Archive for the ‘Allergies’ Category

The Allergy-Asthma Connection

May 24th, 2021

It’s springtime and the trees and flowers are in full bloom. And with that comes an increase in pollen, which can wreak havoc on anyone suffering with allergies. But for some people, the same pollens that triggers an allergic reaction also causes asthma symptoms. This condition is called allergy-induced asthma or allergic asthma.

May is Allergy and Asthma Awareness Month. In this blog, we’ll review the two conditions and explore the connection between them.

An allergy is an overreaction by your immune system to some substance that you inhaled, ate or touched – called an allergen. Allergies can cause a variety of symptoms, depending on how you encountered the allergen, but may include: runny nose, itching, sneezing, congestion, wheezing, shortness of breath, hives, swollen face or tongue, tingly mouth, and swollen throat or lips.

Your immune system responds to an allergen by producing Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. With IgE antibodies present, any subsequent exposure to the allergen results in an allergic reaction. And when that occurs, your immune system produces histamines, chemicals that expel the allergen from the body and cause the familiar allergy symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing and itching.

Asthma involves inflammation and swelling of the bronchial tubes that carry air to the lungs. In addition, the cells that line the airway in people with asthma produce more mucus, which is thicker than normal, making breathing more difficult. Common symptoms of asthma include: persistent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness, pain or pressure.

It’s estimated that more than 25 million people in the US have asthma, and allergic asthma is the most common type, affecting approximately 60 percent of all people with asthma. With allergic asthma, the same allergens that cause your allergies cause your asthma symptoms. These include pollen, dust mites, pet dander, mold spores and certain foods.

Exactly how the allergic reaction leads to the development of allergic asthma is still being studied. It’s currently believed that IgE and the histamines initiate an inflammatory response in the body, and high levels of these substances, which are present during an allergic reaction, contribute to the inflammation and swelling of the bronchial tubes, triggering asthma symptoms.

Diagnosing allergic asthma generally begins with determining what allergens cause your allergic reactions. A skin prick test is the common way to check for allergies. During this test, your doctor places a small amount of an allergen just under your skin and waits to see if red bumps develop. The red bumps indicate an allergic reaction.

Other tests may be used to diagnose asthma. They include spirometry, which measures the amount of air you inhale and exhale; peak flow test, which measures air pressure as you breathe out; and lung function test, which can show if your breathing improves after you take a certain medication. If your breathing improves, it’s likely you have asthma.

The treatment for allergic asthma can involve treating the allergies, asthma or both. Treating allergies generally includes using antihistamines to deal with the runny nose, sneezing and itching. In more severe cases, immunotherapy may be recommended. Immunotherapy involves getting repeated shots of small amounts of an allergen to build up your tolerance to it.

Asthma is typically treated with inhaled or oral anti-inflammatory medications that help block the allergic response. You may be prescribed a fast-acting inhaler to treat symptoms when they occur or a daily-use inhaler for mild, persistent symptoms. If your asthma symptoms are more severe, your doctor may prescribe an oral medication to use with your inhalers.

There are a few treatments that help with both conditions. One is called a leukotriene modifier, and an example is Montelukast. A daily pill, Montelukast can ease both allergy and asthma symptoms by helping to control immune system chemicals released during an allergic reaction.

Anti-IgE therapy is another treatment that helps with both allergies and asthma. With this therapy, a medication called omalizumab is used. Omalizumab interferes with the function of IgE in the body, helping to prevent the allergic reaction that triggers asthma symptoms.

The most important step you can take to combat allergic asthma symptoms is to avoid the allergens that trigger allergic reactions. Here are a few tips from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:

• If pollen is your problem, keep windows closed and avoid going outside when pollen counts are high.

• To reduce mold, use bathroom fans and clean up any standing water immediately. Scrub any visible mold from surfaces with soap and water, and dry completely.

• Ward off dust mites and mold by keeping the humidity in your home below 50 percent and cleaning gutters regularly, Do not use vaporizers or humidifiers.

• Remove pet allergens by vacuuming frequently and cleaning upholstery, including washing your pet’s bed, Keep your pet out of your bedroom to limit symptoms at night.

Common ENT Disorders

February 15th, 2021

According to the American Academy of Otolayrngology’s Division of Head and Neck Surgery, ear, nose, and throat disorders are one of the main reasons children see a physician, and ear infections rank as the number one reason. February is Kids ENT Health Month, so this blog reviews a few of the more common ENT disorders that affect children.

Just about every child will experience an ear infection at some point. My child was no exception; he had his share. Acute otitis media is a painful ear infection that occurs when the middle ear, which lies between the eardrum and the inner ear, where the cochlea and vestibular system are located, becomes inflamed and infected.

With acute otitis media, your child’s Eustachian tube becomes swollen or blocked, and fluid gets trapped in the middle ear. That fluid can become infected and cause symptoms. Symptoms of otitis media include unusual irritability, difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, tugging at one or both ears, fever, fluid draining from the ear, loss of balance, difficulty hearing, and ear pain.

Treatment begins with home care, which includes applying warm, moist compresses over the ear and using over-the-counter eardrops and pain relievers to ease pain. If over-the-counter products don’t do the trick, your child’s doctor may prescribe stronger eardrops and pain relievers. If your child’s symptoms persist after that, the doctor may recommend antibiotics to treat the infection.

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are also common in children. Tonsils and adenoids are collections of lymphoid tissue that help the body fight infection, but they can become enlarged if they become infected or irritated.

Enlarged tonsils and adenoids are actually normal in some children. But in other children, the enlargement is due to a bacterial or viral infection, allergies, exposure to irritants, or possibly even to gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Usually, there are no obvious symptoms when the tonsils and adenoids are enlarged. But the condition can cause difficulty breathing or swallowing, and can cause your child to sound like they have a stuffy nose when they talk. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids can also cause nosebleeds, bad breath, and cough.

In some cases, enlarged tonsils and adenoids can cause recurring ear or sinus infections, or sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which the upper airway becomes blocked, causing the child’s breathing to stop and star during the night.

Treatment for enlarged tonsils and adenoids begins by treating the underlying cause, such as the allergies or infection. If this treatment fails to achieve results, your child’s doctor may suggest removing the tonsils and adenoids. Surgery may be recommended if your child has sleep apnea or extreme difficulty when talking and breathing, or if they experience multiple throat infections.

Another common ENT issue in children is sinusitis. The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the skull behind the face that are lined with mucus membranes. Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses near the nose.

Sinus infections often develop after a cold or upper respiratory infection. These infections cause inflammation of the nasal passages that can block the opening of the sinuses into the nose. Allergies can also cause sinusitis due to the swelling of the nasal tissue and increased mucus production.

Treatment for sinusitis may include a course of antibiotics, acetaminophen for pain, a decongestant and/or mucus thinner, and a nasal spray to reduce inflammation. Your child’s doctor may recommend that you run a cool humidifier in your child’s room to keep the air moist.
In extreme cases, surgery on the sinuses may be needed.

Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is another ENT problem that is common in children. Allergic rhinitis, which is a reaction that happens in the eyes, nose and throat, can be seasonal or year-round. The most common causes of allergic rhinitis in children include pollen from trees, grass or weeds; dust mites; mold; cockroach waste; and animal dander. These substances are called allergens because they trigger an allergic reaction.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include sneezing, nasal congestion, nasal discharge, fatigue, and skin rashes. Treatment generally involves giving your child antihistamines, decongestants, and nasal sprays. If your child also has asthma, their doctor will treat those symptoms as well.

Consider allergy shots if your child has severe allergic rhinitis. The shots are a type of immunotherapy that helps your child’s body get used to the allergens so that they do not react when exposed to them.

Bye-Bye Vertigo!

August 28th, 2018

Living in Florida can be brutal for an allergy sufferer. I know, because I’ve lived in Florida since I was three and can’t remember a time when I didn’t suffer from allergies and ear and nasal infections. I’m allergic to the world so I’m always having to make trips to the doctor for antibiotics and allergy treatments.Photo from

Recently, I started getting frequent dizzy spells as well. I assumed at first that they were the result of another infection and put off doing anything about it. But then the dizzy spells became more severe and quite random. They would occur almost anytime, anywhere.

At first, they lasted only for a few seconds. But then, about a month ago, I woke up one morning feeling very dizzy, and as I started to move around, the dizziness did not let up at all. In fact, it only got worse, to the point where I didn’t feel safe driving myself to work.

I struggled through that entire day, literally using the walls in the hallway to hold me up because my balance was terrible, and I didn’t trust myself not to fall. After another couple days of feeling like this, I ended up having to miss a day of work.

It was at that point that I finally gave in and went to see a doctor. I was feeling anxious before my appointment, not knowing exactly what was going on at this point or how it would be diagnosed or treated, but then, after the doctor did a few maneuvers on me, he said, You have vertigo.

He explained briefly what vertigo is and provided a video for me to watch. At first, I thought, A videoHow is a video going to help me? But he was right. The video was extremely informative and explained in detail what vertigo is while also providing a detailed demonstration of how to treat it.

I went home and started following the protocol from the video right away. By the next morning, I was feeling much better. The treatment helped rid me of the dizziness and changed my life. If it ever comes back again, I will know exactly what to do. I hope this video helps you as much as it did me.


Are You SAD in the Summertime?

June 12th, 2018

For most of my life, I lived in Pennsylvania and for a while in Ohio. What these states have in common are the dark, dreary, depressing winter months. For me, they were really depressing because I suffer from SAD, seasonal affective disorder. I even ordered a therapeutic lightbox from Alaska, which I willed to my former officemates in Cleveland when I moved to Florida.

I’m not the only one who gets depressed during the dark months of the year. SAD affects about 4 percent to 6 percent of the US population. People with SAD in the winter typically feel lethargic, sleep a lot, eat more and gain weight, and generally stay inside until spring.

Getting SAD in the winter kinda makes sense, mainly because daylight is sparse and you have no energy to do anything anyway. Amazingly though, about 10 percent of people with SAD get symptoms of depression during the daylight-heavy summer months. It’s called reverse SAD or summer SAD.

People who get SAD in the summer typically have symptoms that are the opposite of those of winter SAD. They generally can’t sleep or don’t need as much sleep, eat less and lose weight and are agitated or anxious instead of lethargic. One thing people with summer SAD have in common with their winter counterparts is the tendency to avoid outside activities, which can lead to isolation. Not good!

Researchers have no definitive answers for what causes summer SAD. There’s been more research done on winter SAD because it’s more common, but studies that have been done on summer SAD point to a few possible reasons for its development.

Dearth of daylight is known to be a culprit in winter SAD. An overabundance of it is thought to contribute to the summer variety. Sunlight affects the production of melatonin, a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that’s an ingredient of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in controlling mood.

Messing up melatonin screws up the serotonin levels in the brain, which can lead to mood changes, including depression. Melatonin also affects the sleep-wake cycle, altering sleep patterns.

The higher summer temperatures are suspected of contributing to summer SAD, too. The heat in the summer can be oppressive and agitating to people with SAD. Some research suggests summer SAD has a genetic component. It’s been found that as many as two-thirds of people who suffer with SAD have a family member with a major mood disorder.

Researchers have floated a few other theories as well. Some suggested a link between SAD and allergies. Others are trying to determine if the season you were born in has any impact on the development of a seasonal mood disorder.  Sounds pretty out there to me!

If you get depressed during the summer months, there are some things you can do to help you get through it. Here are a few tips:

Don’t suffer in silence. Consider talking to a qualified therapist to share your struggles and get some management strategies. Another option is a physician or psychiatrist. Medication may be an appropriate treatment for you.

Get enough sleep. You might not feel like sleeping, but not getting enough can trigger symptoms or make them worse. The recommendation for adults is seven to eight hours of sleep per 24-hour period.

Don’t forget to exercise. Summer is a busy time, but take time to get in a workout. Physical activity is known to fight the symptoms of depression. Schedule your exercise for early mornings or evenings when it’s not so hot outside or consider an indoor exercise routine to beat the summer heat.

Don’t overdo dieting. I know you want to fit into that bathing suit, but being on a restrictive diet can make you feel stressed and unhappy. Instead, eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in protein, fruits and vegetables.

Plan ahead. If you currently take medication for a mood disorder, consult your doctor in the spring. He or she may adjust your dose ahead of time to prepare you for the depression of summer SAD that’s coming your way.

If you get SAD during the summer, take heart; fall’s just a few months away!

Eczema Experience

February 27th, 2018

A few weeks ago, I noticed strange patches of dry, scaly skin popping up all over my face and legs. I can deal with ugly patches of skin, except these itched like a son of a b! I tried to get by with over-the-counter creams and a promise to myself I wouldn’t scratch, but that failed miserably.

With the patches now inflamed, I finally scheduled an appointment with the dermatologist. She took one look at my skin and said, You’ve got eczema. I wasn’t surprised, yet I was. I knew my symptoms pointed to eczema, but I never had it before that I remember. I proceeded to learn more about the skin condition, and I decided to share some of what I learned with you.

Eczema is actually a general term describing many types of rash-like skin problems. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, or AD, and the terms are often used interchangeably. AD is a common, chronic inflammatory skin condition that most often affects children, but can occur in adults as well.

It is estimated that 17.8 million Americans suffer with AD. Ninety percent of cases are diagnosed in children before the age of 5, and 65 percent are diagnosed in children before their first birthday. Only five percent of AD begins in adulthood. It is more common in people who live in urban areas and dry climates.

The signs and symptoms of eczema are not the same for everyone, and it can appear differently in children and adults. In general, though, it begins as a rash with areas of dry, itchy skin. Eczema can appear anywhere on the body, but some of the more common sites include the face, neck, inside the elbows, behind the knees, and on the hands and feet.

I can attest to just how itchy the skin with eczema becomes; it’s absolutely maddening! However, scratching can lead to redness, swelling, cracking, crusting, scaling and thickening of the skin. You might even get some oozing of clear fluid from the patches you’ve scratched. Ultimately, this can lead to infection of the skin.

An exact cause of eczema is not yet known, but through studies, researchers have learned a few key things about the disorder. For one thing, it’s not contagious. You can’t spread it to others or catch it from someone else. It has also been discovered that genetics plays a part in the development of eczema. People who get it usually have family members who have it or have asthma or hay fever.

While they don’t cause eczema, certain foods and allergens can trigger flares of the disorder or make an outbreak worse. My sister has eczema and she can’t eat anything made with tomatoes. Another trigger is winter weather when the furnaces are on and the heaters in our cars are blowing. This heat dries the air and the skin, playing a role in eczema. Stress has been found to be a contributing factor as well.

There is no test to diagnose eczema. Your dermatologist can generally make the diagnosis based on the appearance of your skin and your description of your symptoms, as well as your family history. There is no cure for eczema, but there are treatments to control it. The goals of treatment are to treat infection; calm inflamed, itchy skin; prevent worsening; and avoid future flare-ups.

Your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your specific condition. He or she may recommend skin creams or ointments, like corticosteroids, to calm the itching and control swelling. Recently, the FDA approved a new prescription ointment called Eucrisa to reduce the itchiness and inflammation of eczema.

Other treatments may include a topical antibiotic to treat any infection present and a recommended skin care regimen that helps heal the skin and keep it healthy. You’ll also be told to avoid anything that triggers your eczema symptoms. In more severe cases, eczema can be treated with a specialized light therapy in your dermatologist’s office.

Unfortunately, people with eczema will always have it and always face the possibility of a flare-up. Don’t despair, there are things you can do to make living with eczema a less stressful endeavor. There are some tips in these articles that may help you. Here are a few:

  • Keep your skin moist. Try using a humidifier in your bedroom to moisten the air when you sleep. Apply body lotion right after you bathe or shower. Take lukewarm baths and put small amounts of baking soda, bath oil or colloidal oatmeal into the water to moisturize your skin and reduce itching.
  • Know your triggers. Eczema triggers may be certain foods, as in my sister’s case, or it may be detergents, soaps or deodorants you use. It may even be pet dander. If you know what gets the ball rolling for you, you can take steps to avoid these triggers. Stay away from the offending foods, use products for sensitive skin, and limit time with your pets.
  • Don’t scratch your skin. This sounds simple enough, but unless you’ve got eczema you can’t know how difficult this can be. Keep in mind scratching an itch is a temporary solution. And it can lead to bigger problems, including skin thickening, oozing and infection. If you follow your doctor’s treatment plan and keep your skin moisturized, it will help ease the itch and lessen the urge to scratch.
  • Manage your stress. Stress can contribute to eczema, so learning healthy ways to cope with stress can reduce your risk for a flare up. If you have a lot of stress in your life, consider a stress-relieving activity such as yoga, aromatherapy, massage therapy or meditation. Soaking in a warm bath may also help ease tension, and moisturize your skin at the same time. If you can’t manage stress on your own, seek professional help.

I’m treating my eczema now, and I’m hopeful. I believe stress is a factor in my case, so I think I deserve a little massage therapy on top of the treatments my doctor prescribed. I guess I’ll have to make a massage appointment real soon!

Allergic to Eats

May 8th, 2017

Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto.comAre you one of the more than 50 million Americans with allergies? It seems like everyone I know is an allergy sufferer, including me. It’s bad enough to get a runny nose and watery eyes at certain times of the year, but imagine having symptoms every time you put food in your mouth. That doesn’t sound good at all.

But that’s the case for four to six percent of children and four percent of adults in this country, or 15 million Americans, who the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate are currently suffering from food allergies. The latest research also shows the number of children under age 5 diagnosed with peanut allergy has increased by 100 percent.

Substances that trigger an allergic reaction are called allergens. Pretty much any food can be an allergen, but there are a few that are the biggest offenders. These eight types of food account for about 90 percent of all allergic reactions: Eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy.

There’s good news and not-so-good news when it comes to these allergens. Allergies to milk, eggs, wheat and soy may disappear over time, but allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish tend to hang on for life. Also, you can develop an allergy to a food you’ve never been allergic to before. That’s a bummer!

So, what causes food allergies? These allergies are an overreaction by the body’s immune system to proteins in certain foods that it detects as foreign and attacks. The immune system reacts by triggering its white blood cells to produce food-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the allergens.

When the allergic person eats the offending food, the IgE antibodies detect it and signal the immune system’s mast cells to release a chemical called histamine. Histamine is responsible for the symptoms of food allergies, just like it leads to the runny nose and itchy, watery eyes of respiratory allergies.

Symptoms of a food allergy can be uncomfortable, but not serious. These include a rash on the skin, tingling or itching in the mouth, lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and coughing.

Other symptoms can be serious and even life threatening. These include panting and wheezing; swelling of the throat, making it difficult to breath; blue lips from lack of oxygen; a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, dizziness, fainting and unconsciousness. These are some of the symptoms of a whole-body allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which is potentially deadly if not treated right away.

It’s a no-brainer that the best way to dodge food allergy symptoms is to avoid the trigger foods altogether. But even if you’re careful, you may be exposed unknowingly. The best way to prepare for any potential reaction is to have an allergy action plan, created with help from your doctor.

Education is an important part of your plan. Due to the prevalence of food allergies in this country, manufactures are required to label their products indicating if they contain any amount of the most common allergens. So learn to read labels, and don’t forget the flavorings and additives. They might contain trace amounts of the offending allergens.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your server or the chef about the ingredients in your meals when you go out to eat. Remember, you can have a reaction even if the cooking surface or pans used to make the food have come into contact with an allergen. So, be aware and ask about how your food is being prepared.

When a person is diagnosed with a food allergy, the doctor generally prescribes an auto-injector of epinephrine to be used if symptoms of anaphylaxis occur. If they do, the person, or someone close to him or her, should inject the epinephrine into the outer thigh as soon as the symptoms appear. Then, the person needs to go immediately to an emergency room for follow-up care.

If your child has a food allergy, be sure his or her teachers and other close adults are aware and know what to do in case of a reaction. They should understand how to use the epinephrine auto-injector and to get the child to the ER right away.

We all eat. Unfortunately, it can be a risky experience for some people. You can help by being patient with people who have food allergies and learning what to do if someone close to you has a serious reaction such as anaphylaxis. Sharing what you learn is the best was to celebrate Food Allergy Action Month in May!


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