Insect allergies are a major problem during the summer months. People are more likely to participate in outdoor activities, such as swimming, hiking and yard work, and therefore are likely to come into contact with various insects. These insects, which are enjoying the warm weather as well, can sting people. Most people experience some type of reaction after being stung by a bee or bitten by a mosquito. Usually, these reactions include pain and swelling around the sting. Allergic reactions can also occur as a result of a sting, and can even be life-threatening. Find out more about insect sting and bite allergy, who should undergo testing, and the treatments that are available.
Summer vacation brings to mind all sorts of great outdoor activities - from camping at the lake or trips to the beach, the warm summer months lead to water activities, such as swimming in the lake, surfing in the ocean or waterskiing in the river. Unfortunately, many people will experience an itchy skin rash after aquatic sports. There are many causes of itchy rashes after swimming, including insect bites, cold urticaria and many causes of sun allergy after a day in the sun. Microscopic organisms cause two special types of itchy rashes after swimming, one from exposure to freshwater (lakes, ponds, rivers and streams), the other from saltwater (the ocean).
Learn more about the causes of a rash after swimming.
It's quite common for people with asthma to feel much better during the summer months, and therefore take a break from their asthma controller medications. Kids are out of school, possibly less active, have fewer respiratory tract infections, and therefore often have less asthma symptoms. It would be reasonable to think that people don't need their asthma controller medications during the summer months. Unfortunately, this common practice is one of the reasons why asthmatic children get so sick in the autumn months when they get a viral respiratory tract infection. In fact, our office gets inundated with sick asthmatics in September -- a few weeks after school starts and kids start spreading around the common cold virus. Children often wind up in the emergency room or hospitalized for their asthma as a result.
The most common reason for asthma attacks in children isn't allergies or exercise -- but respiratory tract infections. This is why the fall and winter months tend to be the worst for asthmatics -- this is cold and flu season. Most asthmatics who require a daily controller therapy should stay on this medicine year-round, because even missing a few weeks or months of the medicine leads to untreated inflammation in the lungs -- just waiting for a respiratory tract infection to make things worse. Therefore, taking a summer break from asthma controller medicines isn't the best idea. The first day of school -- and the first cold of the season -- is just around the corner.
Food allergies are becoming increasingly common in the United States (U.S.), particularly in children. The rate of peanut allergy, in particular, has doubled in the U.S. and other Westernized countries over the last 10 years - and now affects 1 to 2% of the population. It is not clear why other countries in the world have lower rates of peanut allergy than in the U.S., but it is thought that the type of food processing method used might play a major role. In the U.S. and U.K., peanuts are generally dry roasted, compared to other countries in the world, where peanuts are more commonly boiled, fried or even pickled. A recent study looked at how processing peanuts changed how people with peanut allergy reacted to them - rather, how IgE antibodies in a blood sample reacted to peanut allergens in a blood test for allergies.
If how peanuts are processed affects the ability of the food to result in a food allergy, it begs the question: Does eating processed foods, in general, influence the chance of developing food allergies? Since we as a society frequently eat more processed foods, and less "raw" (unprocessed) foods, this could be one explanation as to why there has been an increase in the rate of food allergies over the past few decades. Food processing could change the characteristic of the food allergen, making it more likely to cause symptoms of food allergy. We may find that certain types of processing causes more allergies, while other processing methods don't affect the risk of food allergy -- or even reduce the chance of developing food allergies.
Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer -- a time for being outdoors with friends and family. Many people go camping, picnic at the beach, or barbeque in the backyard. But along with these outdoor activities comes the possibility of outdoor allergies. Allergies to summer pollens, stinging and biting insects, hidden food ingredients, and smoke from campfires and barbeques can ruin an otherwise perfect activity for some people.
It has been nearly a decade since the last major new development in asthma therapy, Xolair, was FDA approved and became available for use in the United States. Despite the availability of inhaled coritcosteroids (ICS), combination products containing ICS and long-acting bronchodilators (LABAs) such as Advair, leukotriene blockers such as Singulair, as well as Xolair -- more than half of asthmatics have uncontrolled asthma. A recent study on a new drug, called dupilumab, showed promising results for the treatment of patients with moderate to severe persistent asthma. Dupilumab is a monoclonal antibody directed against interleukin-4, a signaling chemical that drives the production of IgE and the proliferation of allergic cells in the body. Subjects were given weekly injections of dupilumab for 1 month (and continued for up to 3 months), then attempted to reduce and/or stop their usual asthma medications. Patients taking dupilumab were able to stop using ICS and LABAs with fewer asthma symptoms than those who were given placebo. While this small study shows promising results, dupilumab is likely years away from becoming available as an FDA-approved drug for the treatment of asthma.
A woman with a severe peanut allergy states that she is withdrawing from the University of Washington over concerns for her own health and safety. The university initially placed signs outside of the woman's classrooms declaring the rooms to be "peanut/nut-free". Recently, the school has removed these signs and has simply sent letters to other students politely asking them to cooperate with a nut-free policy within the classroom. The school states that the signs presented a false sense of security and did not guarantee that the rooms would truly be nut-free.The woman no longer feels safe as a result of the change, and therefore has decided to withdraw from the university.
This is another example of complete absurdity related to allergic diseases. First of all, there is no evidence to support the notion that a person with peanut allergy would be at danger of an allergic reaction without the direct exposure or consumption of peanut-containing foods. The smell of peanuts does not result in allergic reactions -- there is no protein in odors (which cause food allergic reactions); volatile organic compounds are present in food odors, which don't cause allergic reactions . Second, there is no way to completely ban peanuts within a classroom, which would be required to ensure the safety of the individual. How would the ban be enforced? Are other students searched for peanuts prior to entering the classroom? What would the penalty be? What about the rights of the other students to eat peanuts? Does the university obtain a "peanut-sniffing" dog to roam the classroom to find the contraband? If so, what about the other students with dog allergies? Third, when does a 26-year old woman become responsible for herself, and less reliant on what the university can or cannot provide? What happens when this person enters the workforce?
In my opinion as an allergist, the school acted appropriately. The woman described in this story has both unrealistic fears about her medical condition and unrealistic expectations about what sacrifices others around her need to make in order for her to feel safe.
Summer is nearly upon us, with those hot sunny days and warm nights. Time to spend more time outdoors, at the beach or in the pool. Along with sun exposure comes the need to use sunscreen to prevent sunburn and long-term sun damage. But with the increased use of sunscreen comes the potential for an unintended reaction -- sunscreen allergy. Sunscreen has the potential to cause contact dermatitis to many of the active ingredients. This leads to any itchy, bumpy, red rash where the sunscreen was applied. Topical steroids are often helpful to treat the rash, but the culprit sunscreen should then be followed. This may prevent the ability of a person to spend time in the sun due to a fear of using sunscreen. However, there is a way to find out which chemical caused the reaction, and which sunscreen may be tolerated. Finding the right sunscreen can result in having safe, healthy sun exposure this summer!
- Sunscreen Allergy
- Which Sunblocks Can I Use With Sunscreen Allergy?
- Other Skin Reactions From Sun Exposure
Spring hay fever season finds people desperate to find relief from their nasal allergy symptoms. Natural therapies, without the use of medicines, are becoming more popular, especially among allergy sufferers. It is a popular notion that eating honey is a natural remedy for symptoms of allergies and asthma. Honey contains various ingredients, including pollen allergens and components of honeybees. Locally produced honey would be expected to contain local plant pollens to which a person would be allergic, and therefore is the preferred type of honey for allergies. It makes sense that consuming pollen-containing honey would improve allergies, much like how sublingual immunotherapy works. And, the fact that many people have experienced anaphylaxis from eating honey means that there may be enough pollen to stimulate the immune system. Read more to find out if eating local honey is a good idea for treating your hay fever symptoms.
- Eating Honey to Treat Hay Fever
- Share Your Story of Eating Honey to Treat Your Allergy Symptoms
- Overview of Alternative Treatments for Allergies
If you're a parent, you've probably done it -- or thought about doing it -- cleaned your baby's pacifier using our own mouth. Maybe you were just adding moisture prior to giving it back to our young child, but this simple act of love may have actually protected your baby from the development of various allergic diseases. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that parents who cleaned their infants' pacifier by sucking on it actually reduced the chance that their child developed asthma or eczema by 18 months of age. The benefits of a reduction of asthma continued through 36 months of age. The authors theorize that the transfer of beneficial bacteria from the mouth of parents to their young child resulted in stimulation of the immune response away from the development of allergies.
- Overview of the Prevention of Allergies in Children
- Prevention of Allergies and Asthma
- Prevention of Food Allergies