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Seasonal Bulletin

Common Myths About Asthma

“Asthma is a serious condition that affects more than 26 million Americans – more than 8 percent of the population,” says allergist Todd Mahr, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “One of the biggest dangers with asthma is that so many people who have asthma think it’s well-controlled, when it actually isn’t,” says Dr. Mahr. “When people have good solid information about how to control their asthma and reduce symptoms, they are better able to live the kind of active lives they want.”

Below are five myths, along with the facts you need to know.

  1. You can “outgrow” your asthma – The truth is, there’s no cure for asthma. That said, there are ways to control your asthma and participate in all the activities you enjoy. Asthma doesn’t go away on its own, but your allergist will work with you to identify the things that trigger your asthma and then build a plan to help you avoid and manage those triggers. They may also prescribe medication or, in some cases, allergy immunotherapy.
  2. If you have asthma, you shouldn’t exercise – If you’ve heard of David Beckham, Jackie Joyner Kersee or Jerome Bettis, you know there are elite athletes with asthma. They were all able to compete at either a professional or Olympic level because their asthma was controlled. Exercise makes your heart and lungs stronger and improves your immune system. Some exercises that work particularly well for people with asthma are swimming, walking, hiking, and indoor and outdoor biking.
  3. Steroids used to treat asthma are the same ones athletes use to bulk up – Inhaled steroids used for asthma are not the same as anabolic steroids used to build muscle. The steroids used for the treatment of asthma are anti-inflammatory drugs, not hormones. Nasal steroid sprays are extremely effective, relatively inexpensive and don’t have a lot of side effects. They are available in over-the-counter and prescription forms.
  4. Asthma medications are habit-forming and dangerous - There are many different asthma medications. Some are used regularly to prevent symptoms and others only when you have an asthma flare-up. As with all medications, you must consider the risks and benefits. None of the asthma medications used in the U.S. are habit-forming or addicting. They are not controlled substances. There may be concern with long-term use in children, as these medications can affect how fast a child grows. Available data doesn’t suggest an effect on final adult height, but children whose asthma is not well-controlled need their medications even if they may have decreased growth and be shorter than their peers.
  5. You can stop taking your medications if you feel good – Work with your allergist to determine what medications you should be on, and the dosage. It’s possible you’re feeling well because your controller medications are working. You should not be using quick-relief medications if your asthma is under control. Those should only be used in urgent situations when you’re having trouble breathing or as preparation before you exercise.
We can help create a personal plan to deal with your allergies and asthma, contact us today at 317-708-2839.

Allergy and Asthma Free Summer Celebrating

Summer celebrations should be filled with barbecues, flags and fun, not allergy and asthma triggers.

“Summer is a time to be out enjoying warm weather and friends,” says allergist Todd Mahr, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Unfortunately, some traditional elements of summer celebrations – think fireworks and barbecues – can set off alarms for allergy and asthma sufferers. But knowing how to avoid allergic triggers can mean a summer celebration that’s sure to make everyone happy  and healthy.”

Here are four tips from the ACAAI to help make sure your festivities are filled with all the right kinds of summer fun, and no allergic flares.

1. Make it a smoke-free holiday  Anything that causes smoke is a problem for people with asthma, so allergists recommend keeping your distance from both fireworks and campfires. If you just love fireworks, wear a mask with a NIOSH N95 filter to help keep smoke out of your lungs. Keep your reliever inhaler with you in case of an asthma attack, and consider a concert instead.

2. But that burger looks so good  You may have heard that it’s possible to get a meat allergy from a tick bite. Sadly, it’s true that a bite from the Lone Star Tick can cause you to be allergic to red meats. Very rarely, people with this allergy also react to cow’s milk and gelatins found in some medications. Symptoms can range from hives, swelling, wheezing, nausea and vomiting  all the way to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Sometimes anaphylaxis doesn’t start until three to eight hours after eating the food you are allergic to. Once diagnosed, those with the allergy need to avoid red meat.

3. Watch your step! – Most insect stings in the United States come from wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and bees. It’s estimated that potentially life-threatening allergic reactions to insect venom occur in less than 1 percent of children and 3 percent of adults. Avoiding insect stings is the first line of defense, so:

  • Wear shoes when walking in the grass where stinging insects look for food.
  • Cover soft drink cans as stinging insects are attracted to open cans.
  • Keep food covered when eating outdoors.
  • If you experience a severe allergic reaction to an insect bite, use your epinephrine auto injector if you have one, and then call 911 to receive immediate emergency care. Follow up with an allergist.

4. Why are my lips tingling?  Summer celebrations mean a bounty of fresh produce, but if you suffer from hay fever, you may experience a scratchy throat, itchy mouth or swelling of your lips or mouth after eating some raw fruits or vegetables. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) is caused when allergens found in both pollen and raw fruits and veggies cross react. The symptoms do not progress beyond the mouth. Because the symptoms usually subside quickly once the fresh fruit or raw vegetable is swallowed or removed from the mouth, treatment is not usually necessary. Contact us to see if your OAS symptoms might be a cross reaction to pollen.

If your allergy and asthma symptoms are keeping you from summer fun, make an appointment with us for proper testing. An allergist can help you live the life you want.

New Guidelines for Early Introduction of Peanut

to Reduce Peanut Food allergies

The guidelines, endorsed by ACAAI, identify children at high risk for developing a peanut allergy as those with severe eczema and/or egg allergy. The guidelines recommend introduction of peanut-containing foods as early as 4-6 months for high-risk infants who have already started solid foods, after determining that it is safe to do so. If an infant is determined to be high risk, peanut-containing foods should be introduced in a specialist’s office as an oral food challenge after peanut skin testing, or not at all if the child has too large of a skin test, which may suggest the child already has peanut allergy.  Parents of infants with moderate or low risk for developing peanut allergy are encouraged to introduce peanut-containing foods at home, without such measures.

“The new guidelines are a breakthrough for preventing peanut allergy,” says allergist Edmond Chan, MD, ACAAI member and co-author. “But we’re still working on helping parents and pediatricians understand how important the guidelines are for preventing peanut allergies. Food allergies are scary, so it’s understandable that parents would hesitate to introduce a food they might see as dangerous. In our survey, only 49 percent of the respondents were willing to allow their child to be skin tested, and just 44 percent were willing to allow an oral food challenge before a year of age to help facilitate early introduction. Parents should consult with their primary care physician to help walk them through the process of early peanut introduction for their infant.”

Diagnosing food allergy is not always simple, but the need to make a proper diagnosis is very important.

Allergists are specially trained to administer allergy testing and diagnose the results. Call us to schedule an appointment to find out more, 317-708-2839.  Also, you can learn more about early peanut introduction, by watching “Peanuts and your baby: How to introduce the two”.

Back to School

Every kid with seasonal allergies or asthma – from kindergartener on up – must be prepared to go back to school ready to face triggers that could set them sneezing and wheezing with red, itchy eyes. And every kid with a food allergy, no matter the age, needs to be on alert to make sure they know what foods to avoid, and what to do if they have a severe allergic reaction at school.

“Every age group is different in how much they can handle when it comes to protecting themselves from flare-ups due to allergies and asthma while at school, as well as severe allergic reactions from food allergies,” says allergist Bradley Chipps, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “But every student wants to feel good and be free from their triggers when they’re away from home.”

Below are tips from ACAAI to assist parents in guiding children of every age towards an allergy- and asthma-free school day.

Pre-K – 4th grade – At this age, kids need their parents to be their advocate, to step up and speak for them if they’re not able. Talk with your child’s teacher before school starts to let them know what your child’s allergies are and what kind of reaction they might have to allergens in the classroom. Reach out to the school nurse and administrators to make sure a health plan is in place for your child. And take time to tour your child’s classroom to see for yourself if there is anything which can set off allergies, such as wall-to-wall carpeting or a class pet.

5th through 8th grade – Your child has probably reached the age where they can speak up for themselves if there are things in their classroom or cafeteria which may cause an allergic reaction. However, you’ll be the one filling out their school registration, and it’s important to note if they have allergies or asthma, need to carry medications or need to avoid certain foods. All states have laws protecting students’ rights to carry and use asthma and anaphylaxis medications at school, and your child should know how to use their medications in an emergency.

High School – Kids in high school can have challenges due to peer pressure and not wanting to stick out in the crowd. At this age they know how to use their medications and epinephrine auto injector but may not want to always carry or use them. Encourage your high schooler to see self-care as a “next step” in their journey towards independence, and let them know you’re there for them if they have questions or problems.

College! – Your child leaving for college represents their biggest hurdle yet in making sure they know how to prevent allergy and asthma flares. While they may be thinking you’ll still be around to assist them with their medical matters, help them understand it’s time to take a more active role. They’ll need to contact school administrators to discuss necessary arrangements for their dorm room and meals. And if they are moving far from home they’ll need to find a new allergist and pharmacy.

No matter your child’s age – Plan to see us this summer. A board-certified allergist is the specialist best trained to treat your child’s allergies or asthma. We'll work to make sure your child’s allergy medications are appropriate for their height and weight, their asthma action plan is up-to-date and that symptoms are under control.

To make sure you’re fully prepared for the fall, contact our office, 317-708-2839.