If you have allergies, you likely know it. Sneezing, sniffling, itchy and watery eyes, the symptoms are sometimes overwhelming. Your immune system controls how your body defends itself and it overreacts to allergens you’ve inhaled, touched or ate. For example, if you’re allergic to dogs, your immune system identifies dog hair or dander as an invader. Your immune system produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (or IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. These reactions can range from annoying sniffles to a life-threatening response called anaphylaxis.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, but aren’t sure why or what’s causing them, allergy testing may be needed. Symptoms that usually prompt testing include:
Respiratory – itchy eyes, nose or throat; nasal congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, chest congestion, cough or wheezing
Skin – itchiness or eczema
Abdominal – vomiting or cramping and diarrhea consistently after eating certain foods
Severe reactions to stinging insect stings (other than swelling at the site of the sting)
Anaphylaxis (pronounced an-a-fi-LAK-sis): a serious allergic reaction that affects many parts of the body at the same time
Allergy tests are the best and safest way to tell exactly what triggers your symptoms. The most common triggers include dust mites, animal dander, mold, pollen, insects, foods, latex and drugs. An allergist/immunologist can perform multiple types of allergy tests.
Skin tests: This is the most common kind of testing done in the allergist’s office. In this test, a small amount of allergenic liquid is placed on your skin and this area is pricked or scratched. Redness and swelling at a testing site tells us you are allergic to the tested allergen. It is generally not much more bothersome than a bug bite. The results of this test are ready in minutes, so you leave the office knowing what you are allergic to.
Intradermal tests: Intradermal tests are more sensitive than prick tests and may be used when prick test results are inconclusive. In this test, a very small amount of the sterile testing liquid will be injected just under the surface of your skin, similar to a TB test. The results are available in minutes.
Challenge tests: Challenge tests are sometimes used when a doctor suspects you have a food or drug allergy. In this test, a patient will eat or inhale a very small amount of the possible allergen under the close supervision of a board-certified allergist. The amount is gradually increased over several hours to ensure a full serving or dose can be tolerated. This type of test should only be done by a board-certified allergist with experience treating anaphylaxis. For your safety, do not try this test at home!
Blood tests: For this test, blood is drawn and then tested for allergies. This test is more expensive than skin testing and it takes longer to receive your results. Interpretation of this test should be done by a board-certified allergist as a positive result does not necessarily mean the patient is allergic. It is best understood in conjunction with an extensive allergy history and skin test. Unlike skin testing, blood allergy testing can be done when patients are still on oral antihistamines.
Many people with untreated symptoms aren’t aware of how much better they will feel once they are properly diagnosed and their symptoms are managed. We are here to help you breathe better, feel better and live better!
Throughout 2020 and now into our second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people might be able to relate when saying the coronavirus “felt close to home.” Whether you have received a positive diagnosis personally or a loved one has been affected by COVID-19, when someone you know has a difficult experience with the virus, it can truly shape perspectives.
Our team is thankful to report that Sarah, a nurse here at Charleston Allergy & Asthma, is now farther along on her road to recovery than she was just a few months ago, but her experience with COVID-19 as a 37-year-old, healthy and active woman is not as uncommon as you would think.
When were you first diagnosed with COVID-19 and do you know how you may have contracted it?
I tested positive for COVID-19 on June 28, 2020. I’d recently gone in for a surgical procedure and had to be tested prior to that on June 23. I didn’t go anywhere prior to the surgery or after, so I assume that I contracted COVID during my hospital visit for the procedure. I began having symptoms on June 25.
What initial symptoms did you experience with COVID-19 and how did they progress over time?
Day 1: extreme lower back pain, terrible headache.
Day 2: sore throat, mild sinus congestion.
Day 3: raw and sore throat, severe sinus congestion, loss of taste and smell.
Day 7: intense sinus congestion, headaches and fatigue. Still no signs of fever, body aches or chills.
Day 10: chest tightness, breathing issues, starting to really decline.
4 weeks: breathing under control, but now experiencing heart issues including heart palpitations and chest pain. Received EKG that came back abnormal and was referred to a cardiologist.
Continued experiencing heart-related symptoms including an inconsistent heart rate. (i.e. Heart rate in the 140s while sitting and resting, 180s while standing, feeling short of breath, nearly passing out.)
5 weeks: diagnosed with tachycardia and began treatment for myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscles).
Also experienced a range of different symptoms in this time period, including hurting calf muscles, bloating, gas, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation and vomiting. Began to lose my hair in clumps, had extreme fatigue and felt “brain fog” (couldn’t remember words, had forgetful days, etc.) Felt like every nerve in my body was firing off at the same time, causing tremors. Taste and smell had only partially returned, certain foods tasted strange. Gained 30 pounds. Felt like every system in my body was failing.
Eventually diagnosed with Dysautonomia; autonomic nervous system was damaged by COVID-19, which controls heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and digestion. Severely deconditioned by the time physical therapy was started and had no muscles in hips or legs.
What specific treatment did you seek in hopes of recovering from COVID-19?
I have seen our wonderful Dr. Moore at Charleston Allergy & Asthma since my initial diagnosis. I also consulted with a pulmonologist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, neurologist and I have now been in physical therapy twice a week since the end of October. I received a wide variety of tests including chest x-rays, CT of the chest, EKG, ECHO, Holter monitor, cardiac MRI, endoscopy and colonoscopy. I’ve also been prescribed several medications including antibiotics, daily inhaled steroid, rescue inhaler, oral steroids, beta-blocker, colcrys, countless vitamins, turmeric, probiotics, peppermint oil pills and Pepcid.
Are you still receiving treatment for your COVID-19 symptoms?
I am still in physical therapy and follow up with my cardiologist and primary care provider every other month.
Are you still experiencing any lasting symptoms of COVID-19?
I still have heart rate issues, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath with exertion, headaches, brain fog and occasional GI issues.
How has COVID-19 affected your everyday life?
COVID-19 continues to have an extreme affect on my everyday life, even now as I’m many months post-diagnosis. I haven’t been able to work full-time in the office for over seven months. I’m fortunate my work has been so patient, as I have just started to return to the office occasionally, for a few hours at a time so I’m not pushing myself too hard. My work has made it possible for me to do some things from home so I can continue to have income. I haven’t been able to venture out anywhere, although we all should be staying home as much as possible to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 anyway. But I miss small, simple things, like going to the grocery store, picking up a coffee.
As I’ve started to feel better over time, I have experienced some exciting milestones. One big milestone was finally being able to clean my home on New Year’s Eve, it felt like such a big step after being bed ridden for so long. Who knew you could be so excited to clean your house?!
I’m incredibly grateful that Charleston Allergy & Asthma’s team has supported me throughout this journey. They have been super understanding if I’ve been unable to work or if I have a bad day. The people in my life, friends, family, co-workers, have had the greatest impact on my comfort and healing. There’s a big mental aspect to this disease and my support system has been incredible.
How are you currently seeking encouragement and support throughout your COVID-19 journey?
Early on into my diagnosis, I joined several Facebook support groups. After five weeks of being sick, I shared my story on Facebook and it went viral (pun intended) and was shared over 1,200 times all over the world. People were contacting me from New Zealand, Australia, Africa, Germany and throughout the U.S. I have honestly met people that I now consider friends or my “COVID sisters” as we joke, who are going through the same thing as me. My boyfriend, family and friends have been amazing and have helped me with so much. Plus, I am lucky to work from home right now and have also been able to do some self-care by reading books, binging shows, and even took up paint-by-numbers!
What encouragement do you have for those who have similar cases of COVID-19?
I think the biggest thing for people going through this is being your own biggest advocate. Doctors don’t know what causes these symptoms and you really have to fight for treatment and make sure your providers are listening to you. Most testing comes back normal which is frustrating, yet you have all these things going on in your system that can’t be explained. Also, be patient with the healing process. Early on, I knew that I was going to be in this for the long haul and tried my best to stay positive and not get discouraged when I had setbacks. Your mental attitude and fight toward this is everything.
Don’t underestimate COVID-19. Yes, a lot of people get through this illness, but sadly a lot of people have lost their lives. You truly do not know how your body will react. I was a healthy, active 37-year-old with no health issues and I had my life as I knew it stripped away from me. And, unfortunately, my case is not uncommon. There are thousands of people going through what I am going through and it just really is not talked about widely. We need our story to be heard so that more take notice and help figure out what is going on.
Sarah is still on the road of recovery from COVID-19 and continues to serve as an incredible member of the Charleston Allergy & Asthma team. She recently received her COVID-19 vaccinations along with the rest of the Charleston Allergy & Asthma staff and shares her story to help raise awareness of the potential affects the coronavirus can have on those diagnosed with the virus.
Albuterol sulfate inhalational aerosol manufactured for Perrigo Pharmaceutical Company has been voluntarily recalled. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the recall was due to possible clogging of the inhaler that results in patients not receiving a full dose of medication.
If you have an unexpired albuterol inhaler with the Perrigo logo, please contact the pharmacy you received it from. The pharmacy can advise you on how to get a replacement for the recalled inhaler.
Allergy season has sprung! While many of us have been at home during quarantine, we’ve also taken advantage of the beautiful Charleston weather. The sun is out, the bees are buzzing and the flowers are blooming. And that means even though many things have been cancelled, allergy season is still here to stay.
The amount of pollen, triggering allergy symptoms in 50 million Americans each year, rises considerably in spring and summer. Breathing in tiny particles of allergens causes seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever. Not only can this lead to sinus infections, but it can also disrupt your sleep and affect your ability to be productive during the day.
Itching in the nose, throat and eyes
Dark circles under the eyes
There are generally three pollen seasons: spring (trees), summer (grass) and fall (weeds).
Luckily, symptoms will only last as long as you’re exposed to the allergen. There are ways to avoid your allergy triggers, and avoidance is the best way to reduce symptoms.
Try to limit outdoor activities during days with high pollen counts. If you want to spend a day outside, but have allergies, the best time is right after a rain, when the pollen level is lower. (However, if you have mold allergies, rain will make those allergens worse.) Remember, you can keep track of the pollen count on our website! We count it Monday through Friday right here in the Lowcountry! It’s always best to keep your home and car windows closed to help keep pollen out. If you’re outside for an extended period of time, take a shower when you get home to get the pollen out of your hair. If you love gardening, avoid touching your eyes or face when doing yard work, and consider wearing a mask to reduce the amount of pollen that you breathe in and shower immediately afterward.
So what can you do?
If you’re already on a regimen for allergies, your medication should be taken well before the first sniffle or sneeze. Experts recommend you begin treatment two weeks before your symptoms usually surface during the allergy season. If you aren’t sure when that is, a good rule of thumb: allergy season starts when the trees begin to start budding.
If you don’t know what you’re allergic to, a board-certified allergist/immunologist can diagnose your allergies and determine the specific triggers that cause them. Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, can modify and prevent disease progression. Request an appointment today with Charleston Allergy & Asthma for allergy testing.
Recently, we have all become part of a whole new world brought on by the COVID-19 virus. As we are isolated and quarantined to our homes to reduce exposure, we are finding ourselves cleaning…and cleaning out…and cleaning some more! A spring cleaning would seem like a great way to occupy our time and help our family’s underlying allergies and asthma; however, many of us have allergies and asthma, which can frequently be triggered by indoor household exposure. Not to worry, you can still give your space a good cleaning, just be careful with your choice of cleaning products. Our goal is to keep you safe and healthy!
Dr. Harper once had a patient who was hospitalized because they were cleaning floor tiles with diluted bleach. Unbeknownst to the patient, her supervisor had sprayed ammonia ahead of her cleaning efforts. The mixture of diluted bleach and ammonia producedchlorine gas, which was used as chemical warfare in WWI.
Certain household cleaning products that are readily available can trigger significant respiratory problems, even in individuals without prior lung disease. Arecent study in the American Review of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine indicates that women who are employed as household cleaners have an accelerated loss of lung function, particularly if they are using spray cleaners.
Allergy sufferers should make household chores part of their allergy management plan. Cleaning reduces the number of allergens in homes which can ultimately help alleviate your allergy and asthma symptoms. Indoor allergen avoidance would include reducing dust-collecting clutter, regularly vacuuming with a HEPA filter vacuum, regularly washing blankets and throw rugs, washing all bed linens in hot water once a week, keeping counter surfaces clean and dry,and not leaving food out.
Individuals who have asthma have increased airway twitchiness which can be triggered by irritant and noxious odors including cigarette smoke, chlorine, fragrancesand ammonia. If one has asthma or allergies, care should be taken to choose cleaning products which are milder and do not trigger worsening of your symptoms.
Certain potent cleaning products can be mucosal irritants and can cause a worsening of respiratory symptoms in patients with allergies and asthma. The best way to avoid irritation from cleaning products is to have someone else in the household do the cleaning when the allergy sufferer is away from home. This could be a perfect time for your spouse to clean while you enjoy a walk!
There are particular home cleaning products which should be avoided by individuals with allergies and asthma. These products include formaldehyde, ammonia, sodium lauryl sulfate, D-limonene and sodium hypochlorite (bleach). Unfortunately, these chemicals can be found in a wide variety of available cleaning products including furniture polish, disinfectants, mold removers, dish detergents, hand soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, all-purpose cleaners and drain/oven/grill cleaners. “Green” cleaning products can be milder and better for those with allergies, but labels should be read carefully. Interestingly, simple baking soda and vinegar in varying concentrations can clean just about anything in your home!
The best cleaning tools for allergen reduction include a vacuum cleaner, particularly with a double bag system or HEPA filter system. Additionally, a fabric allergen sanitizer vacuum can eliminate 99.9% of dust mites and bacteria from fabric surfaces. Washable microfiber cleaning cloths are safe and effective. Likewise, disposable dust wipes, protective mask and gloves and unscented and dye-free laundry products are safe and work well.
There are many, many cleaning products advertised on the internet, although the safety and effectiveness of these products can be questionable. How do you choose a safe cleaning product?The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA) has developed a certification program to document specific advertised products as being safe from false, exaggerated, or misleading claims. These products can be found on theAAFA website.
If one is inclined to be a “do-it-yourselfer,” safe gentle homemade cleaners can be prepared without an advance chemical degree or access to industrial-strength petrochemicals.The following is a list of a safe products which can be easily prepared.
All-purpose cleaner: Mix 2 cups of vinegar and 2 cups of water to create an all-purpose cleaner and disinfectant. Do not use this cleaner on marble. It can be used on both kitchen and bathroom surfaces.
Scouring cleaner: Mix ¾ cup of baking soda and ¼ cup of water to create a paste for cleaning sinks, tubs, toilet, ceramic, aluminum, chrome, and stainless steel. This same paste can be used to polish silverware.Alternatively, mix ¼ cup of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of liquid detergentand enough white vinegar to make a creamy texture. You can also add a squeeze of lemon into the paste for a fresh and clean smell.
Drain cleaner: Pour ¼ cup of baking soda in one cup of vinegar down drains. The combination of the two will create a fizzy cleaner that will scour inside of your drain pipes.Rinse with hot water.
Dishwasher cleaner: Pour ½ cup of vinegar into the reservoir of your dishwasher and run an empty cycle to disinfect and cleaning the interior of your dishwasher.
Mold and mildew cleaner: Spray vinegar on shower walls and curtains to clean and prevent mold and mildew. Wait 15 minutes, rinse and let dry thoroughly.
Window cleaner: Mixtogether one cup of water, one cup of rubbing alcohol and 1 tablespoon of vinegar. This cleanser works great at cleaning glass without leaving streaks or residue.
Garbage disposal cleaner: Grind peels from oranges, lemonsand limes in the garbage disposal with a handful of ice. The ice willsharpen the disposal blades while the citrus peels cleans and freshen the air.
So, while we’re all at home right now twiddling our thumbs for the next clean out project, make sure you are using the best cleaning product for your allergy and asthma needs. If you can’t find what you need, hopefullythis list of DIY cleaners is helpful. Butif you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, please see theCDC’s cleaning instructions.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has very similar symptoms to the flu, like fever and cough. But, patients with the flu often experience additional symptoms like a runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, headaches, muscle/body aches and fatigue (overall tiredness). With allergies, on the other hand, you will NOT have a fever. But, allergies can cause a runny nose, nasal congestion, sinus pressure, sneezing, post-nasal drip, itchy/watery eyes and worsening cough/wheeze for those with asthma.
Symptoms of Coronavirus
The primary symptoms of Coronavirus include fever (100.4 or higher), cough and shortness of breath. Patients usually begin experiencing fever and cough first, then several days later develop an acute or rapid onset of shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. There has been very little wheezing, nasal congestion, runny nose or sinus pressure reported. Symptoms occur within 2-14 days after exposure to this virus. Coronavirus can be transmitted within six feet of infected patients through their cough or sneeze. Patients who are at particularly high risk for severe Coronavirus symptoms are the elderly population and those with a weakened immune system.
How to avoid the Coronavirus
Ways to help decrease the spread of Coronavirus include good hand hygiene, avoiding those who are sick, wearing masks and gloves while in a large crowd, refraining from handshakes and hugs and limiting travel as much as possible. Good hand hygiene includes washing hands for at least 20 seconds with warm soap and water or using waterless alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Most patients have fairly mild symptoms and only need a lot of rest, fluids and over the counter medications. But, those who develop more concerning symptoms like shortness of breath and difficulty breathing require treatment.
Here’s a comprehensive look at the symptoms you need to look for:
If you are experiencing fever and cough or shortness of breath, please either call our clinic or utilize the Roper or MUSC Coronavirus telehealth screening resources.
For revolving information on the Coronavirus/COVID-19, please follow the CDC here.
We’re buzzing with excitement to welcome Lindsey Stoltz Steadman, M.D. as the newest provider on our award-winning team of board-certified allergists. Originally from the Midlands, she is now happy to call the Lowcountry home.
While Charleston is certainly a scenic, beautiful place to live, it can be tough on the allergies this time of year.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranks Charleston as the 26th-most-challenging city to live in with allergies this fall. The report is based on pollen levels, use of allergy medications per patient, and the number of allergists per patient.