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Entries in Allergies (44)

Thursday
Dec222011

Is Your Christmas Tree Making You Sick?

Zoonar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Allergists say they are seeing an increase in the number of patients coming in with respiratory issues – and get this: the culprit could be your Christmas tree.

“The Christmas trees, especially the live Christmas tree, when you bring it indoors, you're giving mold a good opportunity to grow,” said allergist Philip Hemmers in Bridgeport, Conn. “The warm environment, the nutrition on the tree -- mold will start growing and spores will be released into the air.”

“We noticed that our patients were having allergy symptoms at a time of the year that it was unexpected,” Hemmers said. “Typically allergy patients are worse in the spring and fall. A lot of our patients had symptoms around the holidays.”

The problem will occur in patients who are allergic to mold or have problems with dampness and humidity, Hemmers said.

So how can you prevent this? “Typically, the way they're stored can lead to increased levels of dust mites,” Hemmers said. “Other recommendations are to keep the tree in the house for a short a period as possible.”

The longer the tree is inside the house, Hemmers said, the higher potent levels may be.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct312011

Halloween Allergies You May Not Have Considered

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- All the Halloween sweet treats, fun costumes, and spooky decorations are fun for parents and kids, but those same holiday staples can be truly frightful when it comes to children's allergies.

Allergy specialists say food allergy triggers are their biggest concern on Halloween, but there are other items that can cause dangerous reactions in children.

"The most common childhood allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, eggs and milk, and these are certainly in a lot of candies," said Dr. Scott Sicherer, professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.

One of the most important things to do is to check what's in the candy. That's especially true, allergists say, if candy or treats don't have ingredients listed on the labels or have no labels at all.

If parents suspect their children may have food allergies, they should avoid any candy or baked goods with unknown ingredients. Children should also be taught to politely decline homemade treats.
 
Parents should also carry emergency medication with them, such as an epinephrine auto-injector and antihistamines.

The ACAAI considers costumes another potential Halloween hazard.

"Watch out for nickel in costume accessories, from cowboy belts and pirate swords to tiaras and magic wands," the academy warns. "Nickel is one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis, which can make skin itchy and spoil trick or treating fun." Parents should also check costume labels in case of latex allergies.
 
They also recommend washing old Halloween costumes in hot water if they are going to be re-used.     
Kids may be excited about their Halloween transformation into vampires or zombies, but some of the makeup they use could trigger skin allergies.

Face paints should wash off easily, and hypoallergenic makeup is the best option, according to the National Jewish Medical Center.

Children prone to red, itchy skin or eczema should not wear any kind of greasy face paint.

The ACAAI recommends using better-quality theater makeup, and also suggests testing makeup on a small area of skin before Halloween, since it can take a few days for an allergic reaction to occur.

And while fog machines can help create some scary holiday fun, they can also be dangerous for some children.

The chemical can irritate the airway, similar to smoke and other air pollutants.

Finally, although part of the holiday fun is all about the thrill of feeling scared, those emotions can lead to breathing problems in some children. Being out in the cold air and running from house to house can trigger asthma.

But just because some elements of traditional Halloween could bring about respiratory problems, that doesn't mean kids and adults can't have fun as long as they're prepared, experts say.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep092011

Fall Allergy Season May Be Longest, Strongest this Year

George Doyle/Stockbyte(NEW YORK) -- With record pollen counts already on the board for August, this fall is gearing up to be one of the worst, and longest, allergy seasons yet, according to experts.

Thanks to a particularly wet summer, ragweed pollen levels are surging and standing water left over from summer flooding and Hurricane Irene has increased the amount of mold, a common year-round allergen, in the air.

"We're going to have an allergy double whammy," says Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.

To top it all off, the allergy season is expected to last a few weeks longer than usual this year, according to research published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While spring allergies usually come from pollen from trees and grass, fall allergies are caused almost exclusively by ragweed pollen.  The season usually runs from mid-August until the first frost of the year, around early October, but if the frost is delayed, as is predicted for this year, the allergy season goes on indefinitely until it comes.

For many years, the allergy seasons have been "getting longer and longer ... partly due to global warming," says Estelle Levetin, chairwoman of the aerobiology committee for the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"As we're seeing warmer and warmer weather, the fall gets warmer and longer and the effect is that there's no frost to kill the ragweed and end the allergy season," she says.

Rising temperatures have produced a similar lengthening of the spring allergy season, which is now starting about a month earlier than it did decades ago, she says.

Climate change isn't only affecting the length of the allergy season, it's affecting the severity.

"A single ragweed plant produces a million pollen grains, but if you expose it to greenhouse gases, it produces three to four times that much," says Bassett.  "So you have climate change making for a longer season, more plants and more potent pollen.  It's like a perfect storm," he says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep022011

Hurricane Irene's Flooding May Bring On Allergy Symptoms

ABC News (CHICAGO) -- Hurricane Irene may have dissipated into the universe, but it continues to wreak havoc on home and health.

Experts warn that the excessive flooding that followed Irene could cause a surge of mold. For those with allergies, this can mean coughing, sneezing and wheezing galore.

"As Northeasterners, we're not really accustomed to hurricanes, and as a result, we're not accustomed to the ramifications," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of N.Y. "People are coming in for mold-related symptoms and pollen allergies. It's like the perfect storm."

About one-third of all those with allergies are sensitive to mold. Allergic reactions to the fungi include nasal congestion and sneezing. Asthmatics will experience chest congestion, coughing and difficultly in breathing.

"Just because you don't see it or smell it doesn't mean the mold isn't there," said Bassett. "Dust mites love mold and moisture, so you're going to have an indoor allergy and asthma problem if it's not taken care of."

Those who have compromised immune systems from underlying conditions such as autoimmune disorders, HIV and cancer are at greater risk of severe health problems, including pneumonia, triggered by mold.

"Exposure to mold is a real problem, for people with allergies and even in people who don't have allergies," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. If you can remediate the mold, you can get to your baseline and avoid problems."

Pollen is also seeing a spike and people with allergies are seeing the effects of that too.

"The excess water is feeding the water table and these ragweed plants surrounded by all this water are priming the pump," said Bassett.

After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, experts coined the term "Katrina cough" after so many people in the area experienced respiratory illness brought on by mold and dust. Symptoms included cough, headache, nasal congestion, pink eye and sore throat.

To avoid such an aftermath while cleaning up Irene's mess, Bassett recommended several devices and techniques, such as using an N95 mask to prevent inhaling the allergens.

Water and bleach is effective in killing mold and reducing in the future, said Bassett. Use caution when removing water-damaged items that can result in the release of microscopic molds into the air of the home. In some cases, a sensitive person may experience immediate respiratory symptoms if mold spores are inhaled.

A dehumidifier and a hygrometer, a device used to measure humidity, will help in gauging and eliminating humidity. Numbers should read "well below 50 percent" on the hygrometer to avoid mold growth.

"You might have to clean several times to make sure you got it all," said Fineman.

"The ones coming in after the storm aren't the ones who practice preventive care," said Bassett. "It's important for people to get tested to see if they have allergies to avoid problems."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jul122011

Are Skin Allergies Linked to Cancer Risk?

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(COPENHAGEN, Denmark) -- There could be a link between skin allergies and the risk of developing certain cancers, according to a new study.

In research released on Monday, Danish researchers followed nearly 17,000 Dutch adults who were tested for skin allergens over a 23-year period.  More than 6,000 of them tested positive for an allergy to at least one chemical or metal, and those people were found to be at a lower risk of non-melanoma skin cancers and breast cancers, but at a higher risk for bladder cancer.

But these results don't mean that people with skin allergies are at a higher or lower risk for cancer.  The authors stress that the study merely suggests an association between skin allergies and cancer risk, although they believe it does offer more proof of the immunosurveillance hypothesis.

"Theoretically, the authors believe skin allergies put the immune system in overdrive, which is called the immunosurveillance hypothesis" said Dr. Clifford Bassett, assistant clinical professor of medicine at New York University Langone School of Medicine.  Bassett was not involved in this research.  "This means the immune system may be super-responsive, and perhaps there's some protective function and therefore, the immune system is perhaps more likley to fight off certain things, including cancers."

The researchers believe that the increased risk of bladder cancer could have been due to a number of factors, including the buildup of chemicals in the urine, the use of hair dye and smoking.

Other experts say this is one of numerous studies that assessed the relationship between allergies and cancer and so far, results have been inconclusive.  Nonetheless, they believe this study's findings may add to our understanding about how the immune system functions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun302011

Health Officials Investigating Temporary Tattoo Additive

Digital Vision/Photodisc(MINNEAPOLIS) -- They’re a hit with children and common at birthday parties, carnivals, and summer fairs. But now the Minnesota Department of Health says that an additive found in some temporary tattoos could put children at risk.

Of particular concern is the additive para-phenylenediamine (PPD), an agent used in ink known as “black henna.” Though it’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in hair dye, PPD has not been approved for direct application to the skin and has been known to trigger allergic reactions including intense itching, blistering and even permanent scarring in some cases.

Minnesota health officials say they’re investigating the potentially harmful effects of temporary tattoos after about half of a group of 35 Twin Cities-area eighth graders reported skin reactions.

“In most cases, the lesions appeared within 20 days of getting the tattoo, and half occurred within 7 days,” the Minnesota Health Department said Thursday in announcing the warning.

“The children were treated with creams, including steroid containing creams, and three children were given oral antibiotics. Although the material used for the tattoos was described as black in color, MDH has not determined as yet whether it contained PPD or other additives,” officials said, adding that the case “underscores the need for caution before getting a henna tattoo.”

Pure henna has not been approved by the FDA, but is commonly used to create temporary tattoos.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

They’re a hit with children and common at birthday parties, carnivals and summer fairs. But now the Minnesota Department of Health says that an additive found in some temporary tattoos could put children at risk.

 

Of particular concern is the additive para-phenylenediamine (PPD), an agent used in ink known as “black henna.” Though it’s been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in hair dye, PPD has not been approved for direct application to the skin and has been known to trigger allergic reactions including intense itching, blistering and even permanent scarring in some cases.

 

Minnesota health officials say they’re investigating the potentially harmful effects of temporary tattoos after about half of a group of 35 Twin Cities-area eighth graders reported skin reactions.

 

“In most cases, the lesions appeared within 20 days of getting the tattoo, and half occurred within 7 days,” the Minnesota Health Department said Thursday in announcing the warning.

“The children were treated with creams, including steroid containing creams, and three children were given oral antibiotics. Although the material used for the tattoos was described as black in color, MDH has not determined as yet whether it contained PPD or other additives,” officials said, adding that the case “underscores the need for caution before getting a henna tattoo.”

Pure henna has not been approved by the FDA, but is commonly used to create temporary tattoos.

Monday
Jun132011

Childhood Pets Might Lower Risk of Future Allergies

Jeff Randall/Digital Vision(DETROIT) -- Childhood pets don't necessarily lead to allergies later in life, new study findings suggest.

Researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit assessed more than 550 18-year-olds who were enrolled at birth in the Detroit Childhood Allergy Study from 1987 to 1989. They found that children who had a dog or a cat were not at increased risk for developing future pet allergies.

Indeed, the study found that boys who had dogs and teens who had cats during their first year of life had 50 percent less risk of developing pet allergies later.

"The first year of life is the critical period during childhood when indoor exposure to dogs or cats influences sensitization to these animals," the authors theorized in the study.

The exact reasons for such early sensitization are still unknown but, the researchers and other allergists say, there is a popular theory behind it.

The results suggest that the "hygiene hypothesis" is valid, meaning that exposure to certain environmental factors, such as animals or dust, might trigger an infant's immune system to develop tolerance for allergens and the end result is that the child has reduced likelihood of developing allergic disease," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Fineman was not involved with the pet allergy study.

Allergists also say the study only looks at the development of antibodies to dog and cat allergens, not full-blown allergies.

"While allergic antibody is a risk factor for developing clinical allergy to that exposure, less than half of all presence of allergic antibody is associated with clinical allergy," said Dr. Miles Weinberger, professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa Children's Hospital In Iowa City.

Genetics, he said, might play a bigger role than simply having a pet.

"The predisposition to develop allergic antibody is genetically determined," he said. "It is, therefore, quite likely that the presence or absence of cats or dogs in the house relates to clinical sensitivity of parents or other family members."

While the study does offer some support for the hypothesis that having pets doesn't make children more allergic to them in the future, this theory still needs to be proven, experts say.

"I would not recommend that parents rush out to get a pet for their infant in the hopes of reducing the likelihood that their child will develop allergic disease," Fineman said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun092011

Heat Wave Especially Horrible for People with Certain Illnesses

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With about half the country baking in a heat wave, hospitals in some of the worst-hit areas are reporting cases of people coming into emergency rooms with heat-related illnesses. Many expect more as the heat wave continues. And they don't necessarily involve heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

"We do not see a lot of hot people but rather people with diseases, alcohol, drugs, old age and disability whose conditions are worsened by the heat," said Dr. James Adams, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Very high heat and humidity can affect everyone, but experts say in addition to children and the elderly, people with the medical conditions that follow are especially susceptible to heat-related illness:

Allergies, Asthma and Other Breathing Problems


Allergy and asthma specialists say they are seeing more patients whose illnesses have been triggered by the heat and humidity as well as by increased levels of pollutants in the air.

"[We] have seen many new patients for the first time with a diagnosis of asthma made worse by heavy pollens and extreme temperature and humidity levels," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, medical director of Asthma & Allergy Care of New York.

Bassett also said that in addition to pollen, mold levels increase when it's very humid.

The heat wave is also causing more serious breathing problems, including very severe asthma attacks and a worsening of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, several patients needed emergency treatment for both these conditions. One of them even needed a breathing tube.

During a heat wave, experts say room air conditioners may not make the environment cool enough.

Bassett advises anyone with allergies or asthma to stay where it's air conditioned, and to change and clean the filters frequently. If you need to go outside, check the pollen counts and pay special attention to ozone alerts.

Heart Disease

"During times of extreme heat, people are prone to dehydration," said Dr. Phil Ragno, director of cardiovascular health and wellness at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. "The more activities we perform, we're losing fluid through perspiration, and that decreases the volume of blood in our system. Blood vessels also dilate when it's hot, and as a result, the heart has to pump harder to circulate a smaller amount of blood."

Ragno also says people with heart conditions should drink a lot of fluids before they leave the house when it's hot and should keep hydrated throughout the day.

"People with heart conditions should weigh themselves each morning. If their weight is down a bit, it might not be body weight, but body fluid they're losing, which is a sign of impending troubles," Ragno said.

Pregnant Women


"Pregnant women are already undergoing a lot of physiological changes," said Dr. Eric Coris, associate professor of family medicine at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa. "Blood volume expands and sometimes blood return is not as good, so they may get swelling in certain parts of the body."

Increased blood flow and hormone changes that occur during pregnancy can make women feel hotter, and the swelling can have that same effect. As a result, women need to drink plenty of water.

Pregnant women with borderline high blood pressure also need to carefully monitor salt intake.

Other Tips for Beating Heat-Related Illness

Besides staying indoors where it's cool, experts have advice for others who need or want to venture outside.

"People who are bedridden and don't have access to water and are not in an air-conditioned area are at highest risk of developing heat stroke," said Slovis.

Athletes who are exercising for a long period of time should drink at least 8 to 10 ounces of water every 15 minutes. If they are exercising for 30 to 60 minutes or longer, Coris says they should drink sports drinks to help replenish the salt lost through sweating.

"Salt helps the body hold on to fluid and as your sweat rate goes up, you're losing salt as well," Coris said.

But doctors also say people who are diabetic or hypertensive should be careful with sports drinks since they may contain sugar and salt.

It's also important to be aware of the signs of heat stroke, including a shallow pulse, dizziness or fainting, fever with a severe headache, loss of consciousness or signs of confusion.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun082011

Need for Service Dog Trumps Allergies, According to Most State Laws

John Winston/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- A Colorado cab driver has been suspended from his job after forcing a blind woman to stow her seeing-eye dog in the trunk because of his pet allergies.

Denver resident Judie Brown was confused when the cabbie told her that the dog had to ride "in the back" of the cab because he was allergic. When she asked, "Where in the back?" the driver responded "In the trunk," Brown told ABC News affiliate in Denver KMGH 7.

Late for an appointment, Brown reluctantly agreed. The black lab, Alberto, who has been Brown's service dog for four years, whined during the entire ride in the trunk. "It was terribly wrong," Brown said of the situation, and the law is on her side: Colorado state law protects service dogs and their owners, allowing them to ride together in taxis and public transport.

The driver, whose name hasn't been provided by Union Taxi, has since been suspended and fined by the state for violating this law, according to KMGH 7. The cab company declined to comment to ABC News.

The situation embodies a common conflict between those with dog allergies and those requiring service dogs for a disability. Disability laws protect those with service dogs, but do not usually protect those with allergies. Taxi cabs and restaurants commonly pose a problem for those with service dogs, says Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users.

"Most states have criminal penalties for refusing access to service dogs, but one of the major issues is that generally there's ignorance of this law. The Department of Justice clearly states that allergies and fear of animals are not reasons to deny service animals -- unless the allergy rises to the level of disability," he says.

If a cab driver can prove that his/her allergy to dogs constitutes a disability, then there would be a conflict as to whose rights are superior, Gwindzala says. But how often is a dog allergy severe enough to qualify as a disability?

Someone with asthma could have a severe asthma attack triggered by having a dog in the car, which could be threatening to his/her health, according to James Sublett.,chair of the Indoor Environments Committee at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. While most dog allergy reactions trigger milder symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, and skin rashes, in severe cases, the eyes can swell shut with inflammation -- a reaction that would certainly affect one's ability to drive a cab, he says.

Even for those with merely annoying symptoms, one ride with a dog could leave dander in the car for several weeks unless cleaned thoroughly, Sublett says.

Given the laws that protect service dogs, what's an allergic cabbie to do?

"The driver has a reasonable right to avoid contamination of his cab with dog dander," says Miles Weinberger, director of the Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa.

However, he adds, the driver also has an "obligation to ensure that an alternative taxi is promptly available. Putting the dog in the trunk is not an acceptable alternative."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May272011

Ragweed and Mold Allergies on the Rise, Report Suggests

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MADISON, N.J.) -- Up to 20 percent of Americans suffer their way through the spring and summer because of ragweed allergies, and new research says the problem could be getting worse.

A report by Quest Diagnostics, a company that provides diagnostic testing services, suggests that allergies are on the rise nationwide, mostly due to an increase in the amount of ragweed and mold in the environment.

The company evaluated 14 million blood test results from about 2 million patients over a four-year period. Each test determined sensitivity to a specific allergen, and the company looked at 11 different allergens. They said people's sensitivity to ragweed increased 15 percent and mold sensitivity grew 12 percent.

"We believe this is the first large national study to show that the growing prevalence of allergies, suggested by other studies, is largely due to increases in environment-based allergens previously associated with climate change," said Dr. Stanley J. Naides, Quest's medical director of immunology.

The study also ranked the 30 worst metropolitan areas for ragweed allergies. They said Phoenix, Las Vegas, Kansas City, Riverside-San Bernardino, Calif., and Dallas topped the list. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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