Entries in Allergy (10)


Meat Allergy in Children Linked to Tick Bites

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A tiny tick might be to blame for a rash of red meat allergies across the United States, researchers say. And the latest study suggests grill-loving kids are just as vulnerable as their grown-up counterparts.

"Nearly 50 percent of the kids in our study ended up in the emergency department," said study author Dr. Scott Commins, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. "Age doesn't seem to really matter in terms of the severity of the reaction."

Commins and colleagues studied 51 kids who had reactions, ranging from rashes to anaphylactic shock, to mammalian meat. And like adults with the bizarre meat allergy, they all had a history of bites from Amblyomma americanum, better known as the lone star tick.

"We were surprised by how many kids were having reactions when we started looking in pediatric clinics for it," said Commins, who first linked the tick to meat allergies in 2009. He believes the bug's saliva can seep into the bite wound, somehow triggering an allergy agonizing enough to convert lifelong carnivores into wary vegetarians.

"People will eat beef, and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction, anything from hives to full-blown anaphylactic shock," he said. "And most people want to avoid having the reaction, so they try to stay away from the food that triggers it."

Most of the kids in the study developed a rash at the site of the tick bite before reacting to red meat, and all but six of them also tested positive for alpha-gal antibodies -- blood proteins that react to a sugar found in meat. But Commins said it's tough to make a definitive link between the tick and the allergy.

"We're still searching for the mechanism," he said, describing plans to test the theory in mice that were genetically altered to lack alpha-gal. "It's hard to prove."

Allergies are immune reactions to foreign substances, such as pet hair and peanuts. As antibodies attack the substance that caused the reaction, they trigger the release of histamine, a chemical that causes hives and, in severe cases, life-threatening anaphylaxis.

"If a child has an exaggerated skin response to a tick bite, I would make an appointment with an allergist to have a blood test done," said Commins, "especially if the child happens to be one who eats meat."

Other common food allergens include nuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, soy and wheat. Most food allergy sufferers are glad to discover the source of their misery, even if it means upheaval for their diets. But Commins said meat allergies can be hard for brawny barbecuers to swallow.

"Some people are totally destroyed," he said. "Others say, 'Maybe I'm better off without it.'"

But don't despair. Commins said the reaction wanes over time, and that most people are able to return to their meat-eating ways within a period of months.

"It's important to have your blood test redone because it appears that this allergic response goes away over time, which is great news for kids," he said. "Additional tick bites, however, seem to push that response back up relatively quickly. So I would really stress tick bite prevention."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking the following steps to prevent tick bites:

- Avoid wooded and bushy areas;

- Walk in the center of trails; Use bug repellents that contain 20 percent or more Deet on the skin;

- Use bug repellants that contain permethrin on clothing;

- Shower as soon as possible after coming indoors;

- Look for ticks on your body, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and in the hair;

- Check gear and pets for ticks.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Spices Hard to Avoid for Those with Allergies

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ANAHEIM, Calif.) -- You may only think of spices as being ingredients in foods.  But they are commonly found in other products -- such as cosmetics, fragrances and toothpastes -- according to allergists at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).  

And for the 2 to 3 percent of people worldwide who are allergic to spices, that could make them almost impossible to avoid.

Spice allergy is responsible for about 2 percent of food allergies and is often under-diagnosed due to a lack of reliable allergy testing for particular spices or unawareness of exposure.

“While spice allergy seems to be rare, with the constantly increasing use of spices in the American diet and a variety of cosmetics, we anticipate more and more Americans will develop this allergy,” allergist Sami Bahna, M.D., the former president of the ACAAI, said Thursday at the college's Annual Scientific Meeting.  “Patients with spice allergy often have to go through extreme measures to avoid the allergen.  This can lead to strict dietary avoidance, low quality of life and sometimes malnutrition.”

The most common spice allergy triggers include cinnamon and garlic, according to the ACAAI, but can range from black pepper to vanilla.

“Because of this allergy’s complexity, allergists often recommend a treatment plan that includes strict avoidance which can be a major task,” Dr. Bahna said.

Allergic reactions can range from sneezing to a rash, upset stomach, and sometimes even a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis, where the throat closes, making it difficult to breathe.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate spices, meaning that they are often not on labels -- making them impossible to detect and avoid.

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


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


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


Are School Allergy Policies Going Too Far?

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(EDGEWATER, Fla.) -- Until recently, students in an Edgewater, Fla., elementary school were required to rinse their mouths out twice daily at school to avoid spreading peanut residue to a first-grade student with a severe peanut allergy.

Teachers had to monitor the mouth rinsing and frequent hand washing and ensure surfaces were continually swabbed with Clorox. The school banned all peanut products, eliminated snacks in the classroom and forbade outside food at holiday parties. A peanut-sniffing dog patrolled the school halls.

All this proved too much for parents, who said the requirements went too far. The battle culminated last Thursday when parents stormed the school, holding up picket signs that read "Our Kids Have Rights Too!"

Most situations don't boil over into angry confrontations as they did in Florida, but changing school policies to accommodate children with allergies is definitely becoming a bone of contention in many school districts. Parents complain that allergy-aware policies created extra expense, forcing them to buy pricier foods. Soy butter and sunflower butter, two peanut butter alternatives, can cost up to twice as much as the real thing.

In one school district, the hostility reached a boiling point when the family of a peanut-allergic child was spotted at the local Walmart bakery that used peanut oil. People began to openly question the necessity of a ban on a favorite low-cost food to oblige the one child.

No one doubts that food allergy-aware policies can be lifesavers for children who depend on them. Aimee Kandrac, whose son Elliot has several severe food allergies, said she does not like inconveniencing other families but without her vigiliance her son could wind up in the hospital, or worse. Her son's school has been generally responsive to his needs, and most of the other parents have been understanding. But not all.

Kendrac said she tries not to come off as an overprotective, hysterical mom but worried that her son might feel ostracized because of his allergies. He was sometimes excluded from birthday parties because, as a friend privately confided, other parents didn't feel like dealing with his food issues.

The prevalence of food allergies among children under the age of 18 is about four percent, and has risen about 18 percent in the past decade, according to the most recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. Children with food allergies are two to four times more likely to have other related conditions, such as asthma, and other allergies, compared with children who don't have food allergies. From 2004 to 2006, there were approximately 9,500 hospital discharges a year with a diagnosis related to food allergies among children younger than 18.

"Anyone who has a serious food allergy risks having an anaphylaxis reaction when exposed to the allergen. Therefore, it's reasonable for schools to take the proper precautions," said Dr. Stanley Fineman, a board certified allergist and president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Besides, under the Americans With Disabilities Act, schools are legally obligated to protect children who have allergies against discrimination. Fineman emphasized that policies must be reasonable and practical. Equally important, they need to have scientific validity.

The most updated guidelines for coping with food allergies may be found on the ACAAI website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allergy Sufferers Less Likely to Develop Deadly Brain Tumor

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Suffering from allergies may make you less susceptible to a far more serious condition, reports HealthDay News.

New research suggests that those who suffer from allergies are less likely to develop a malignant gliomas brain tumor -- the same type that killed Sen. Edward Kennedy -- because the immune system in people who suffer from allergies is on high alert.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, found that those with the tumors were more likely to not have allergies and the more allergies an individual had, the less likely they were to have gliomas.

Gliomas brain tumors are a the most common adult brain tumor, making up more than half of all malignant tumors diagnosed each year in the U.S.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Allergic Teen Seeks High School Perfume Ban

(FORT WAYNE, Ind.) -- One Indiana high school could have a zero tolerance policy on cologne, perfume, and other sprayed body scents if concerned mother Janice Zandi wins a court case she's filed against the Fort Wayne Community High Schools for not banning the scents that she claims her son J.Z. is allergic to.

Seventeen-year-old J.Z. has been treated for a reaction at school several times in the last year in connection with his allergy, three times requiring an ambulance to nearby Parkview North Hospital, where he was treated for respiratory distress.

Claiming that the school district's refusal to protect her son with a fragrance ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, Zandi filed the suit Nov. 12.

But several allergists contacted said they had never heard of an actual allergy to sprayed scents and noted that an allergy would be highly unlikely given the size of the particles in perfume.

"Generally we think of sprays as irritating to someone with asthma, but this is not a true allergy," says Dr. Wesley Burkes, chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke University Medical Center.

Whether allergy or asthma, J.Z.'s case pushes the envelope on school liability concerning allergies. If won, the case could open up broader interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, allergists say.

According to the official complaint, J.Z. has never suffered an anaphylactic reaction outside of the school grounds and "can tolerate exposure to the normal scents found in contemporary American society, and reacts only to freshly sprayed perfumes, colognes, and body sprays such as Axe lingering in the air."

None of the allergist contacted by ABC News, however, had ever heard of an allergy to sprayed scents.

"I know of no documentation that they cause actual primary allergic reactions," agreed Dr. Miles Weinberger, director of Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa. "It especially doesn't sound credible for allergy that various difference odors, sprays, and scents have triggered the reaction."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pregnancy and Peanuts: Tricky Allergy Truths 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Prenatal advice has been particularly tricky with respect to peanut allergy, a potentially fatal condition that affects an estimated 1 percent to 2 percent of children. The incidence has gone up in the last decade, although scientists can't say why.

From 1998 to 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the British Committee on Toxicology recommended that in families where parents or siblings have allergies, women avoid peanuts during pregnancy and breast-feeding. However, the data for these recommendations was scant and scientific studies yielded conflicting findings: Some said early exposure might be protective, others, harmful.

In 2008, the AAP reversed its position. Similarly, the European panel reversed its recommendation to stay away from peanuts during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

It now appears that in families with lots of allergies, it makes some sense for mothers-to-be to go easy on the peanuts, because of new research suggesting heavy consumption, particularly late in pregnancy, might set the stage for peanut allergies.

But for most families, doctors say there's no evidence that pregnant moms' peanut eating will produce an allergic baby -- or that avoiding peanuts will guarantee a healthier one.

To help clarify the issues, the Consortium of Food Allergy Research studied the relationship between maternal diet and childhood allergies. The researchers, led by Dr. Scott H. Sicherer of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, followed 512 infants with food allergies to see if they became allergic to peanuts over time.

The investigators from Mount Sinai, Duke University in Durham, N.C., Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, National Jewish Health in Denver, and Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, also asked the mothers about their prenatal eating.

In results published online Oct. 29 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, which will appear in the December print issue, they reported that the more that a mom consumed peanuts in the third trimester of her pregnancy, the greater the chances her infant would test positive for sensitivity to peanuts.

However, sensitivity doesn't equate to peanut allergy, "just an increased risk," Sicherer said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Eating Peanuts During Pregnancy May Expose Children to Allergy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Pregnant mothers who eat a lot of peanuts during their pregnancy may increase their childrens' risk of developing an allergy to the nut, according to a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Headed by New York's Mount Sinai Medical School, the study tested more than 500 infants and found that more than a quarter of them, who were children of women who consumed peanuts while pregnant, had a strong reaction to a peanut sensitivity test.

Researchers also found that infants from mothers who ate the nut during their pregnancy have nearly three times the chance of testing positive for the allergy.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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