Entries in Allergies (44)


FDA Approves Generic Versions of Singulair

JB Reed/Bloomberg News(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first generic versions of the drug Singulair for allergy and asthma sufferers.

The drug, which blocks the action of substances that cause hayfever and other allergy symptoms, is the latest in a string of well-known drugs – like Lipitor and Plavix – that have been on the market so long that their patents no longer apply.

“For people who suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma and allergies, it is important to have effective and affordable treatment options,” Gregory P. Geba, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Office of Generic Drugs in FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a press release. “The generic products approved today will expand those options for patients.”

The generic versions of the drug approved Friday are for use in both adults and children.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Allergies Linked to Higher Cancer Risk, Study Says

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Can allergies increase your risk of cancer? A new study out of University of Washington Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center suggests this may be the case.

Specifically, the study found that patients with allergies may have a higher risk of developing blood cancers than those who don’t suffer from allergies. The study included more than 64,000 patients who were asked about allergy and asthma symptoms. The patients were then evaluated seven years later to see if they had been diagnosed with a blood cancer.

Those who had allergies — specifically allergies to plants, grass, and trees — had a slightly increased incidence of blood cancers.  Patients with asthma did not have an increased risk of blood cancer.

“As studies like this demonstrate, there may be an increased incidence of certain cancers if you have these types of conditions,” said Dr. Edward Kim, associate professor in the department of thoracic/head and neck medical oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.

While allergies don’t cause blood cancer, the researchers propose that perhaps the same inflammation that causes allergy symptoms may lead to an overactive immune system — and that this overactivity, in turn, can lead to blood cancers.

Those who suffer from allergies, however, probably need not be alarmed.  The added risk is so small that no new screening guidelines are currently planned. Moreover, the lead author of the study, Dr. Mazyar Shadman of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center at University of Washington, stated there is, “no need for any type of change” at this point.  Rather, Shadman said he hopes that the results of these studies will help researchers uncover the mechanism of blood cancers by studying patients with allergies. But, he added, he doesn’t think there is “any indication for change in terms of treatment and medical follow up” at this point.

So what does this mean for patients with allergies?

“It means one can be more vigilant in seeing their doctor and going to their yearly physicals,” Kim said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Top 5 Summer Allergy Triggers

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Summer is unofficially on, which means three months full of sun, heat and allergy triggers.

The fully bloomed trees and green grass may appear nice, but the pollen they harbor can bring allergy sufferers misery during the spring and summer months. And it's not just that ubiquitous powdery substance that can trigger sniffling, sneezing and itchy eyes during the hotter months. Experts say the following allergy triggers can also be common during the summer:

Mold:  Outdoor mold is the culprit behind many allergic reactions starting in late summer and fall when there is a peak in the amount of some types of mold spores, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Stings:  Avoiding a painful encounter is just one reason to steer clear of stinging insects. Insect stings are also a well-known summer allergy trigger that can lead to a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Poison ivy and sunscreen:  While not especially common, poison ivy and sunscreen do pose allergy hazards during the warmer seasons.

Seasonal fruit:  Allergic reactions to food can happen at any time, but for some people, summer fruits and vegetables can be more than just juicy and delicious.

Pollen:  No matter what the season, pollen is in the air, ready to set off allergy attacks.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Amish Have Fewer Allergies Due to ‘Farm Effect’

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Amish who live and work with animals on farms in northern Indiana, have some of the lowest rates of allergies and asthma in the westernized world, perhaps because of the so-called “farm effect,” according to an international study.

Their allergy rates are about half that of their Swiss relatives, who have some of the lowest in the world.

Lead author and Indiana allergist Dr. Mark Holbreich said scientists believe the reasons are environmental and not genetic, even though the Amish are descendants of Swiss immigrants to the United States.

“They live on farms like the 1850s with no electricity and no TV and the children run around in the barns,” said Holbreich. “A lot of their work and early life exposure is to things on the farm.”

“This [study] would suggest that if you have early life exposure [to allergens], then somehow it drives the immune system away from developing allergies,” he said.

“Large animals are part of it, and the straw bedding animals sleep on,”  said Holbreich. “And what [the Amish children] eat and the fact that their mothers are in the barn when they are pregnant.”

The study, which was published in the April 16 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, was a collaborative effort with German researchers, who had previously looked at low allergy rates among Swiss farmers who lived in barns connected to their houses.

They studied 157 Amish families, 3,000 Swiss farming families and another 11,000 Swiss who did not live on farms. All had children aged 6 to 12. Only about 10 percent of all Amish children show sensitization for allergies – mostly dust mites and grass; about 25 percent of all Swiss farm children tested positive to allergies — mostly cats.

Overall, the Swiss have the same allergy sensitization rates as Americans – about 44 to 50 percent. Only about 20 percent of those who show sensitization develop allergy symptoms.

Researchers also found that only 5 percent of Amish kids had been diagnosed with asthma, compared with 6.8 percent of Swiss farm kids and 11.2 percent of the other Swiss children.

Allergy rates are increasing in the United States and scientists have a variety of theories, including childhood obesity, diet and even immunizations.

One of the most important observations in the study was the benefit derived from drinking raw, unpasteurized milk. Surprisingly, the dairy cows themselves are not raised any differently from the mainstream dairy industry, according to Holbreich.

“The Amish are not organic farmers,” he said. “These are the same cows and the milk they sell goes to bottling – but something in the processing of milk changes.”

Homogenization of milk breaks about its fat globules, Holbreich noted. “Maybe something about the fat globules is protective.”

“The take-away point is not that we should become Amish,” he said.  “We aren’t going to become Amish to prevent allergies.”

But now, scientists can push their research forward to the next phase.

“Instead of just testing skin, we can look at a sophisticated measure of genetics and environment – the microbiome – the bacteria in the environment, the parasites – all the things you come into contact with.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Worst of Allergy Season May Be Yet to Come, Experts Say

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Thought the worst of the allergy season was behind you?  Think again.  For many allergy sufferers, the peak of the season may be just ahead.

Things got off to a sneezy, stuffy start earlier than usual this year, when unseasonably warm temperatures in March revved up tree pollen about two weeks ahead of schedule in most areas of the country.

As tree pollen season comes to a close in early May, experts say grass pollen season, which usually begins in late April, is just getting started.  The overlap could compound the misery of many allergy sufferers.

"For people allergic to pollen and grass, they will be double hit," said Dr. David Lang, head of the allergy and immunology section of the Respiratory Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.

The earlier-than-normal start to this allergy season may be made worse for some with allergies, who can become hypersensitive to allergens after being exposed early in the season.  The phenomenon, called nasal priming, may explain why many people feel this season is so much worse than years past.

"Whereas earlier in the season it would take a high level of exposure to produce symptoms, after priming, symptoms are provoked by lower levels," Lang said.  "More people are coming in to see us claiming a higher allergy response than in previous years.  I would suspect that priming is to blame."

Although nearly all areas of the U.S. have been basking in a warmer spring this year, experts said the timing and severity of allergy season varied depending on geographic area.  People living in the Northeast, Midwest, Northwest and Southeast may see the worst of the grass pollen.

"It really depends on where you are.  I'm in Atlanta, and our tree pollen counts peaked a few weeks ago, whereas I would imagine northern areas are peaking now," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president of the American College of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology.  "But I recently spoke to a colleague in Washington state, who said their season is just gearing up now."

Weather also plays a role.  Warm and breezy spring days mean higher levels of pollen, while rain brings those levels down.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


High March Temps May Lead to Early Allergies, Bed Bugs

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While most people enjoyed the unseasonably warm March temperatures, the early-bird spring may contribute to a host of health problems, experts said.

More than 7,500 daily record-high temperatures were set last month, and that included more than 540 places that set all-time highs, according to Chris Dolce, a meteorologist at

"We had a lot of precipitation during the winter and now we have these unseasonably warm temperatures," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY.  "That really primes the pump for what we're seeing now."

Bassett said the phone has been "ringing off the hook" with patients suffering from allergies due to the unseasonably warm temperatures.  He said allergy season started about 14 days early because of the weather and will likely run about a month longer than usual this year.  Trees pollinate earlier after mild winters, and if spring fluctuates between warm and cold spells, there will be intense periods of pollen release during the warm times, and overall plants will grow and release more pollen than usual.

For those who live in bed bug-happy areas like New York, experts warned that the invasive critters may be in full effect a lot earlier this year.

Timothy Wong, technical director of M & M Pest Control in New York City, said business gets "out of control" in the summer because eggs hatch more quickly in warmer weather.  In colder temperatures, eggs take between seven and 14 days to hatch, but in the warmth, they hatch in six to 10 days, Wong said.

Once the temperature hits 65 degrees outdoors, everything changes, Wong said.

Bed bugs might not be the only insect terror to hit an early upswing.  Experts say there may be an early surge of ticks, and in turn, Lyme disease, because of the warm weather.

"Ticks ... are fussy, and high heat, high humidity or cold can dampen, but they are very local in that density of ticks can vary merely hundred yards apart in a given region," Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, wrote in an email.

As the weather continues to warm, Auwaerter suggested that people who spend time outdoors should be "on the watch for ticks at this time and do careful inspection, use DEET if in the bushes/woods, wear long pants/shirts."

"Warmer weather certainly means an earlier start to the tick season, and I have had patients bringing in ticks as early as the last week of February this year," Auwaerter said.  "Whether this translates into more cases of tick-borne infections is unclear."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Warm Weather Causing Allergies in Pets Earlier This Year

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Springtime brings flowers and warmer weather, but along with all the benefits of the season come the dreaded symptoms of allergies.  Eyes water, noses run and a layer of yellow pollen seems to coat everything in sight.

And it turns out even pets are affected.

Vets and pet owners have noticed their furry friends scratching and sneezing earlier than usual this year, corresponding to the unusually warm weather.

“I’ve noticed a lot of changes,” said Martha Grossman, the owner of Lily, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel.  “She’s had her flea medication and everything but she’s just scratching a lot more lately.”

“Dodger rolls around in the grass a lot,” said Diana Battaglia of her Boston terrier.  “A lot more than usual.”

According to veterinary dermatologist Dr. Heather Peikes, pets fall victim to the same allergies as people.

“They even have the same symptoms,” Peikes said.  “Runny eyes, running noses, itchy skin, ear infections.”

And while allergies affect both people and animals every year, Andy Mussoline, a spokesman for Accuweather, says it’s happening much earlier this year.

“The Eastern two-thirds of the country are experiencing an especially high pollen count,” Mussoline said.  “This is due to a combination of factors.  Typically during normal springs, we have cold fronts moving through and changes in the wind.  The fresh air pushes the allergens out.  But now there aren’t many cold fronts moving through, which creates stagnant air.  At the same time, the very warm weather has created a high pollen count earlier than usual.”

Dr. Peikes says the treatment for pet allergies is similar to the treatment for humans.

“There’s allergy testing, allergy shots, air purifiers and even antihistamines that can help pets with allergies,” she said.

But Peikes says always consult with a vet before taking any action.  Some treatments may be safe for humans, but not for your pet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Allergic Girl Who Died at School Got Peanut from Another Child

Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Ammaria Johnson, the 7-year-old Virginia girl who died after an allergic reaction at school, was given a peanut by another child unaware of her allergy, police said.

Johnson ate the peanut on the playground of her Chesterfield County elementary school, Hopkins Elementary, during recess. After noticing hives and shortness of breath, she approached a teacher and was taken to the school clinic. A clinic aid was trying to help her when she stopped breathing, according to police.

"When emergency crews arrived, she was already in cardiac arrest in the clinic," Lt. Jason Elmore, a spokesman for the Chesterfield County Fire Department, told ABC News.

An investigation by Chesterfield police concluded that Johnson died from cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis, and that no crime or criminal negligence was committed by the child who shared the peanut, school personnel or Johnson's mother.

"Although not a crime, Amarria's death is a tragedy and the Chesterfield County Police Department expresses its deepest sympathies to her family, classmates and school personnel as they deal with this difficult and painful event," police chief Col. Thierry Dupuis said in a statement.

Johnson's death raised questions about how schools and parents should handle severe allergies. Experts say Johnson could have been saved by an EpiPen -- a device that injects epinephrine to reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis, currently available only by prescription. But Hopkins Elementary had no such device on hand for Johnson.

Chesterfield County school policy states that parents are responsible for providing the school "with all daily and emergency medications prescribed by the student's health-care provider," and keeping medications up to date.

But a proposed bill would encourage states to adopt laws requiring schools stock EpiPens like bandages and other first-aid supplies for any student or staff member in an anaphylactic emergency. The bill would include liability protection for school officials who give epinephrine in good faith.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Allergic Girl's Death Raises Questions About School's Responsibility

Getty Images/Photo Researchers RM(RICHMOND, Va.) -- The death of a Virginia first grader has raised questions about how schools should handle severe allergies.

Ammaria Johnson, 7, died Monday after suffering an allergic reaction during recess at her Chesterfield County elementary school, Hopkins Elementary.

"She came to the school clinic after feeling she had hives and shortness of breath," Lt. Jason Elmore, a spokesman for the Chesterfield County Fire Department, told ABC News. It's unclear how long Johnson was in the clinic before school officials called 911 at 2:26 p.m.

"When emergency crews arrived, she was already in cardiac arrest in the clinic," said Elmore.

Johnson was rushed to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

What caused the reaction is still under investigation, but Johnson's mother, Laura Pendleton, told local reporters the girl had a peanut allergy.

"We can only assume that at this time," said Elmore. "We have EMS protocols in place for allergic reactions and we performed those in hopes of saving her life, but unfortunately this time we could not."

Calls to Pendleton were not immediately returned. She arrived at the hospital after Johnson had died, Elmore said.

The death is still under investigation by the Chesterfield County Police Department, according to a spokeswoman, but the state medical examiner will not be involved.

Experts say Johnson could have been saved by an EpiPen -- a device that injects epinephrine, currently available only by prescription.

"The epinephrine reverses severe symptoms, giving time to get the person to an emergency room for monitoring and more care," said Dr. Scott Sicherer of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

But Hopkins Elementary had no such device on hand for Johnson.

Chesterfield County school policy states that parents are responsible for providing the school "with all daily and emergency medications prescribed by the student's health-care provider," and keeping medications up to date.

"For any medication, the school would have to be in possession of that medication to provide it," said Shawn Smith, a spokesman for Chesterfield County Public Schools. Even if the school had an EpiPen prescribed for another student, they would not be able to use it.

"The medication we receive, or should receive, has to be specific to that child, whether it's over-the-counter or prescription," Smith said.

Smith declined to comment on Johnson's case specifically, but said managing severe allergies starts at home.

"At the beginning of the school year, we sent information to parents outlining the different responsibilities for the family and the child, the principal, the teacher, the doctor and the nurse," he said. "First and foremost, is does begin at home. Working with their doctor, the family would outline a health care plan that deals with those severe allergies."

Pendleton told local reporters her daughter did have a plan, but said the school refused to take Johnson's EpiPen and failed to give her Benadryl -- an over-the-counter antihistamine also listed in her plan -- at the first sign of a reaction.

Because severe allergies can develop without warning, some experts say schools should stock EpiPens like bandages and other first-aid supplies.

A school EpiPen stash could soon be a reality with a proposed bill that would encourage states to adopt laws requiring schools to have EpiPens on hand. The School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, proposed in December 2011, would mean EpiPens could be used for any student or staff member in an anaphylactic emergency.

The bill would include liability protection for school officials who give epinephrine in good faith, according to Maria Acebal, chief executive officer of the Fairfax, Va.-based Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, which championed the bill.

"No one in this country has ever been sued for giving epinephrine, to my knowledge," said Acebal. "All the lawsuits come about because school officials don't give it when it's needed."

In a healthy child, epinephrine can cause a rapid heart rate, nausea and light-headedness -- mild symptoms that wear off in 15 minutes. It would only be dangerous in children born with a congenital heart condition, which school officials would be aware of.

Acebal, whose eldest daughter has a food allergy, said her other children learned how to inject epinephrine by age 6.

"If I can teach a 6-year-old to do it, we can teach school staff," she said.

Acebal said having epinephrine on hand in school would give students, staff and parents added peace of mind.

"My heart breaks for Ammaria's family because any parent who has a child with a food allergy knows what it's like to fear that phone call from the school," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Skin Pricks, Blood Tests Not as Reliable as Food in Testing for Allergies

Cliff Moore/Getty Images(ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill.) -- A simple skin-prick or blood test has confirmed many people's suspicions that they have certain food or seasonal allergies, but a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics suggests that allergy diagnoses should not be made solely on results from such tests.

Skin or blood tests remain the only method used to diagnosis allergies for some, the researchers wrote. And in some cases, patients who never exhibited symptoms are still tested for allergies.

About 3 percent of adults and 6 percent of young children have at least one food allergy, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Eating small doses of the suspected allergy culprit while under medical supervision -- called a food challenge -- is the gold standard for diagnosing food allergies, according to the researchers. The test directly measures whether a person develops an allergic reaction.

Tests like the skin prick, which puts a small amount of the allergen on the end of a needle while it pokes the skin, or a blood test measure antibodies that build up in the blood or around the prick site when a person is exposed to the allergen. But these tests do not measure the type of allergic reaction a person will get or how severe the reaction will be.

Previous research suggests that 8 percent of children will test positive for allergies on a skin or blood test, but only 1 percent will develop physical symptoms of an allergy.

Additional tests like a skin prick or blood test should only accompany the more reliable food challenge, the authors said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio