Entries in Allergies (44)


Allergies or Sinusitis? Most Get It Wrong

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LANDOVER, Md.) -- The pollen count is through the roof and once again, you have a stuffy nose, sinus pain, fatigue and reduced sense of smell and taste. Oh great, another bad allergy season, you think.

And you'd be wrong. These are the hallmarks of a sinus infection, not allergies, though most allergy patients can't tell the difference, according to a recent survey by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

In an online survey of more than 600 asthma and allergy patients, researchers found that about half self-diagnosed their symptoms as allergies when really they had a sinus infection, or sinusitis.

Despite the fact that 70 percent of those surveyed most trust a primary care physician to correctly diagnose allergies or sinusitis, only 36 percent reported consulting a physician when they had symptoms of these conditions.

Here's a breakdown of which symptoms belong to which ailments.

The Common Cold -- "Cold and allergy can present similarly," says Dr. Stacey Silvers, an ear, nose, and throat doctor at Beth Israel Hospital in New York City, so the defining difference is the length: If your congested nose and breathing difficulty last longer than seven to 10 days, it's probably not a cold. Most likely, it's allergies, and needs to be treated with an antihistamine, not a decongestant.

Seasonal Allergies -- If your sinus congestion is accompanied by watery or itchy eyes and it tends to last several weeks, it's may be allergies, says Silvers. The problem is, many often treat their allergies like a cold, with over-the-counter decongestants, which will work in the short run but are not advisable. "When someone is taking a daytime decongestant every day and a nighttime one to sleep, for weeks and weeks, this is not good," she says. Especially when their allergy might be due to an environmental trigger, such as a feather pillow, that could be easily eliminated.

Sinusitis or Chronic Sinusitis -- With sinusitis, the nasal passageways become inflamed and the liter or more of mucus created every day by your body gets backed up in the sinuses. "This is when you get patients complaining of headache, pressure or pain in their face and chronic fatigue," Silvers says.

A headful of mucus is an exhausted head, one that's hard to lift off the pillow and patients can be irritable and fatigued on most days," says Silvers. If you suffer from facial tenderness, pressure or pain, headache behind the eyes and forehead, or loss of taste or smell and fatigue, you may have sinusitis.

If you experience this three or more times a year, you may have chronic sinusitis and should consult with your physician or an ear, nose and throat specialist. What most people don't know, Silvers says, is that you can have sinusitis without having a runny or stuffy nose or difficulty breathing, because the mucus is congested further back in the sinuses.

If you suffer from any of the above symptoms and they do not resolve within a week or so (and hence are unlikely to be a cold or flu), you should consider seeing your physician, who may refer you to an allergist or an ear, nose and throat specialist.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allergy-Sniffing Cars in the Works

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(DETROIT) -- The Ford Motor Co. plans to leverage its existing SYNC infotainment system to monitor pollen alerts and local weather forecasts as part of its health management services geared toward helping the more than 60 million Americans plagued with asthma and seasonal allergies.

Anyone who suffers from asthma or allergies knows it helps to have a clear understanding of environmental factors and potential symptom triggers such as pollen counts in order to avoid an attack. To sniff out the best allergy prevention applications, Ford worked with experts, including medical device manufacturers, health care management service providers, and Web-based medical alert services, to come up with a series of onboard "apps" and phone apps that can be synched up to your ride.

To avert itchy eyes and runny noses, the cars will use a variety of tools, including Bluetooth wireless connections, that will allow the cars to share information with medical devices and perhaps even doctors, much the same as it already allows voice activated cellphone connections. Working off the same GPS technology that gives you driving directions and traffic reports, cloud-based applications -- software you can access without owing a physical copy -- will provide instant access to medical services.

Ford is also partnering with, among others, to SYNC-enable its smartphone Allergy Alert app. This will provide drivers with location-based, day-by-day index levels for pollen, asthma, cold and cough and ultraviolet sensitivity, as well as four-day forecasts.

And this is just the beginning of Ford's health care cars. The company is exploring a variety of apps and services for diabetics, including glucose monitoring and real-time patient coaching, behavioral education and medication adherence support.

Ford, which is apparently the only automaker with such "medical" cars in the works, plans to have the mobile allergy sniffers on the road within two years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allergy Season Could Be Worst in Years

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) -- Some allergy specialists predict that this allergy season might be worse than previous ones.

Experts say extreme weather is perhaps the biggest culprit.  Record rainfalls in some parts of the country have caused the levels of pollen -- one of the most common allergens -- to skyrocket.

"We are seeing a lot of people having problems with their asthma being triggered by their allergies," said Dr. James Sublett, managing partner of Family Allergy and Asthma in Louisville, Kentucky.  "We've had record amounts of rain and some flooding which can contribute to indoor air problems from mold in addition to the usual springtime allergies from trees and grasses."

Louisville, in fact, is one of the worst cities for allergies according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's 2011 list of Spring Allergy Capitals.  Louisville ranks second behind Knoxville, Tennessee.  Charlotte, North Carolina, Jackson, Mississippi and Chattanooga, Tennessee round out the five worst.

The rankings are based on the amount of tree pollen in the area, the number of allergy medications used by people living in the region and the number of practicing allergists there are.

"[In addition to tree pollen] the grass pollen is also creeping in there now because peoples lawns are very ready to go.  So you get a double wammy of tree and grass pollen," said Dr. Clifford Bassett, clinical assistant professor of medicine at NYU School of Medicine in New York and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York.  "If you look at the [pollen counts] in most areas throughout country, they are at record highs."

Bassett also said other factors could be influencing the pollen counts.  An increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by greenhouse gases may be one factor.  Additionally, he said, people more often choose to plant male plants over female plants because females produce a lot of twigs and debris.  Male plants, however, produce pollen.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allergic to Sex? Semen, Orgasm and Latex Can Be Culprits

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After 14 years of marriage, Leticia Ortega developed allergies, not just to pollen and grasses and even gluten -- but to sex.

"Well, technically, I am allergic to sperm," said the Fort Worth, Texas, 36-year-old.  "My body reacts as if it's a foreign object and tries to get rid of it as soon as possible.  I'm constantly at my gynecologist's office."

Every time Ortega has sex, she swells up.  At first, she said she "learned to live with it," but her steady boyfriend worries that it's his fault.  She had no problems in her previous marriage that produced three children, aged 13 to 21.

"The allergist said that I either became sensitive," she said, "or because I was married for so long, I was used to his sperm."

Allergies like Ortega's can stand in the way of a good sex life.  Even the simple run-down congestion and drippy nose that accompanies nature's bounty can put a damper on spring love.  Other common culprits are condoms and sex toys.

Those allergic to latex react to the proteins found in natural, a milky fluid that comes from the rubber tree.  A latex allergy can cause reactions ranging from itching and hives to difficulty breathing and deadly anaphylaxis, according to the Mayo Clinic.  And repeated exposure can make it worse.

Luckily, Ortega isn't allergic to latex.  In fact, condoms make her sex allergy go away, which was one of the first clues in diagnosing her problem.  She has seminal plasma hypersensitivity and the adverse symptoms are not from the sperm itself, but the proteins in the semen that carries it.  She had the same reaction in another relationship just after her divorce.

Her condition is an under-recognized problem and affects about 20,000 to 40,000 women in the United States, according to Dr. Jonathan Bernstein, a professor at the University of Cincinnati, who specializes in allergies and immunology.

Some women have been known to sleep with their new husband for the first time and break out in hives.  Women can experience abdominal swelling or a local reaction that they describe "like a needle sticking in to their vagina," according to Bernstein.

The "gold standard" for treating semen allergies is to isolate the proteins in the man and do skin testing on the woman to determine which are to blame, according to Bernstein.  The woman can be injected with a small amount of the offending protein and desensitize her reaction, just as doctors do for bee sting allergies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Five Tips for Fighting Spring Allergies

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you are sneezing and have itchy eyes this spring allergy season, you are not alone. The year 2011 is shaping up to be the worst year for allergy sufferers on record.

More than 35 million Americans suffer from pollen allergies, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And every year, the United States reportedly spends approximately $21 billion on health costs related to allergies.

A study published Friday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA searched for the cause of a trend towards longer allergy seasons.

Researchers found that a delayed first frost of the fall season and a lengthening of the frost-free season combined with increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have contributed to a longer allergy season. Longer pollen seasons increase human exposure, the duration of symptoms and severity of symptoms.

"Studies have found that not only do [plants] create more pollen, it's more potent," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and a practicing physician in Atlanta.

So what can you do if you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from pollen allergies every year? Fineman gave ABC News the following five tips for avoiding allergies:

1. Get tested to find out exactly to what you are allergic.

2. Consult your physician about possible treatments such as allergy shots and medication.

3. Wash your hair and clothes regularly to get rid of pollen.

4. If you have pets, groom them regularly because they can bring pollen indoors.

5. Stay indoors as much as possible during pollen season to minimize your exposure.

Thankfully, science has been steadily improving the ability to combat pollen allergy symptoms.

"We can [now] pinpoint what triggers symptoms with specific testing, where in the past it was much more generalized," said Fineman. "Now, it's much more specific and accurate and sensitive. ... Treatments are more targeted and allergy shots are much more effective because we know better dosages."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Public Watchdog Group Calls for Ban on Latex Medical Gloves

Burke/Triolo Productions/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In an effort to protect health care workers and patients from debilitating allergic reactions, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban latex and powdered medical gloves, citing health consequences that range from a mild rash to death, depending on a person's sensitivity.

"Large numbers of patients and large numbers of health care professionals have been adversely affected by latex, powdered gloves," said Dr. Michael Carome, deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group.  "Direct contact with latex products can cause skin reactions and, in some patients, anaphylaxis."

Carome explained how small particles in the natural rubber can attach to the corn starch powder used to ease the gloves on and off the hands, and become airborne.

"When the gloves are snapped on or off, that latex can go into air," Carome said.  "If a health care worker or a patient with an allergy inhales it, they can go into anaphylactic shock, a generalized allergic reaction with respiratory symptoms and a drop in blood pressure."

The petition is the third filed to the FDA since 2008, Carome said, and the second effort by Public Citizen following a 1998 petition to ban powdered rubber gloves.  The watchdog organization argues that safer alternatives, such as powder-free synthetic gloves, have become widely available, and should be used in place of latex.

"More manufacturers have been making more of those gloves, because many hospitals are starting to require those kinds of gloves," Carome said.

Earlier versions of latex-free gloves were expensive and difficult to use, and the FDA cited both pitfalls in response to Public Citizen's previous petition.

But better materials and more competition among manufacturers have improved the quality and reduced the cost of latex-free gloves.

"Synthetic gloves and nonpowdered gloves are more expensive.  But it can't just be a consideration of the cost of the gloves themselves," Carome said, adding that sick days, injury compensation and long-term disability claims should factor in, too.

"When you add in all those costs, we believe that the cost differential becomes much more neutral," Carome said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pregnant Woman With Food Allergies Ate Big Macs for Nine Months

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- By the time Suzanne Franklin gave birth to a whopping 10 pound, two ounce baby this past Christmas she was already familiar with the concept of super sizing.  Due to her severe food allergies, the British mom-to-be decided early on in her pregnancy that she would only eat McDonald's Big Macs.

It was Bic Macs, three meals a day for nine months.  And hold the pickles, lettuce and cheese because she is allergic to them, along with vegetables, milk, peanuts and dozens of other foods.

Franklin's two-all-beef-patties diet may seem a bit extreme, but doctors warned her that her allergies would likely exacerbate during pregnancy if she didn't avoid her triggers.

It's common for pregnant women to experience worsening allergy symptoms or even spontaneously develop them despite having no issues beforehand.  A quarter of pregnant women suffer from true allergies and up to 30 percent experience an allergy-like condition known as pregnancy rhinitis characterized by a perpetually stuffy, runny nose and itchy, red eyes.

Laura Corio, M.D., an Ob/Gyn who practices in Manhattan, says symptoms can vary with each pregnancy.  A woman who is plagued by dust mites and cat dander while carrying her first child might have no issues the next time around.

"The trouble usually starts in the second trimester and gets progressively worse as the pregnancy progresses," she explains.

The reason for all the sneezing, coughing and itching isn't entirely understood.  Corio believes the pregnancy hormone progesterone may be partly to blame because it increases breathing frequency.

A burgeoning belly complicates matters by pushing up on the diaphragm making it even more difficult for the expectant mother to expand her lungs.  To compensate, many women begin breathing through their mouth.  Without the benefit of the nose's filtration system, more allergens are able to sneak into the body.

Raging hormone levels also weaken the immune system.  While this helps reduce the odds of a miscarriage, it also increases susceptibility to allergies.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sunlight Allergy 'Like Pouring Hot Wax On Your Skin'

Courtesy Craig Leppert(NEW YORK) -- Many people are preparing to spend some time in the spring sunshine. But for one Syracuse University student, it's all fun and games until the sun comes out. Craig Leppert, 20, has a rare genetic disorder, called erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), that makes him allergic to sunlight.

"When I get burned by the sun, it feels a lot like pouring hot wax on your skin, or having your hand cut with a knife and put over a stove," Leppert explained. "It's probably the worst feeling of pain I've ever felt. And I've broken a bone before, and I'd rather break a bone than get burned by the sun."

This week marks National EPP Awareness Week, a time of the year that Leppert often uses to spread the word about the effects of this disease.

"I met a ton of people through Facebook and e-mail who have EPP who see me and my family on TV and they reach out," he said. "They didn't know they had it 'til they saw similar symptoms of what I went through with EPP. So that's kind of a cool thing and to meet people and bounce ideas about EPP off of each other."

EPP is a rare disease. According to the American Porphyria Foundation, an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 people suffer from EPP in the United States.

It's so uncommon, in fact, it took Leppert and his family a few years before they discovered his diagnosis. He said he first started exhibiting symptoms when he was 18 months old.

EPP is caused by the body's genetic defect in the enzyme responsible for metabolizing protoporphyrin, a precursor of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transport oxygen. Since people with EPP cannot metabolize protoporphyrin properly, it gets excreted from the red blood cells and ends up in the skin.

"And that's what reacts with sunlight when he goes out into the sun," said Dr. Micheline Mathews-Roth, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. "That [enzyme defect] causes these local reactions of itching and burning. And some people do get skin lesions looking as if they have burned skin.”

Dr. Mathews-Roth has completed a number of studies on EPP throughout the years and said there is not a cure for the disease just yet, although doctors have made some headway in recent years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


13 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LANDOVER, Md.) -- The southeastern United States appears to be the center for allergy sufferers, with nine cities in the region composing the top 13 worst places for allergies in the country, according to a list by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Using a ranking system that takes into account tree pollen prevalence, the number of allergy medications used by residents in the area and the number of allergy specialists in the area, the foundation graded the top 100 worst allergy cities.

Here are the 13 worst cities for spring allergies:

1. Knoxville, Tennessee
2. Louisville, Kentucky
3. Charlotte, North Carolina
4. Jackson, Mississippi
5. Chattanooga, Tennessee
6. Birmingham, Alabama
7. Dayton, Ohio
8. Richmond, Virginia
9. McAllen, Texas
10. Madison, Wisconsin
11. Columbia, South Carolina
12. Greensboro, North Carolina
13. Wichita, Kansas

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated 40 million Americans suffer from indoor/outdoor allergies as their primary allergy, and allergy is the fifth leading chronic disease in the U.S. of all ages.

There are ways to curb allergy symptoms, no matter where you live.

Avoid drying clothes outside on high pollen days, wear big sunglasses to prevent pollen entering the eyes, steer clear of food that can worsen seasonal allergies to trees, such as apples, almonds, hazelnuts, cherries, kiwis and plums.  Take a shower after coming in from outside to wash the pollen off the body and close the windows on high-pollen days to avoid bringing the trigger into the house.

Also, be mindful of the clock as pollen counts can peak early in the morning.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Seasonal Asthma Flare-Ups Cut Dramatically by Xolair  

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wisc.) -- The FDA-approved Xolair can improve asthma symptoms, alleviate seasonal flare-ups and allow for a dosage reduction for other asthma medications for children as young as six years of age, according to a recently released study.

Although the study tested Xolair in asthma patients aged 6-20, the FDA has only approved the medication for use in people 12 and older.

However, researcher William W. Busse, MD, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health reported that the drug reduced symptom days by 25 percent in study participants.  He added that the number of asthma attacks were also reduced by about 30 percent.

More important, Busse says, is that his team of researchers saw a near elimination in the onset of attacks associated with seasonal allergies, colds and other airway infections when children took Xolair.

"It indicates in these kids that allergy seems to play an important role in their asthma," Busse told WebMD.

Critics of the study say the cost of the drug (typically $1,700 for the injected drug) is one drawback among many.  According to WebMD, excessive use of Xolair can actually trigger asthma symptoms and a condition called anaphylaxis, which affects breathing.

But Busse says that although the drug is costly, patients will visit the hospital less frequently, saving on hospitalization costs.

As for the drug's links to various negative side effects, the FDA required that Genentech, Xolair's manufacturer, add a warning label to boxes cautioning users of the potential risk of anaphylaxis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio