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In The News: Allergies

How to Get Ahead of Spring Allergies

Springtime allergies do not abide by our calendar year. Instead, the start of their season is determined by your location. In the Lowcountry of South Carolina, spring allergies are sprung unexpectedly early, with pollen from trees and grass that may surface as early as January.

We may only be at the start of winter, but why wait for spring allergy symptoms to strike when there are steps you can take today that will give you a leg up over those annoying seasonal sneezes and sniffles?

Start preemptive treatment.

Do not wait for your symptoms to hit full force. Start by visiting your local board-certified allergist. They will be able to assist you in discovering the root cause of your symptoms and help you develop a personalized plan of action.

Beginning allergy medications about two weeks prior to the typical start of spring allergy symptoms may also prove beneficial. Over-the-counter medications not only treat these inconvenient reactions but can sometimes help to lessen their severity when they arise.

Remember, these store-bought medications are not a “cure” for allergies – just a relief for symptoms. Those looking for a more permanent form of relief from spring and other allergies should consult with their board-certified allergist about immunotherapy treatment..

Get a jump start on spring cleaning.

An intensive, deep spring cleaning session can have substantial benefits in the lives of allergy sufferers. Getting an early start on this process will give you an opportunity to cleanse your home of any allergens built up during the winter months, like dust or mold, and will make it easier to keep your home clean once pollen spread is in full swing.

A proper spring cleaning should cover anything and everything from the dusting of furniture and light fixtures to a house-wide vacuuming session, the cleaning of air conditioner filters and more. 

One important thing to keep in mind, especially if you are allergic to dust mites, is to clean frequently in order to reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions. It’s best to stay on top of dusting instead of pushing it off as a less frequent household chore.

Keep “new” pollen out.

While this is easier said than done, there are steps one can take that will help to limit your exposure to pollen and other outdoor allergens inside of your home.

  • Avoid leaving doors and windows open as much as possible. Irritants are airborne and any open portal is an extended invitation for allergens to enter your home. 
  • Change your clothes after arriving back home. Pollen can stick to fabric, and the chances that you’ve picked up some on your travels can be high depending on the day’s pollen count. Changing after you enter your home reduces pollen’s likelihood to be transferred to furniture and other surfaces.
  • Shower before crawling into bed. Cleaning off before you settle in for the night is a great way to ensure there are no leftover allergens left clinging to your hair which, if left in place, could end up on your pillow and face throughout the night.

Track pollen levels and build a schedule.

Complete avoidance of pollen and other allergens is a near-impossible task as we cannot control how much of and where these irritants collect. However, with the help of science and modern data collection, evading these allergens is a much more manageable task.

Pollen meters are a handy tool for those affected by spring allergies. These tools measure the current pollen count on a given day and assign a figure to these levels, indicating the severity of symptoms allergy sufferers may experience. In fact, Charleston Allergy and Asthma tracks the Lowcountry pollen count every weekday at our Summerville location, which is also home to the only local pollen meter in the tri-county area.

Fun fact: the pollen counts found on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s (AAAAI) nationwide allergy level map come from our pollen meter right here at Charleston Allergy and Asthma. As a certified pollen counting station, we submit our pollen counts for the Lowcountry to AAAAI every weekday. 

After familiarizing yourself with pollen count tools, it will be easier to create a schedule that works around peak allergy hours – typically mid-morning and early evening hours – and limits exposure to these irritants. 

Speak with your care provider and form a plan.

Preventative action is the key to lessening and avoiding allergy symptoms once spring arrives. If you find yourself experiencing sinus congestion, runny nose, coughing, sneezing, or other common symptoms more often during the springtime, it may signify you are prone to springtime allergies. 

Contact your local board-certified allergist to schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms and the need for allergy testing and treatment for relief.

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What Makes a Board-Certified Allergist Different?

Allergies can often involve many bodily systems – from your immune system and your lungs, to eye health and dermatology, you may end up seeing a wide range of healthcare providers when it comes to your allergy care journey.

While each provider has their own specialty, a board-certified allergist should always be at the center of your allergic care. We’ll go over what exactly this certification means, as well as what makes an allergist different from other healthcare providers. 

What is Board Certification?

Becoming a board-certified allergist is an extremely demanding process. Allergists must go through medical school, then a three or four-year residency. They must then pass a certification exam which is provided by either the American Board of Pediatrics or the American Board of Internal Medicine. 

Following this, they must spend a few more years training in a properly accredited allergy and immunology program. Once completed, they take another exam given by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. Only once this step is complete can a doctor be called a board-certified allergist. 

In many cases, this process can take nine or ten years after they already have a bachelor’s degree. 

Why Do Only Some Doctors Have Board Certification?

When doctors begin to practice, they must acquire a license. A doctor with a license is allowed to prescribe medications and diagnose conditions. Certifications function differently. They are a voluntary additional accomplishment that ensures you that a healthcare provider is trained at the highest level. 

Healthcare providers who seek board certification go above and beyond the usual requirements for practicing medicine, and are therefore able to provide a higher level of specialized care. Whether you’re dealing with seasonal summer or fall allergies, or a difficult food allergy you can’t identify, a board-certified allergist can help you hone in on how to move forward. 

What Are the Practical Differences I May Notice?

Visiting a board-certified allergist may not seem too different initially. After all, both will have normal doctor’s offices and be professional healthcare providers who have trained for years to provide you with care. In many cases, the differences will be in the details.

Due to their increased dedication to one medical subspecialty, board-certified doctors may have better equipment or tools to help diagnose or treat your condition. This can help streamline the diagnosis and treatment process to finding relief. 

Additionally, board-certified allergists will have demonstrated their knowledge of the field at a level beyond average, meaning that they will have more information at their disposal to use to help you get better. Board-certified allergists have continued education opportunities and must stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the allergy fields through memberships with the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) and the American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). This means they are armed and ready to help you when you need relief from your allergies.

Why Is Board Certification So Important for Allergies?

Board certification is naturally a good thing to look for in any doctor, but why is it especially important for an allergist? The reason has to do with how various and complex allergies are compared to many other conditions. 

When you have allergies, the issues relate to your immune system, which can affect all of your organs and body parts. The immune system is distributed through your body in a way that is more complex than almost any other system. While other specialists may study the kidneys or heart, allergists need a thorough understanding of how the immune system affects the functioning of the entire body. 

Board certification ensures that your allergist will have a specially focused set of knowledge, tools and skills to do their best to help you find relief. 

Final Thoughts on Board-Certified Allergists

If you are going to see an allergist, board-certified is the way to go. This will let you know that you are dealing with an expert who knows what you are up against and has likely seen your symptoms before. Especially for those with less common or food allergies, board certification can make a big difference.

Each of our board-certified allergists at Charleston Allergy & Asthma is dedicated to providing exceptional care and identifying the root cause of your allergy symptoms. If you’re searching for an allergist in the Lowcountry, schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified allergists.

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A Simply Stress-Free, Allergy-Friendly Cookie Recipe

We’ve found a delicious cookie recipe that’s free from 7 out of 8 of the top food allergens! Read along and take this recipe for a spin to enjoy a delicious holiday treat:

From the glow of fall foliage freshly laid upon the ground to the adornment of red and green wreaths on storefront windows, it’s clear to see that the signs are here…the holiday season is upon us! 

This time of the year is prime for family gatherings and home-cooked meals. But while time in the kitchen is perfect for bringing loved ones together, being tasked with cooking for others can sometimes prove stressful. This is especially true if any of your guests are living with food allergies.

Over 15 million Americans are currently living with a food-related allergy, and that number rises daily. While these allergies are most common amongst children, they are prevalent in people of all ages. Minding the diets of those enjoying your creations is especially important for keeping those around you happy and healthy this holiday season. 

We recently tested out this almond cookie recipe from Kitchn, and it was a household success. If you’re looking for a sweet treat that’s simple to make and safe for most individuals with food allergies (except those with nut and almond allergies), these cookies are the ticket!

Easy-To-Make Almond Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups finely ground almond flour (ex. Honeyville, Bob’s Red Mill)
    • Note: Avoid almond meal as its course texture will leave cookies crumbly.
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅓ cup dark maple syrup labeled Grade A with “dark with robust flavors”
    • Light maple syrup can be used but will leave cookies with a less pronounced maple flavor.
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Recipe:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the almond flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the maple syrup and vanilla. Stir until a sticky dough forms and holds together.
  3. Drop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, about one inch apart. For crisp cookies, press down the dough lightly with the flat bottom of a drinking glass or measuring cup. (If the glass sticks to the dough, dip the bottom of the glass in water.) For softer cookies, don’t press down the dough.
  4. Bake until the edges are golden brown, about 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the pan for about 3 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Cool the baking sheet between batches.

Mix-Ins: Add 1/2 cup chopped chocolate, nuts, or dried fruit to the batter before baking. 

Note: It’s always kind to consider those friends who might have food allergies when selecting your tasty mix-in additions. 

Not only are these almond cookies tasty, but they are also paleo, vegan and gluten-free! These sweet treats are perfect for satisfying the tastebuds and dietary restrictions of holiday party guests across the board. We’ll definitely be adding this recipe to our holiday baking traditions and hope you enjoy them too.

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Allergy-Friendly Restaurants in Charleston

When it comes to food allergies, we know that trying to pick a place to go out to eat can be quite the challenge. Whether you or someone you know is at risk of a slight reaction or could potentially go into anaphylactic shock from exposure to food allergens, it’s important to know which restaurants can provide a safe dining experience. 

We’re fortunate to live in a community that offers a wide variety of delicious culinary experiences, from downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant and into West Ashley or Summerville, there is no shortage of restaurants that deliver on crowd-pleasing tasty dishes. The key for those who have food allergies is finding out which restaurants cater to your needs and maintain an allergy-safe environment so that your risk of exposure is eliminated.

While the elimination of all food allergens is rarely achieved, there are some restaurants that locals have recommended based on their personal experience with navigating food allergies. We’re sharing some of the top recommendations our team has received recently to help narrow down your search for the perfect restaurant for you!

Please note, while the following restaurants have earned a local reputation for accommodating many food allergies, those suffering food allergies are always recommended to contact any restaurant prior to visiting in order to ensure it is fully safe based on each individual’s allergy triggers. Charleston Allergy & Asthma has not received any compensation for the below selection, all recommendations are based on customer reviews and feedback.

Burton’s Grill

Word on the street (or on the internet, that is) is Burton’s Grill is fully committed to accommodating individuals’ food allergies. They even have an Allergy Commitment on their website! Their Mount Pleasant location features a wide variety of options from seafood and Italian cuisine to Asian-inspired dishes and American classics, there’s sure to be something for every member of the family at this local allergy-friendly go-to. 

SNOB (Slightly North of Broad)

SNOB is a downtown favorite features a variety of allergy-friendly options for those looking for a delicious night out in downtown Charleston! It’s also a good option if individuals in your party are looking for gluten-free options. 

Gnome Café

Gnome Café’ is always happy to meet the needs of its guests with dietary restrictions. Gnome Café has garnered a great reputation for delicious vegan and vegetarian cuisine while also taking food allergies into consideration. Another plus: one of our own team members shared she’d eaten at Gnome Café numerous times and didn’t even realize she was eating vegan chicken salad and dairy-free, egg-free chocolate chip cookies! They’re just that good!

Cru Cafe

When it comes to avoiding dairy, some folks have shared that Cru Cafe is an excellent option to consider. This spot features a range of American cuisine and local seafood. It also prides itself on local vendor partners who supply its ingredients, so it’s a good option for supporting local as well!

Halls Chophouse

With locations in downtown Charleston and in Summerville (as well as across the Palmetto state), Halls is not only a Lowcountry staple, but has earned an incredible reputation for catering to its guests needs. If you’re looking for a fine dining experience with delicious food, Halls Chophouse is always an excellent choice. While it is known for its signature steaks, the staff takes dietary restrictions and food allergies seriously. They’ve been known to go out of their way to provide a superb experience for all guests and will even provide custom creations and combinations to meet allergy needs. Another fun fact: vegetarians can enjoy an excellent meal here too!

Kid Cashew

For those with soy allergies, Kid Cashew has been shared as a strong recommendation. They’re also known for their extensive vegan options if you have any in your party that are avoiding meat, dairy, etc. – they have several gluten-free options and feature a wide variety of small plates, sandwiches and salads. 

Basil

If you’re craving delicious Asian food but need to avoid shellfish, Basil is known for accommodating those with shellfish allergies. With locations in Mount Pleasant and North Charleston, these tasty Thai dishes are only a short drive away. 

Brown Dog Deli

When it comes to tracking down a tasty lunch in the heart of downtown Charleston, Brown Dog Deli offers a variety of sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, hot dogs and more. You can dine inside or enjoy the backyard patio while getting your fill of this lunchtime favorite. The staff offers accommodations and substitutions for “groovy” patrons with food allergies and we promise once you try it, you’ll want to go back for more.

Page’s Okra Grill

Several patrons have shared on social media that Page’s Okra Grill is accommodating for different allergies such as nuts and soy. This Mount Pleasant staple is widely known for incredible Southern food (just like grandma’s) and an insanely delicious variety of desserts. 

Do you have additional recommendations? We’d love to hear them! Send us a message on social media to share your favorite go-to allergy-friendly spots in and around the Charleston area. 

Also, be sure to let your server know if you have a food allergy prior to ordering at a restaurant, and always keep your EpiPen handy!

If you or someone you know suffers from food allergies, our team of board-certified allergists is here to help! Whether you’re in need of allergy testing or you’re looking to lessen your risk of allergic reaction through oral immunotherapy, we’re here for you every step of the way to help you find relief. Request an appointment today.

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Can you be allergic to the cold?

Grab a hat and take a coat! Allergy season doesn’t end when cold weather arrives. Frigid temperatures can mean more of the same (and sometimes worse) for allergy sufferers around the world.

As winter months roll in across the country, keep an eye out for signs of reactions that you may not notice throughout the rest of the year. Sinus symptoms that might seem uncommon to you during this time could be a sign that you are living with an allergy to cold temperatures.

What is cold urticaria?

Cold urticaria, or skin allergies related to the cold, occur when one’s body exhibits adverse reactions when exposed to colder temperatures – typically 39 degrees Fahrenheit or below. This rare condition is classified as a chronic, reactive skin disorder.

Cold temperature allergies are categorized into either essential (acquired) cold urticaria or familial (hereditary) cold urticaria. Those with familial cold urticaria have inherited this disorder from their family genes. Essential cold urticaria, on the other hand, is developed independently from one’s family medical history.

 It is important to note that these cold allergies are not strictly related to the temperature outside. Those living with cold urticaria can find themselves reacting to cold beverages and food, like iced tea or popsicles, as well as chilly swimming pools and more.

The exact figures of those affected by this condition are unknown, but experts estimate that cold urticaria affects one in 100,000 people.

Symptoms

Reactions of those living with familial cold urticaria will typically make themselves known within 24 – 48 hours of the initial exposure and remain present for about as long.

Symptoms of people with essential urticaria will notice symptoms appear within five to 30 minutes following exposure to the irritant. These symptoms fade much quicker than those with familial allergies, passing within 30 minutes of flaring.

Checking weather reports is encouraged for those living with cold allergies even outside of winter months, as damp and windy atmospheres may also cause reactions to flare up.

Signs and symptoms of a cold allergy-related reaction may include:

  • Temporary rash or hives on the area of skin exposed to the cold
  • Swelling of the hands when holding a cold object
  • Swelling of lips from cold beverage or food

Severe reactions may include:

Some living with this disorder may find that reactions will continue to worsen as their skin begins to warm up.

Treatment, precautions and beyond

Like with most allergies, avoiding the allergen is the best course of action in sidestepping unwanted reactions. However, this can be difficult in cases such as this where the allergen is simply temperature.

If exposure to cold is simply unavoidable, one can take steps to reduce the likelihood of reactions or lessen their severity at the least, such as taking an antihistamine prior to exposure and always carrying an EpiPen in case of severe reactions. 

If you are experiencing symptoms similar to or other than those listed above that you believe may be connected to an allergic reaction, you should schedule an appointment with a board-certified allergist. 

Your local board-certified allergist will be able to assist you in discovering and diagnosing the root cause of your symptoms and assist you in exploring options for treatment such as prescribing medication or beginning immunotherapy treatments

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The FASTER Act: What it Means for the Rise of Sesame Allergies and Food Allergy Research

On Friday, April 23, 2021, President Biden signed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act (S. 578), requiring that sesame be labeled on packaged foods and prioritizing food allergy research. This milestone has been years in the making, largely due to the rise in sesame allergies and the growth of food allergies and intolerance worldwide.

While sesame allergies have been increasing in the United States over the past 20 years, recent research released by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) in 2019 officially denoted sesame as the ninth most common food allergy in the United States. This new act mandates that beginning on January 1, 2023, all foods containing sesame should indicate the ingredient on the label.

Why is the FASTER Act important?

The passing of the FASTER Act is critical and timely as this will not only provide safety measures through food labels for individuals who are allergic to sesame, but also prioritizes food allergy advocacy and research. In fact, the act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a report on scientific opportunities in food allergy research that examines prevention, treatment and potential cures – an exciting step in management and care for the 85 million Americans who are affected by food allergies or intolerances.

How prevalent are sesame allergies in the U.S.?

Currently, more than 1.1 million Americans are allergic to sesame and some experts consider sesame allergy to have “increased more than any other food allergy over the past 10 – 20 years” in the United States. Until now, it has been much trickier to avoid sesame for those who are sesame allergic given the lack of official labeling, compared to other prevalent food allergies such as peanuts, eggs, etc.

What are the most common foods for sesame to be found in?

Oftentimes, sesame seeds are added to breads or sprinkled on hamburger buns. They are also frequently included in baked crackers. In addition, sesame is very popular in a variety of cuisines including Middle Eastern, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean. Sesame oil is also used for cooking such as marinating meats and vegetables for deep frying.

Here in the Lowcountry, sesame seeds are plentiful in our infamous “benne wafers,” believed to have been brought to Charleston during the 17th century by West African slaves. The benne wafers, or cookies, are both sweet and savory, and have always been deemed a “Charleston staple.”

Other foods that commonly contain sesame include:

  • Bread crumbs
  • Cereals (such as granola or muesli)
  • Chips (bagel chips, pita chips and tortilla chips)
  • Dipping sauces (baba ghanoush, hummus, tahini)
  • Falafel
  • Flavored rice, noodles, risotto, shish kebabs, stews and stir fry
  • Herbs and herbal drinks
  • Margarine
  • Processed meats and sausages
  • Protein and energy bars
  • Sushi
  • Vegetarian burgers

As you can see, avoiding sesame can become quite cumbersome, as it is found in so many foods that our society enjoys on a daily basis. It can even be found in some non-food items such as cosmetics, medications, nutritional supplements and pet foods.

What are the most common symptoms for a sesame allergy?

The level of sensitivity to sesame can vary from person to person, so not all reactions are the same. As with any allergy, reactions can also be unpredictable. Symptoms of a sesame allergy reaction can range from mild, such as hives, to severe, such as anaphylaxis.

How do I know if I’m allergic to sesame?

As recommended for suspicion of any food allergy, it is suggested that you request an appointment with a board-certified allergist. Your allergist will administer a physical exam, take a detailed medical history and possibly suggest a skin test. With a skin test, your results are available within minutes.

If you are diagnosed with a food allergy, your board-certified allergist will determine the best course of action to manage your allergy and avoid ingredients that could trigger an allergic reaction.

Our hope is that with the latest improvements in legislation surrounding sesame allergies, it will become easier for those who are allergic to sesame to avoid foods that can cause dangerous allergic reactions. We are also excited for the future of food allergy medicine with the emphasis on research and treatment that the FASTER Act brings!

If you are concerned you might have an allergy to sesame or another food, contact our team today to meet with one of our board-certified allergists.

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Dr. Carolyn with her dog Cider

Doctors and their Dogs

From their playful personalities and puppy-dog eyes to their joyful tail wags and the gift of putting a smile on faces young and small, it’s hard to deny that dogs truly are man’s (and woman’s) best friend! That certainly goes for our doctors here at Charleston Allergy & Asthma. We have a team full of dog-lovers, including some of our very own board-certified allergists!

We’ve rallied up all of the cute pup pictures, fun facts and some helpful tips on how you can still enjoy your favorite furry companion despite having pet allergies.

Folly

Folly is a sweet and affectionate English springer spaniel who’s been in Dr. Bruce Ball’s family for 9 years. He says she’s become quite the “velcro dog” during the pandemic and absolutely loves having the family home more. She’s a well-behaved, polite and sweet cuddly girl.

Learn more about how Dr. Ball recommends caring for pet allergies:

Is anyone in your home allergic to pets?

Yes, my son Devon is allergic. He completed allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) and has no issues now.

What do you tell people with pet allergies?

In my entire career, I have never told someone that they had to get rid of their dog. We’re not in the business of taking pets out of people’s homes. If it is determined that you are allergic, it’s preferable that you become desensitized through allergen immunotherapy before you find your pet. However, if you already have your pet, starting allergy shots is a good next step. Keeping the animal out of your bedroom is highly recommended while you become desensitized and we can prescribe medicines to help control your symptoms while your immune system is built up.

Do you have a favorite pet memory from childhood?

We always had English springer spaniels and one summer, we had a big litter. There was one particularly precocious pup in the mix. My favorite memory from that summer is we were all eating watermelon and he got a hold of a rind. Before we knew it, he’d eaten quite a bit and his little belly had puffed up round and he had a precious watermelon-pink face.

Gabriel

Gabriel, or “Gabe” for short, is the sweet Bracco Italiano of Dr. Thomas Harper. He’s been with the Harper family since his “gotcha day” on October 21, 2017. Though he may be a dog, Dr. Harper says, “he runs like a horse. Pounces like a cat. Will stand on hind legs and box you like a kangaroo.” He’s a 75-pound athlete and has mastered lots of tricks!

While the Harper family doesn’t have any pet allergies in their household, we asked Dr. Harper a few questions that our patients could benefit from:

What advice would you give someone who has pet allergies and wants to get a pet?

“When you are pet allergic, you are allergic to a protein that’s in the hair, saliva, dander, etc. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet. You can get pets that shed less, but they are still allergenic. If you want to get a pet, you can keep the pet outdoors, vacuum a lot, or invest in a HEPA filter.”

What about cats?

“Cats have a lot of allergen in their saliva and they groom their fur (which dogs don’t) so then allergen aerosolizes off their hair from grooming. If it’s an outdoor cat and the saliva aerosolizes, it’s no big deal. However, if the cat is in the house or an enclosed space, then the saliva aerosolizes and doesn’t go anywhere and the concentration increases.”

What is your top recommendation for treating pet allergies?

“You can also choose to be desensitized to the animals. Immunotherapy for pet allergies is incredibly successful. I have cared for three veterinarians that have been allergic to cats and dogs. Can you imagine? And they were all cured through immunotherapy.”

Boss

This handsome Boston terrier mix has belonged to Dr. Lindsey Stoltz Steadman for seven years. Full of energy with no pause button to be found, Boss is quite the handful and has plenty of nicknames including “Bossy,” “Bossydoodle” and even “Boo Bear!” You also might be impressed to hear that Boss can clear a 4.5” fence; he’s “like a gazelle.” Dr. Stoltz Steadman also had a pet growing up, a Yorkie named Spanky, who lived to be 17 years old!

When asked about pet allergies, Dr. Stoltz Steadman shared that she is mildly allergic to dogs but is able to control her symptoms with medicine and has likely built up a small tolerance to her allergies from Boss.  We asked her to give us a few tips for pet-lovers who struggle with allergies:

What advice do you have for someone with pet allergies longing for a pet?

“Expose yourself to different breeds, seek an animal out that sheds less. Keep them out of your bedroom, that will give you a short break from the allergens. I would definitely recommend getting started on an immunotherapy treatment prior to getting an animal so your symptoms will be better controlled. These treatments help alleviate your symptoms and often lead to complete relief from pet allergies in many of our patients.”

Indiana

This fluffy pup, known as Indiana or “Indy” belongs to Dr. Meredith Moore. He’s been with the family since December 2013! As a labradoodle, Indy is boisterous and energetic but he’s never met a person or animal that he didn’t fall in love with…except for a cat, that is.

Dr. Moore also shared how her family has dealt with pet allergies in their home:

Are you, or is anyone in your home, allergic to dogs? If so, what do you do?

“Yes, my oldest son is allergic to dogs. We had another dog that was a rescue and had her when Finn was growing up but we were moving so much when I was in the military that the dog went to live with grandparents. During this time, Finn developed his allergies to pets and we were unaware. When we settled, we rescued another dog and Finn had a terrible time with sneezing and wheezing so we were unable to keep that dog.  The family was so sad. We started Finn on allergy shots to try to combat this. After he was on for three years, we entertained the idea of getting another dog. We spent time with a friend’s labradoodle and also went and met a breeder and Finn did fine without any symptoms. Even in a room of 15 dogs! So, that’s how Indy joined our family.

There is no data that supports the term ‘hypoallergenic’ in terms of animals. All animals release allergens via saliva, skin, and urine that can affect people. It’s not uncommon for me to take care of patients who say they can tolerate their own dog but are symptomatic around other people’s dogs. Anecdotally, people claim they develop a ‘tolerance’ to their own animal.”

What advice would you give someone who is allergic to pets?

“It would be beneficial to you to treat the allergy first. If people have an animal already, we want to do whatever we can to have the allergic person and the animal tolerate one another. There are lots of things we can do and immunotherapy (IT) is the most effective. You can modify the home environment, as well, by limiting the animal’s indoor roaming space, effective cleaning and air filters. If you do not have the pet yet, then it’s better to treat with allergy shots before you get an animal and get it home. It’s not uncommon for patients to have mild reactions to animals but once the animal is home, it can be up to six months before your symptoms become intolerable.”

Cider

Dr. Carolyn Word’s pup Cyder is a 6-year-old American field black lab, but don’t let her age fool you, she is still very much a puppy! Cider loves to play fetch and could care less about meeting new dog friends, she just loves to throw her ball around. Dr. Word also shared her love for pets when she was growing up. Her family always had labs as pets and even had some rabbits and a feral cat named Simba!

Dr. Word’s family has also experienced pet allergies:

Are you or is anyone in your home allergic to dogs?

“My husband was allergic but completed allergy shots and he no longer has symptoms. I still remember when we were dating in high school, I would sit and wait with him for 30 minutes after receiving his allergy shots. That’s how we got to know each other.”

What advice do you have for someone who has pet allergies but wants a dog?

“Come visit us! I’ve seen so many patients that have pets, developed symptoms, and we were able to help them gain relief with allergy shots. If a pet licking your face is what will make you happy, we’re here to make that happen for you!”

If you’re longing for a pet but believe you might be suffering from pet allergies, our team of board-certified allergists is here to help. No need to sacrifice your love of your furry friends! Consider getting tested for allergies so that our team can help you with the next steps to find relief. Request an appointment with our team today.

 

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What Are Eye Allergies and How Can I Treat Them?

Although most people associate allergies with sneezing and wheezing, eye allergies are another common form that many suffer from. Officially called allergic conjunctivitis, eye allergies are often coupled with other allergy symptoms related to the respiratory symptom. However, some individuals may suffer from only eye allergies, without any sneezing, coughing or difficulty breathing.

We’ll run through a few important key details related to eye allergies, including what they are, their main symptoms and causes, and how they can be treated.

 

What Are Eye Allergies?

Like other allergic reactions, eye allergies occur due to a misfiring of the immune system in response to some external stimuli. Although the symptoms are different when compared to other allergies, the causes are often the same. In many individuals, eye allergies occur alongside other forms of allergies and are brought on by the same irritants.

 

Common Symptoms of Eye Allergies

Eye allergies usually come in the form of red, itchy and watery eyes. In some cases, the symptoms may look like pink eye or an eye infection. However, pink eye caused by infection will usually be accompanied by a thicker discharge. When in doubt, it’s best to see a doctor.

Eye allergies can affect the eye itself as well as the skin around the eyelid, which can also become irritated, red and itchy. In most cases, you will be able to notice that your eye allergies are only present around certain irritants, such as pollen, smoke, animals or certain cosmetics. This is in contrast to bacterial or viral infections, which will not vary in this same way.

 

What Are The Most Common Eye Allergy Triggers?

The triggers for eye allergies are most often the same as other allergies. You may find that your eyes are sensitive to pollen, dust, pet dander, mold spores, smoke, cosmetic chemicals or other irritants. In most cases, an allergen that causes respiratory allergies will also cause eye allergies when it comes in contact with your eye.

Like other allergies, eye allergies will often be seasonal. If you experience eye allergy symptoms like redness and itchiness only part of the year, especially the spring and summer, you likely have eye allergies. Although it is relatively rare for people to only suffer from eye allergies while exhibiting no other symptoms, it is possible.

 

How Do I Find Out What I’m Allergic To?

The first step to finding relief from eye allergies is identifying the cause of your symptoms. Our board-certified allergists may suggest allergy testing so that we can target exactly what may be causing you to suffer. Allergy skin tests are accurate, quick and cause minimal to no pain. In fact, we can identify what you are allergic to within minutes!

What Are My Options for Treating Eye Allergies?

Once we have identified the cause of your allergic reaction, there are different types of treatment options for eye allergies that might be recommended do you. These fall into three main categories, each of which has further subclassifications. The main categories are eye drops, oral medications and immunotherapy.

 

How Can Eye Drops Help?

There are different forms of eye drops available to help you deal with your eye allergy symptoms. Artificial tears are a common, easily accessible form of eye drops that help by washing the allergens from your eye. They will add moisture and flush your eye area. Although they are helpful for many, sometimes they are not strong enough to keep your symptoms at bay.

Decongestant eye drops can also provide relief for many. These eye drops can also include antihistamines, but don’t always — make sure to check the label. Decongestant eye drops shouldn’t be used for more than a few days. If your symptoms persist, make sure to talk to your doctor.

There are other types of eye drops available as well, such as mast-cell stabilizers. These are a newer type of antihistamine eye drop, and most forms require a prescription, although there are also over-the-counter versions available.

If you’re experiencing eye allergies, you should keep in mind that while eye drops can bring relief to eye allergy symptoms, they don’t always target the root of the issue. A board-certified allergist will be able to provide a treatment plan that helps target the underlying cause of your eye allergy symptoms.

 

Oral Medications

Oral medications for eye allergies will usually be allergy-specific medications or more general antihistamines. These will be the same medications that you take for other types of allergies. You may find that because these medications take longer to take effect, they are best used as a preventative measure earlier in the day before you encounter your allergen.

 

Does Immunotherapy Work for Eye Allergies?

Immunotherapy (often known as allergy shots) is a more comprehensive treatment type that targets your immune system directly. It involves injecting small amounts of your allergen(s) to desensitize your immune system and usually results in a medication-free reduction in allergy symptoms.

Immunotherapy is the one form of treatment that can truly target the root of your allergy symptoms, including eye allergies. If your eye allergies are very severe, this is an ideal option to explore and is the closest thing to a “cure” that can be found. A board-certified allergist can help you hone in on exactly what your allergens are and provide an immunotherapy treatment plan tailored just for you.

 

How to Avoid Eye Allergens

For many people that suffer from allergies, avoiding them is one of the best options. This can be difficult or inconvenient in some cases but is something you should not overlook if your allergies are severe.

Staying indoors during allergy season is what avoidance usually brings to mind. However, you can also dust-proof your home and take other steps such as washing your hair and face and changing your clothes to remove external irritants when you come home. Ultimately, the level of allergen avoidance and individual needs depends on the severity of your allergies and the type of allergens you are allergic to.

 

Key Things to Remember About Eye Allergies

The main thing to remember if you are dealing with eye allergies is that they are the same as other forms of allergies. You should also keep in mind that there are several different treatment options that can be recommended by a board-certified allergist. Talking to a board-certified allergist is the best way to make sure you are on the right path.

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Do I Have Skin Allergies?

Skin allergies can range from inconvenient to painful, and are dealt with by many people who suffer from other allergy types as well. These allergies can vary widely and exhibit different types of symptoms, so it is important to know what to expect. Additionally, some non-allergic conditions may display similar symptoms.

We’ll go through a variety of information related to skin allergies, such as common symptoms and treatment options, so you can know what to expect during allergy season.

 

What Are Skin Allergies?

Skin allergies function in a way that is similar to any other allergy but simply affect the skin. There are several unique features that skin allergies have, which we will get into in detail later. However, the fundamental principle is the same.

When someone has skin allergies, their immune system is over-sensitive in a way that causes the skin to react with itchiness, swelling or pain. People can experience allergic reactions in their skin from many of the same irritants that affect their respiratory system or eyes. Skin rashes can exhibit a variety of symptoms, from hives to dry or puffy skin.

woman-scratching-neck-rashSymptoms of Skin Allergies

The main symptoms of skin allergies include red bumps, hives and scaly texture, and is often accompanied by itchiness. Some skin allergies may also involve angioedema. This refers to swelling in deeper layers of the skin, which may be less visible. Symptoms may arise along with other types of allergy symptoms like sinus congestion or on their own.

Symptoms will usually only appear when the skin comes into direct contact with an allergen. This could be from natural irritants like pollen, or synthetic ones such as chemicals found in cosmetics.

 

What Are the Causes of Skin Allergies?

Skin allergies can be caused by a variety of irritants. In many cases, skin responds to similar irritants that also cause respiratory allergies. This can include things like pollen, animal dander and chemicals found in cosmetics.

However, the most common skin allergies are things that usually won’t cause any other type of allergy. This includes materials such as latex and nickel, which is often found in jewelry.

 

Is Eczema a Skin Allergy?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, exhibits many of the same symptoms as skin allergies. It is also associated with the development of certain food allergies, so the conditions may seem linked.

There are different types of eczema, and it is sometimes difficult to ascertain whether it is itself an allergy or an allergy-related illness. Flare-ups of food allergies or contact with irritants can exacerbate eczema symptoms. However, eczema is primarily caused by a certain genetic variation, so it is a bit more complex than other allergies.

 

How Do You Treat Skin Allergies?

skin-rash-on-backSkin allergies can be treated in many ways depending on the symptoms. The first step to finding a recommended treatment plan is visiting a board-certified allergist to discuss allergy testing. There are a couple of test options available for those suffering with skin allergies. Your board-certified allergists will likely talk with you about skin tests and patch tests.

Skin tests are performed by inserting a small drop of the suspected allergen just under the surface of the skin. Many suspected allergens can be tested at the same time in this way and results become available within minutes. It’s fast and relatively pain-free.

Patch testing is available for patients experiencing contact dermatitis, or a reaction when the patient comes into contact with a material that irritates their skin. Hypoallergenic patches containing individual allergens are applied to the patient’s back for 48 hours. The patches are read and the patient will be scheduled to review results with their allergist afterward.

Once allergy testing is performed, your board-certified allergist will provide a treatment recommendation. This can include immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots), which aims to fully target the root of the skin allergy.

There are a variety of medications available for those suffering with skin allergies, ranging from ointments to oral antihistamines. Some non-medical approaches can help alleviate symptoms as well. Cold compresses and oatmeal baths can sometimes help with burning pain and swelling, although their efficacy will vary. Your board-certified allergist will be able to recommend a treatment option that works best for you.

 

Using Avoidance for Skin Allergies

If you have an allergy to something that you can avoid more easily, like nickel, then avoidance is your best option. In some cases, you may have to choose the lesser discomfort of long sleeves over the greater discomfort of exposing your skin to allergens.

A big nuisance associated with skin allergies is that in some cases, you won’t be able to tell what you are allergic to. In this case, your best bet is to visit a board-certified allergist. They will be able to help you find out exactly what you react to, as well as how to best treat it.

 

Key Things to Remember About Skin Allergies

If you have skin allergy symptoms, then finding out the triggers should be a top priority. This shouldn’t be done alone — an allergy test given by a board-certified allergist is the way to go. Different treatment options target different types of symptoms, so make sure you get some advice about how to approach your symptoms before you begin a treatment regimen.

Learn more about your symptoms and consult with one of our board-certified allergists by scheduling an appointment today.

 

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Allergy and Immunology: A Misunderstood Medical Field

Ever wonder why there is a specialized medical field just for allergy? How about those old tales you’ve heard of classic allergy symptoms only to realize they were caused by something else? Believe it or not, there are plenty of misconceptions about allergy and asthma, which is why our team is dedicated to educating our patients on their condition and treatment every step of the way. Dr. Lindsey S. Steadman took the time to share about her experience becoming a board-certified allergist and how our team’s training equips us to give our clients the very best allergy and asthma care.

 

How does an allergist become an allergist?

In order to become an allergist, we go through many years of medical school and clinical training:

  • 4-year undergraduate degree – Most healthcare providers choose a major that they feel best prepares them for medical school, such as biology, chemistry, biochemistry, etc.
  • 4-year medical school degree – Medical school provides the basis of education in becoming a doctor, covering a wide variety of medical care and topics to ensure a well-rounded education.
  • 3-year residency program – All physicians must enter a residency program of some kind to complete their specialty training. As allergists and immunologists, we all have to receive training in either pediatrics or internal medicine. These are both 3-year residency programs, and they are each followed by a board exam that must be passed in order to become a certified pediatrician or internist.
  • 2 to 3-year fellowship – Residents interested in specializing further can then apply to various fellowship programs. The majority of allergy and immunology fellowship programs are two years long (occasionally three years long). Once we graduate from fellowship, we must pass a board exam in order to be certified in allergy and immunology.

After passing our boards, we are able to treat patients of all ages with any sort of allergic or immunologic disease. This includes, but is not limited to, environmental/seasonal allergies, food allergies, stinging insect allergies, anaphylaxis, hives and swelling, eczema, asthma, chronic/recurrent infections and immunodeficiencies.

 

Why is allergy and immunology such a misunderstood field?

Allergy and immunology is a poorly understood field not only in the general population, but also within the medical community. There are many different myths and “old wives’ tales” out there about allergy signs, symptoms and treatments amongst the general population. When patients are not properly educated by allergy experts, these myths and misinformation continue to circulate and become accepted as fact. Even in the medical field, allergy is a misunderstood because there is very little, if any, dedicated teaching or training on allergy and immunology in medical school or residency programs. Fellowship is where the true allergy and immunology training occurs, so a board-certified allergist is always recommended for patients suffering from any sort of allergic disease or immune deficiency.

We are trained on how to obtain a detailed history to determine whether or not testing and further work-up is needed. We are taught how to interpret the results of both skin and blood tests for various types of allergies, lung function testing for asthma, and blood work for immune disorders, all of which are oftentimes not very straightforward. We are also taught how to appropriately manage these issues with medications, allergy shots, biologics, immunoglobulin replacement, oral food/drug challenges and oral immunotherapy for select food allergies. Therefore, it is always recommended to seek the help of a board-certified allergist because we are the experts in the disease process, pathophysiology, diagnosis, management and treatment of all allergic and immunologic diseases.

 

What are some common myths about allergy and immunology?

  • Every sniffle or sneeze is an allergy and every cough or episode of shortness of breath is asthma… FALSE. Fortunately, we are trained to determine whether or not patients have allergies and/or asthma. Not only can we diagnose and treat these issues, but if patients’ allergy- or asthma-like symptoms are caused by something else, we can often help with those problems as well.
  • Every hive or episode of swelling is due to an allergic reaction… FALSE. This can be true at times, but there are also instances when hives are caused by other things as well. We are trained on how to determine whether or not there is an allergy-causing patients’ hives and swelling and how to treat them no matter the cause.
  • All allergic reactions get worse with subsequent exposures… FALSE. There is no way to predict the severity of an allergic reaction based on previous reactions or testing methods. However, we can help diagnose the cause of the allergic reaction (foods, insect stings, medications, etc.) and educate patients on what exposures would be unsafe and how to handle reactions in the future.

 

If you believe you’ve been experiencing allergy or asthma symptoms but you’re unsure of what to do next, leave it to the experts! All of our allergists are board-certified and our team is dedicated to helping you breathe better, feel better and live better. Schedule your appointment with the experts today.

 

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