Archive for Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Health focus: Controlling allergies means answering the question: What am I allergic to?

March 19, 2013

What about food allergies?

Although food allergies aren’t as common as airborne allergens, they aren’t necessarily rare, Weiner said.

If someone has a food allergy it almost always is immediate, dramatic and obvious. Typically the person will get hives, their throat and tongue will swell and there could be some vomiting and acute diarrhea.

Common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish.

“All you can do with a severe or life-threatening food allergy is to avoid the food and use epinephrine in a self injector,” Weiner said. “Carry it with you in case you accidently eat or come in contact with that food.”

Weiner said more children have food allergies than adults but some don’t carry the allergy into adulthood. If a child has an allergy to milk, soy, wheat or eggs they typically grow out of it by the time the child is 5 years old.

Your nose has been running for almost a month. You sneeze all day long, you carry tissues with you everywhere and your eyes are constantly irritated and itchy. The doctor gave you decongestants and antibiotics a few weeks ago but you aren’t getting any better. Why can’t you kick this sickness?

Ronald E. Weiner, M.D. at Asthma Allergy and Rheumatology Associates, P.A., said you likely aren’t getting any better because you’re not being treated for the correct illness.

“Colds don’t make you itchy — it’s allergies,” Weiner said. “If you and your doctor are doing things to help symptoms and you aren’t adequately controlled, it’s not a cold.”

March and April are peak months for spring allergy season, especially for people allergic to tree pollen. Other inhalants that commonly cause hay fever, or itchy, watery eyes and nose, are dust mites, mold, animal dander and ragweed.

Not only is hay fever in the spring causing itchy eyes and runny noses, it’s making symptoms for people with asthma worse. 50 percent of people with allergies have also have asthma, or mucus and swelling in their breathing tubes and lungs. When a person with asthma is around smokes, fumes, cold air and anything that person is allergic to, it’s causing the asthma to have more severe symptoms.

“Your asthma or allergies should not interfere with work, school, activities or sleep,” Weiner said. “You shouldn’t be limited by allergies and asthma and that’s when people need to see us, if they’re interfering.”

In order to control allergies, a person must first figure out what he or she is allergic to. Asthma Allergy and Rheumatology Associates have, on average, six patients a day who need to have a prick test to figure out what is causing their symptoms.

Weiner said he prefers skin tests to blood tests because it isn’t traumatic, it is just as accurate and it gives a person an immediate answer.

A prick-test is when the patient’s skin is pricked with a needle that has the possible allergen on it. If the patient is allergic, in about 15 minutes his or her skin will swell up like a mosquito bite. A routine set in a prick test has about 33 allergens that the patient is pricked with. If the person thinks he is allergic to something not routinely tested, it will be added to the set to see if it is a possible allergen as well.

“For little kids we have combinations so we don’t have to prick them ten times,” Deanna Hoss, R.N. at Asthma Allergy and Rheumatology Associates, P.A., said.

After finding what the patient is allergic to, relieving their symptoms is a combination of getting the proper medication and adjusting the patient’s environment.

To control the environment a person can close windows and use an air filter. Weiner said a cheaper filter is fine as long as it is changed monthly. He advised against using a humidifier because it tends to help mold grow, which is one of the most common allergens for people.

Investing in an expensive vacuum or carpet cleaner is another thing Weiner said to save money on. Often times if a person has an allergy they think the constant cleaning and vacuuming of carpets will help them when it actually is no good. Cleaning the carpets could also help more mold to grow because of the extra moisture.

Weiner said no vacuum or cleaner can really get rid of dust mites and other allergens and instead suggests the bedroom be a place where there is no carpet.

For medication, Weiner said it is best to use a cortisone nose spray and not a cold decongestant. He also recommended using eye drops to reduce itchiness and irritation of the eyes.

Weiner said an important part of caring for asthma is caring for your allergies, which causes the swelling to worsen, causing breathing to be more difficult.

A person with asthma should use a cortisone inhaler, as well as a rescue inhaler before strenuous exercise.

“People think it’s OK for asthma to restrict and limit you and it isn’t,” Weiner said. “If you take care of it, it’s okay to participate in sports.”

As long as a person receives treatment and follows doctors instructions, allergies and asthma shouldn’t dramatically affect a person’s lifestyle.

“There’s a lot of room for people with allergies and asthma to do better and that’s our mission,” Weiner said.


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