Younger children are prone to skin allergies and rashes. Older children, however, are more likely to have respiratory allergies that cause coughing and wheezing.

    What is an allergy? Allergic reactions happen when a person’s immune system misidentifies a normal substance as something harmful. This substance, an allergen, doesn’t bother people who aren’t allergic to it. For a person with allergies, however, the allergen triggers reactions, as the immune system goes to battle with it.

    Children with respiratory allergies may have runny, itchy, red, or swollen eyes for more than a week and a chronic runny nose. The child may complain of itchy ears or an itchy mouth or throat. These symptoms may be hay fever or allergic rhinitis, which is the most common form of allergy among children. If your child tends to get this kind of symptoms, notice if they recur each year at the same time of year.

    Respiratory allergies can affect a child’s breathing. Listen to your child breathe and notice if there’s a noisy wheeze, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath. If the child has any of these symptoms, it’s time to see the pediatrician. A dry, hacking cough with clear mucus also signifies respiratory allergies. Respiratory allergies often cause sleep disruptions, causing fatigue and listlessness in school age children. Studies show that student with untreated allergies have significantly lower learning scores that their classmates without allergies along with more missed days from school. Further, if you notice that your child tires more easily than usual when playing, the problem may be allergies.

    Sometimes, a child’s skin will react to an allergen. Did you know that the skin is not just the body’s largest organ but also part of the immune system? Keep an eye on your little one’s skin, looking for eczema, which looks like dry, red, scaly, itchy patches. Hives, too, are a sign of allergy. Ranging in size from the size of the tip of a pen to the size of a dinner plate, hives are red welts on the skin.

    Some allergies can cause trouble with the digestive system. Stomach cramps, repeated diarrhea attacks, headache and fatigue can all point to an allergy. You might also notice a change in your child’s behavior, and an increase in crabby moods or restlessness. Pay attention to what happened right before the symptom occurred, and you might be able to determine the allergen.

    Your child could be allergic to your pet’s dander, saliva, urine and fur, and that allergy may be causing sneezing and wheezing. If the problem is a food allergy, it’s likely to be one of the eight foods that contribute to 90 percent of food allergies:

    Milk

    Eggs

    Peanuts

    Tree nuts- (almonds, cashews, and walnuts)

    Fish

    Shellfish- (crab, lobster, and shrimp)

    Soy

    Wheat

     

    In addition, some children can’t tolerate citrus. Sometimes it’s easy to identify an allergen, but often you have to play detective. Allergens can lurk where you don’t expect them, like traces of peanuts in cereal or soy in processed foods.

    If you think your child may be suffering from allergies, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM. We’ll help you determine the allergen and how to manage it. 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 combat 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 services available to help you cope with your child’s allergies.

  • Are You Allergic to Your Dog?

    It’s been said that dogs are man’s best friend, and they truly are amazing companions. Owning a dog decreases anxiety and loneliness, makes people more social and less isolated, and may even improve cognitive function and cardiovascular health. But what about allergies? If you’re allergic to your dog, does it mean you have to give up your best friend?

    Let’s look at some statistics about dog allergies. Data from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America indicates that between 15 and 30 percent of Americans are affected by pet allergies. You’re more likely to be allergic to cats than dogs, because cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies. However, dog allergies typically cause more severe allergic reactions, particularly for people with asthma.

    So how do you know if you have a dog allergy? The symptoms run the gamut from mild to severe, and people who are only mildly sensitive may not exhibit symptoms for several days after exposure to a dog. Symptoms include:

    – There may be itching and swelling of the membranes inside the nose or around the eyes.

    – Skin may redden after being licked by a dog.

    – You may start coughing, wheezing, and feeling short of breath with in 15 to 30 minutes of exposure to a dog.

    – A rash may appear on the chest, neck, or face.

    – A person with asthma may have a severe asthma attack.

    – Children may also develop eczema due to a dog allergy.

    Common wisdom used to be that exposing a newborn to the family dog would make the child more likely to develop an allergy. The good news is that this is the opposite of what actually happens. Many recent studies have determined that exposing babies to pets doesn’t increase their risk of allergies and asthma and can actually protect the child from developing these conditions in the future.

    To understand dog allergies and how to manage them, it’s important to first have a grasp of what causes pet allergies. You’re probably heard the term “pet dander” and what the refers to is the dead skin that animals shed. Dogs secrete certain proteins that end up in that dander, as well as in their saliva and urine. When a sensitive person’s immune system comes into contact with these usually harmless proteins, it causes an allergic reaction. Because different breeds produce different proteins, you can be allergic to one dog breed and not another. Pet hair can hold onto dust and pet dander, spreading allergens as it collects in carpets, on clothing, on the walls, and on the furniture. Pet dander can also remain airborne for a long time, eventually making its way into your eyes and lungs.

    If you have dog allergies, does this mean you have to rehome your dog? Not necessarily. While removing the pet from your home is the only way to totally eliminate the allergens, there are steps you can take to minimize exposure and lessen your symptoms without giving away the family pet.

    You can set up dog free zones. You might keep dogs out of the bedrooms, for example, or off of the furniture. If you live in a climate that lends itself to keeping your dog outside- in a well-contained, comfortable, humanely arranged area- you could keep your dog out of the house entirely.

    Keep your dog clean. A weekly bath with a pet-friendly shampoo, performed by a person who is not allergic to the dog, will help keep dander under control.

    Get rid of things that attract and hold onto dander. This includes carpeting, upholstered furniture, horizontal blinds, and curtains.

    Up your clean air game. A high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your HVAC can help, and a HEPA air purifier is even better at minimizing airborne allergens.

    Consider a hypoallergenic breed. No dog breed is 100 percent hypoallergenic, but there are several breeds that produce less dander than others or have a non-shedding coat.

    Try out the dog before you get attached. Having a trial period to assess family members’ reactions can help you determine if a dog is the right choice for your family.

    You can also manage allergies and asthma using medications. Antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids, decongestants, and cromolyn sodium are all available over the counter, and can help respiratory symptoms. Immunotherapy (allergy shots) expose the body to the animal protein causing the reaction to reduce sensitivity and symptoms. Prescription medications called leukotriene modifiers are sometimes recommended for people who can’t antihistamines or corticosteroids. There are some risks, so it’s important to see a board certified allergist to determine which treatment is right for you.

    Whenever you suspect you’re suffering from an allergy, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM. We’ll help you determine what you’re dealing with and how to manage it. 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 services available to help you with your allergies.

  • Food Allergy or Sensitivity

    A certain food may bother you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allergic to it. Sometimes, the problem is a food sensitivity, and sometimes it’s an intolerance. Does this sound confusing? Let’s clarify some of the basic facts about food allergies and sensitivities.

    Allergies and sensitivities are different because of the way the body responds. If you’re allergic to a food, your body’s response to that food is what causes a systemic allergic reaction. If you’re not allergic to the food, but have a food sensitivity or intolerance, the food itself triggers a more localized digestive reaction.

    Food sensitivities and intolerances are more common than allergies. Fortunately, they’re not life-threatening. While symptoms of food sensitivity can vary, food intolerance affects the digestive system, causing gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, cramping, and nausea. Rather than being caused by an allergic reaction, sensitivities and intolerances are the result of the body’s inability to digest a particular food.

    Food sensitivity and intolerance are not immune-mediated. When a food triggers an intolerance, it happens in your digestive tract. For instance, if you are lactose intolerant, your body can’t break down lactose, and this leads to digestion-related symptoms. You might have a sensitivity or intolerance if you don’t have the right enzymes to digest certain foods, have a reaction to food additives or preservatives like sulfites, MSG, or artificial colors, you’re sensitive to chemical additives, or you have a sensitivity to sugars that are found in foods like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or onions.

    An allergic response involves the immune system. The immune system defends your body against attackers like bacteria, fungus, or viruses. If your immune system identifies a protein in what you eat as one of these interlopers, it tries to fight it by producing antibodies. This causes allergic reactions like the common immunoglobulin E (IgE)- mediated reaction. IgEs are allergic antibodies that cause a reaction as soon as chemicals, like histamine from mast cells, are released.

    Non-IgE mediated food allergies involve the activation of other parts of the immune system. Symptoms of non-IGE reactions don’t typically happen immediately, and they tend to occur in the gastrointestinal tract. These symptoms include bloating, vomiting, and diarrhea, and are generally not life-threatening.

    Food allergies can be serious, or even fatal. Sometimes a person with a severe food allergy doesn’t even have to eat the food to react to it. Something as insignificant as touching the food or inhaling its fumes can be deadly. Symptoms of a food allergy include skin reactions like hives, itching, or swelling, digestive symptoms, and anaphylaxis, which includes trouble breathing, dizziness, wheezing, and even death.

    Eight foods cause the most allergies. In fact, the following foods cause 90 percent of all allergic reactions:

    – Milk

    – Eggs

    – Fish

    – Shellfish

    – Peanuts

    – Tree Nuts

    – Wheat

    – Soybeans

    It’s important to know if you have a food allergy. If you do have food allergies, you have to avoid those foods. In case of accidental ingestion, you need to have self-injectable epinephrine on hand and know how to administer it. Allergies can be serious, but with the right care, they can be managed.

    Whether you suspect you have a food allergy, sensitivity, or intolerance, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM to help diagnosis your symptoms. The allergists at A&AS are the regions experts on identifying food allergies and administering high risk food allergy testing and challenges. When you enlist the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist for proper testing and treatment, 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 services available to help you with your allergies.

  • Allergy Facts and Figures

    Did you know that allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the United States? In fact, more than 50 million Americans experience various types of allergies each year. Still, there’s confusion about exactly what allergies are and how they differ from intolerance and sensitivity. Let’s look at some facts about allergies and answer some common questions.

    An allergy is an immune system reaction to a foreign substance. This substance, called an allergen, could be something you ate, or it could be something you inhaled, injected, or simply touched. When your body comes in contact with an allergen, the result is an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions vary from mild to extreme. Mild responses include coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, a runny nose, and a scratchy throat. More severe reactions include rashes, hives, low blood pressure, breathing trouble, or asthma attacks. In the most severe cases, allergies can even be fatal.

    Allergies are treatable, but there’s no cure. Managing allergies is accomplished with prevention and treatment. While often overlooked as a disease, it is one of the most common diseases in the United States. In fact, allergic conditions are the most common health issues affecting children in the U.S., and food allergies cause about 200,000 visits to the emergency room each year.

    • How deadly are allergies? Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, is most often triggered by medicine, food, and insect stings. Of these allergens, medicines cause the most deaths. The groups that have the deadliest reactions to allergens are elderly people and African-Americans.
    • What are indoor/outdoor allergies? Indoor and outdoor allergies cause sinus swelling, seasonal allergies, hay fever, nasal allergies, and asthma. Allergens include tree, grass, and weed pollen, dust mites, mold spores, cockroaches, rodent dander, and pet dander. The triggers for indoor/outdoor allergies can also trigger eye allergies, and most people with allergies suffer from more than one type of allergy. Allergic rhinitis, also called hay fever, is an example of an indoor/outdoor allergy, and it affects 2 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children.
    • What causes skin allergies? The most common triggers for skin allergies are plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Coming into contact with cockroaches or dust mites, certain foods, or latex can also cause symptoms of skin allergies. Skin allergy symptoms include skin inflammation, eczema, hives, and contact allergies. Nearly 9 million children in the U.S. have skin allergies, with kids between 0 and 4 being the most likely to experience them.
    • Are drug allergies common? Reactions to drugs may affect 10 percent of the world’s population, and up to 20 percent of hospital patients. The most common trigger for those with drug allergies is penicillin.
    • How serious is a latex allergy? For most people with a latex allergy, exposure to latex causes mild to severe dermatitis, some time after exposure. The most serious response to latex shows up immediately, and presents as a nasal allergy, conjunctivitis, cramps, hives, and severe itching. Symptoms can also include rapid heartbeat, tremors, chest pain, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, or anaphylaxis. There’s a growing concern among medical professionals about latex allergies because risk of allergy increases with repeated exposure, and 8-12 percent of health care workers develop a latex allergy.
    • How common are insect allergies? About 5 percent of the population is allergic to insect stings, which cause 90-100 deaths each year.
    • What are the most common food allergies? Believe it or not, most food allergies are caused by just eight foods. These allergens are milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Children are more likely than adults to have food allergies.
    • What’s the difference between a food allergy, a sensitivity, and an intolerance? A true food allergy can cause a serious, even life-threatening reaction. Sensitivity to a certain food can cause an immune response, typically not as serious as an allergy, but disruptive in its own right. Symptoms include joint pain, stomach pain, fatigue, rashes, and brain fog. Gluten is a common trigger of food sensitivity. Food intolerance is the inability to digest certain foods, like dairy products, and typically cause diarrhea or bloating.
    • How are allergies best managed? Avoiding triggers is the first step toward managing allergies. There are also medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, that your allergist can recommend. For about 85 percent of people with allergic rhinitis, immunotherapy, in the form of allergy shots, drops or tablets, is helpful in reducing or nearly eliminating symptoms. The best strategy is to see an allergist to devise a treatment plan.

    If you’re struggling with allergy symptoms and would like to feel better, contact Allergy & Asthma Specialists . In one visit, the board certified allergist will help you identify your triggers and develop a treatment plan that is best for you.   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. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about services available to help you with your allergies.

  • Asthma Facts and Figures

    Over 235 million people worldwide have asthma, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That number includes 25 million Americans, making it one of the most common chronic diseases in our country. Here, we offer some facts and figures to help you better understand this chronic condition.

    • What is asthma? Asthma is a condition that causes swelling of the airways, which narrows the passage through which air moves from the nose and mouth to the lungs. It can be triggered by allergens or other irritants, and symptoms include wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest, and trouble breathing. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be managed with the right treatment.
    • Exactly how common is asthma? Numbers like 25 million are hard to digest, and don’t tell the whole story, so let’s look at it some other ways. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 1 in 13 people have asthma. That includes 7.7 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children, and the numbers have been increasing since the early 1980s.
    • Who is most affected by asthma? Asthma affects more children than adults, and about 6.2 million children under the age of 18 have asthma. That’s 1 in 12 children, which makes it unsurprising that asthma is the top reason for missed school days. In fact, it’s the leading chronic disease in children. It’s more common in boys than girls but, interestingly more common in women than men.
    • How serious is asthma? Asthma can be extremely serious- even deadly. In fact, 10 Americans die every day from asthma: in 2017, 3,564 people died from asthma. Adults are four times more likely to die from asthma than children, and women are more likely to die of it than men. However, boys are more likely than girls to die of asthma.
    • What are the statistics on medical care for asthma? Most deaths from asthma could have been avoided with proper treatment. Still, more than 11.4 million people report asthma episodes or attacks annually, including more than 3 million children. This condition accounts for 9.8 million doctor’s office visits, nearly 200,000 inpatient hospital stays, and 1.8 million emergency room visits every year. It’s the third-ranking cause of hospitalization in those younger than 15 years of age.
    • Does asthma vary according to ethnicity? Asthma affects people of color African-American, Hispanic, and Indigenous people in the United States have the highest asthma rates, deaths, and hospitalizations. However, while Puerto Ricans are more likely to have asthma than any other ethnic group, African Americans are three times more likely than people of other races to be hospitalized or die from asthma. African-American children have the highest prevalence of asthma, and Black children under the age of 4 have the highest number of emergency room and urgent care visits of any group.
    • Why is asthma more common in some groups than others? Racial and ethnic disparities in asthma frequency and severity have to do with many factors. These include:
      • Structural determinants like segregation, discriminatory policies, and systemic racism
      • Social determinants like education, environment, employment, socioeconomic status, social support, and access to health care
      • Biological determinants like ancestry and genetic makeup
      • Behavioral determinants like adherence to medicines and the use of tobacco
    • How can asthma be controlled? Your doctor will come up with a plan based on factors like your age, symptoms, triggers, and the severity of your asthma. Prevention and long-term control can keep asthma attacks at bay.

    Board-certified allergists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and will give you the education, tools and confidence you need to manage your condition. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all of our physicians are board-certified in allergy, asthma 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.