• Halloween Safety Tips for 2020

    The spooky decorations and scary movies around Halloween make this holiday a favorite for many adults and children alike. But for parents of kids with food allergies, there’s an entirely different reason to be frightened. Wheat, milk, soy, egg, and other common food allergens are found in everything from chocolate bars to caramel candies to fruit chews. What’s more, many goodies are processed on the same equipment as peanuts and tree nuts, making them unsafe for sensitive individuals.

    Then, there’s the coronavirus pandemic looming over this year’s holiday festivities. To reduce the spread of this illness, everyone must take extra precautions. If you want Halloween 2020 to be more thrilling than chilling, follow these safety tips to avoid exposure to food allergies and COVID-19.

    Food Allergy Safety Tips for Halloween

    Whether you’re attending a Halloween party, hosting an event at your house, or simply going trick-or-treating, it’s important to take food allergies seriously. Here’s how to make the holiday a safe and fun experience for children with food allergies:

    Bring epinephrine with you: Carry your child’s epinephrine auto-injectors while trick-or-treating, attending parties, visiting stores, or going anywhere else that might involve handing out candy. In fact, you should keep an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times.

    Talk to Halloween party hosts: Make sure a responsible adult who knows about your child’s allergies will be supervising any Halloween parties your child attends. Teach your child what to do if they think they’re having an allergic reaction, including seeking help from an adult.

    Read food labels before eating: Discourage your child from nibbling on goodies while trick-or-treating. Wait until you get home to examine the labels for possible food allergens. Keep in mind that many individually wrapped fun-size candies don’t contain ingredient lists, so you may need to look them up online. If any products are homemade or have no label, throw them out.

    Trade out allergen-filled candies with non-food treats: Remove any goodies from your child’s stash that could cause an allergic reaction. To make this process easier, swap out candy for glow sticks, Halloween-themed pencils, stickers, plastic spider rings, and other non-food treats.

    Bring your own goodies to share: Host parties at your house so you can easily serve allergen-free snacks. When attending events elsewhere, consider bringing goodies you know are safe for your child to eat. Bring enough for everyone so your child doesn’t feel singled out.

    Teach your child to “always ask first”: A well-meaning friend may offer your child a piece of candy, forgetting that they’re allergic. To prevent a mishap, make sure your child knows to always ask you, a teacher, or another adult who knows about their allergies whether the food is safe to eat.

    Talk to your neighbors: Friends and neighbors may want to provide allergen-free candy at parties and for trick-or-treaters, but they’re not sure what to buy. Share with them what to look for when purchasing candy, or provide them with a list of safe goodies they can give your child.

    Look for teal pumpkins: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) created the Teal Pumpkin Project in 2014 to raise awareness and provide safe options for trick-or-treaters with food allergies. Participants place a teal pumpkin outside their home, indicating they have allergen-free, non-food treats available. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the campaign does not include a teal pumpkin map this year, but the website has plenty of other resources to explore.

    COVID-19 Safety Tips for Halloween

    Many Halloween activities have a high risk of spreading the coronavirus. Traditional trick-or-treating, crowded costume parties, indoor haunted houses, and hayrides with people who live outside your household should all be avoided this year. Consider these alternative, lower-risk ways to enjoy Halloween with family and friends:

    – Follow day-to-day coronavirus safety precautions, including maintaining a six-foot distance from others, wearing a cloth face covering, and regularly washing your hands.

    – Keep in mind that a plastic Halloween costume mask is not a substitute for a mask designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Avoid wearing a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because this could make it difficult to breathe. Instead, consider wearing a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

    – Carve pumpkins with members of your household and display them on your porch.

    – Carve pumpkins with friends or neighbors in an outdoor setting where tables are set up at a distance.

    – Decorate your living space for the fall season.

    – Participate in socially distant trick-or-treating. One idea is to place individually wrapped goodie bags on a table at the end of your driveway. This way, trick-or-treaters can grab and go without reaching into a communal candy bowl or crowding your front porch.

    – Seek out open-air events, such as an outdoor costume parade, pumpkin patch, apple orchard, haunted forest, or corn maze where guests are required to wear face coverings and remain at least six feet apart.

    – Host an outdoor Halloween movie night, with friends and neighbors spaced out appropriately.

    – Hold a virtual Halloween costume contest with your children and their friends.

    – Have a Halloween-themed scavenger hunt, either with household members around your home or with neighbors walking from house to house.

    – Do not participate in any in-person Halloween festivities if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

    With these food allergy and coronavirus safety tips in mind, you should be all set to enjoy Halloween safely this year. Remember, accurately diagnosing food allergies is the first step toward proper treatment. Whether your child shows minor signs of food intolerance or experiences a severe allergic reaction, Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM can help. To request allergy testing or treatment, please call 610-825-5800 to set an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area.

  • Delicious Treats for Those With Food Allergies

    Food allergies may seem complicated. It’s hard to avoid allergens when they often hide where you’d least expect them. Fortunately, you don’t have to let food allergies limit you. There are plenty of different recipes for delicious, allergy-free baked goods that you can make at home.

    If you’re dairy-free, you’ll love this Blueberry Breakfast Cake. Light and fluffy, not too sweet, and bursting with blueberries, it’s perfect for breakfast or brunch. Play around with the recipe if you want, using different kinds of flour, to cater to your dietary needs and suit your preferences. The recipe is also vegan.

    You may find it hard to believe these Chocolate Chip Cookies are glutenfree. Gluten-free baking can be tricky, so finding a recipe that tastes good and has the right texture is an accomplishment. These cookies are chewy and chocolatey, and they’re also easy, because they start off with a store-bought mix.

    This Banana Cake is not only glutenfree, but also nut-free. Overripe bananas make it flavorful and moist, and a rich cream cheese frosting makes it spectacular. You can bake it in less than an hour, and if you need it to be egg-free as well, just substitute applesauce for the eggs.

    For an allergy-friendly dessert, try this recipe for Apple Pie. Gluten-free and vegan, it’s got a delicious, buttery crust and the perfect sweet-tart apple filling. It’s perfect for Thanksgiving or any other time you want a special dessert, and you can make it the night before.

    If you’re allergic to eggs, it pays to get familiar with egg replacers. It’s easy to purchase egg replacers, but you can also use common foods as egg substitutes.

    – Baking powder: Baking powder is a great option if you’re making pancakes. It contains sodium bicarbonate and cream of tartar, which react with liquid and make the batter rise dramatically.

    – Baking soda and vinegar: Think “science fair volcano” and you’ll get the idea for the chemical reaction this causes in your baking. That’s why it’s the perfect choice for cakes, cupcakes, and muffins.

    – Ground flax seeds: Combine one tablespoon of ground flax seed with three tablespoons of water for each egg the recipe requires. After a few minutes, the mixture will become gelatinous, resembling an egg. This is a good choice for denser recipes.

    – Chia seeds: Just like with flax seeds, one tablespoon of chia seeds is mixed with three tablespoons of water. The downside is that, unlike golden flax seeds, chia seeds are visible in the final product.

    – Yogurt: This substitute binds batter together and adds moisture, so it’s good for cakes, cupcakes, and muffins. You can use traditional or non-dairy yogurt, using three tablespoons for each egg in the recipe.

    – Applesauce: 1/3 cup of applesauce replaces one egg and works well in most recipes. You can also choose to use a different pureed fruit if you prefer.

    – Aquafaba: This is the liquid from a can of chickpeas. It’s good for baking, making mayonnaise, and making vegan meringue cookies.

    The physicians of Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM specialize in food allergy testing and high risk food challenges.  A&AS has successfully transitioned many peanut allergy patients to eating 1 -2 peanuts per day without a reaction using peanut sublingual immunotherapy. The board certified allergists of A&AS are the regions leading practice for the management of food allergies. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about services available to help you with your allergies.

  • Autumn Ailments: Tips on Living with Ragweed & Dander

    So, you lived through spring and summer allergens, and if pollen Is your problem, you may get a break when the weather gets cooler. However, the arrival of fall doesn’t mean the end of allergens. Indoor allergies may actually get worse as you start spending more time inside, and ragweed can cause problems all the way into early fall. That’s because it releases pollen when the weather is warmer during the day and cooler at night. What can you do about autumn allergens? We have a few tips to help you stay healthy.

    What are the fall allergens that may have you sniffling and sneezing, with a stuffy nose and itchy, watery eyes? Outside the culprits are usually pollen and ragweed, while indoor allergens include mold, dust mites, and pet dander. Keeping your house clean and washing your bed linens once a week in hot water should keep dust mites at bay, while keeping your home well-ventilated and fixing leaks immediately can help control the growth of mold. Ragweed and pet dander, however, are a little trickier to control.

    If you’re sensitive to the pollen released by spring plants, you’re likely to react to ragweed as well, because about 75 percent of people with spring allergies are also allergic to ragweed. Don’t think you’re safe just because ragweed doesn’t grow in your area: wind can carry ragweed pollen hundreds of miles. What are some good ways to handle ragweed?

    Stay inside when pollen counts are high. Peak ragweed hours are between 10 a.m.-3 p.m., so if you don’t need to go out during those hours, stay inside. It’s also wise to check the weather forecast every day, being aware that pollen counts tend to be higher on hot, dry, windy days than they are on cool, damp, rainy, windless days. If you can’t stay inside, keep pollen out of your hair and eyes by wearing a hat and glasses.

    Keep pollen out of your house. When you do go outside, take off your shoes, shower, and change your clothes when you come inside. That way, you’ll avoid tracking pollen through your house. Another way to reduce airborne allergens in your house is by using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in your air conditioner and keeping the windows closed.

    Take your medicine. It can be helpful to take antihistamine medications during your most active levels of the day, to block the effects of the histamine released by your body during an allergic reaction. Decongestants and corticosteroid nasal sprays can also help, and allergy shots provide long-term relief.

    Be aware that the proteins similar to those in ragweed pollen are found in other sources, too. Bananas, melons, sunflower seeds, and chamomile tea can all trigger allergies if you’re sensitive to ragweed.

    Pet dander is another problem when you’re spending a lot of time indoors. Your warm-blooded companion animals, including cats, dogs, birds, and rodents, all have dead skin cells we call animal dander. The proteins found in this dander, or in saliva or urine, causes the pet allergies; you’re not allergic to the actual animal. HEPA filters can help keep dander under control, especially when your vacuum has one, and damp dusting is also helpful. Our most helpful piece of advice, though, is to keep your pets out of your bedrooms if you’re allergic, and bathe them once a week.

    You can also try home remedies, staying hydrated, and nasal sprays. Many people find that healthy lifestyle habits can help combat allergies. Eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and practicing mindfulness are all healthy habits to pursue, and they may help alleviate allergy symptoms. For real relief, though, trust a professional, board-certified allergist.

    If you’re suffering the effects of autumn allergens, enlisting the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist, can help you find the solutions you need to manage your allergies. All of the physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM 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.

  • How to Stop Playing the Allergy Guessing Game

    What am I allergic to?

    You are pretty sure you are allergic to something. Do allergy symptoms such as congestion, itchy eyes, coughing, wheezing, or headaches last longer than two weeks.  Worse, do these symptoms come and go, time and time again? Do you wish you could pinpoint your allergy triggers?

    Some allergy sufferers are lucky, if you could call them lucky.  They know exactly what causes their allergic reaction. A cat walks into the room and she immediately becomes congested.  His eyes itch and water every time he cuts the grass. She gets hives every time she eats eggs. A specific reaction to a specific trigger makes it easy to treat yourself.  Avoid the trigger.

    However, it is not that easy. Most people suffer from several allergy triggers. Some suffer from seasonal allergy triggers, the most common being the grass, tree or weed pollens that span spring and summer. Fall brings ragweed while winter months exacerbate dust mite and animal dander allergies. Indulging at the holiday food table often results in hives, but why?

    Some suffer from perennial, or year around allergies. Mold, animal dander and dust mite can be a year around trigger for sensitive individuals.

    Identifying your allergy triggers is the first step to effective treatment and feeling your best.  The allergists of Allergy & Asthma Specialists have access to samples of over 100 allergens and will determine which allergens you will be tested for based on your medical history, environmental survey and physical examination.  The allergy skin tests are conducted without needles and results are available in 20 minutes.

    Once the trigger is identified, the allergist will prescribe a treatment plan and make suggestions for adapting and dealing with the underlying cause.

    What medication should I take?

    Some try to treat their symptoms by way of the wall of allergy medication choices available at the pharmacy. There are antihistamines, decongestants, pain medications and even medications to help you sleep through your allergy symptoms.  There are two issues with playing the allergy medicine guessing game.  Finding the right combination to relieve your symptoms without causing more problems is futile and expensive.  The wrong combination and you can find yourself dealing with side effects such as nervousness, dry mouth, drowsiness, high blood pressure or constipation. And, you are only treating the symptoms, not the underlying disease process.

    The board certified allergists of Allergy & Asthma Specialists have years of experience prescribing the most effective medication for each patient’s allergy triggers.

    Why do I feel tired all the time?

    Left untreated, the allergic disease process may have more serious long-term inflammatory consequences such as recurrent sinus or ear infections, bronchitis or inflamed lungs, frequent sore throats, unrelenting headaches, chronic cough, sleep apnea and compromised lung function. Chronic fatigue is the culmination of the sleep interruption caused by these untreated or poorly treated allergic responses. Even your appearance can suffer with allergies causing dark circles under your eyes that will not go away.

    How do I feel 100%?

    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 and treated realize a greatly improved quality of life.

    Get the answers. Feel better. Sleep better. Look better. See an allergist.

    All the physicians of Allergy & Asthma Specialists are board-certified in allergy and clinical immunology. You can easily schedule an appointment at one of the eight convenient locations. To schedule as appointment click here to visit our website or call us at 1-800-86-COUGH, option 2.

    Learn more about the Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM here.

  • Seasonal Summer Allergies

    If you’ve suffered through spring allergies, you might think that once the spring is over, your allergies will leave with it. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true. Summer has its own allergens, and if you’re sensitive to them, you may be just as miserable. Do you know the allergens that may challenge you in summer?  

    Summer has many different allergens, both indoor and outdoor. There is a wide range of plants that can trigger your allergies, as well as insects that are prevalent during the summer months. You won’t escape allergic symptoms by staying inside, though. Common summer allergens include:  

    Weeds: Ragweed, cockle weed, pigweed, Russian thistle, sagebrush, tumbleweed all flourish during summer, and some of the pollen from these weeds can travel hundreds of miles on the wind, making it a problem even in areas where the plants don’t grow. 

    Grasses: Bermuda, bluegrasses, orchard, red top, sweet vernal, and Timothy grass can all cause allergic reactions. 

    Smog and Pollution: The strong sunlight and calm winds of summer can create clouds of ozone at ground level, and this can be brutal for allergy sufferers.  

    Insect Bites: Bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, fire ants, and other insects are out in force in the summer months. While insect bites are typically mild, for those with severe allergies they can be life-threatening.  

    Mold and Dust mites: Mold and dust mites thrive in the warm, humid weather of summer.  

    How do you know if you’re sensitive to these things? Many of the symptoms you’ll experience in summer are the same as those that bothered you in the spring. Your eyes and nose will itch and run, you’ll sneeze and cough, and have dark circles under your eyes, and if you’re allergic to mold you may have a headache. An allergy to insect bites can lead to severe allergic reactions. You might feel like your throat and tongue are swelling, and you may experience dizziness and nausea, or even go into shock. These allergic reactions constitute an emergency and require immediate medical assistance.  

    This year, people with summer allergies may be more alarmed than usual, wondering if they’re suffering from COVID-19. There are some big differences in symptoms, though. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, so there is some overlap in how it presents compared to allergies: nasal congestion, coughing, and sneezing. However, while coronavirus can cause a fever, this is not a symptom of allergies. In addition, allergies cause itchiness and repetitive sneezing, and those symptoms aren’t present with COVID-19. 

    The easiest way to determine whether or not you are experiencing summer allergies is to meet with an expert, like the specialists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists. There, a board-certified allergist will evaluate you to determine your allergens, performing allergy skin testing if necessary, to identify which allergens are triggering your symptoms. Once your allergens are determined, the specialists will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that fits your life and targets your allergens. 

    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. All of the physicians at Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM are board-certified in allergy and immunology and can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. There are plenty of treatment options available like environmental control tips, medications, and immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or sublingual drops so that you can find real relief from allergy symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about our available services. 

  • 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.