how to navigate Easter with allergies

Easter with Allergies

The Easter and Passover holidays are here! Holidays mean family centered fun, festive meals, and usually sweet treats to enjoy. For allergy suffers, however, they can sometimes be challenging to navigate. Aside from the usual pollen and food allergies, brightly dyed eggs, household pets, and sweet baby chicks and bunnies can also wreak havoc on the nose and chest. Here are some tips to navigate the upcoming holidays and ensure that you and your family celebrate safe and happy.

Easter and Food Allergy Considerations

Traditional holiday meals are at the cornerstone of Easter and Passover. Plan the meals out in advance and be mindful of any guests that may have a food allergy. Be flexible and try to switch ingredients for allergy-friendly alternatives, eliminate a recipe from the menu altogether, or take care to prepare allergy-friendly dishes separately from the other meals. If you are not sure if guests have a food allergy, consider printing recipes out for each of the dishes and allow people to determine if it’s a safe food for them to indulge in. Also consider avoiding a buffet style offering, or separating allergen safe foods from allergen containing foods in two different areas or tables.

Sweet Treats

These spring holidays typically mean chocolate and sweet treats to younger members of the family, or those young at heart. Try to again consider those guest and family members that may have allergies to things like chocolate, so they are not left sitting on the sidelines. Allergy to chocolate itself, or the cacao bean, is incredibly rare, however more commonly the offenders are milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and corn. A little research will provide an array of options of dairy free or peanut/tree nut free brands of treats. Always check labels to see if the offending food in contained in the ingredients list, or mentions it was produced in a facility that also processes other allergen containing foods putting your loved one at risk of cross contamination.

Keep in mind most chocolate does contain soy in the form of soy lecithin to keep it solid at room temperature, and white chocolate commonly contains corn in the form of corn syrup. If the treats offered are of the homemade variety, it can be even more challenging for a food allergy sufferer due to lack of label to research ingredients.

If you suffer from food allergies, a good rule to follow if “If you can’t read it, don’t eat it”. Plan to bring some of your own safe snack or goodies, unless you can make sure your host prepared foods allergen free, safely away from other allergen containing food, and on a separate and thoroughly cleaned surface. In lieu of store bought or homemade edible treats, consider offering nonfood items for younger guests such as books, sporting goods, stickers, novelty items, or toys.

Easter Egg Related Allergies

Although the majority of food allergens are most offensive if ingested, it is important to consider that some people do have reactions or develop irritations from contact exposure to egg or the dyes used to make them bold and bright. If colorful dyed egg hunts are part of your spring holiday tradition, there are alternative ways to include everyone on the fun.  Instead of using traditional eggs and egg dye, consider eggs made of wood, ceramic, or plastic, and consider natural dye alternatives. Other options include making gelatin eggs, egg sugar cookies for decorating, or decorating marshmallows in place of eggs. Also, consider replacing the hard-boiled egg on the Passover Seder plate with a ceramic or plastic egg to keep guests anxiety free.

If the above-mentioned allergies are life threatening for you or a loved one, always make sure to carry a minimum of two epinephrine auto injectors if it is prescribed. Make sure the epinephrine autoinjector is carried in a way it can be accessed and administered within 60 seconds of a need arising. If you or a loved one does have life threatening allergies, it is always a good idea to check with your health insurance and ensure you know where to seek medical care should the need arise if celebrating the Spring holidays out of town.

Pollen Considerations

Food allergens typically are the easiest to keep front of mind during the holidays, however equally as difficult for allergy suffers and arguably more difficult to avoid are the tree pollens and mold spores blowing in the air. These unwanted guests can ruin any picnic or outdoor gathering with nasal, sinus, eye, and chest symptoms. If there is both indoor and outdoor venues at the celebration location, try to minimize the time spent outdoors. If you are hosting the celebration, try to offer an indoor haven if planning to spend time outdoors, as well as keep windows and doors closed at the indoor space. Also, minimize the exposure to outdoor allergens while traveling to the destination by keeping windows up in the car and instead using the air conditioning.

Celebration Times

It is a good habit to always check pollen counts for the area where you will be celebrating. If you are planning the celebration, try to have it start mid-day or later due to peak pollen times typically occurring in the first half of the day (specifically 5am 10am). Also, it would be beneficial to plan the event outside of heavily grassy areas or those densely populated with trees. This may help to decrease the concentration of allergens in the air.  If the celebration will be entirely outdoors with no indoor refuge, it is a good idea to make sure you are on top of your allergy medication or immunotherapy regimen before going. It may be wise to pack a few changes of clothing as well as wet wipes for the ability to remove pollen from your immediate environment every few hours.

Once you return home from the festivities, plan to shower or bathe before prioritizing any other activities. It is especially important to bathe before crawling into bed, to remove any allergens that have adhered themselves to your skin or hair. This is especially important before allowing them to have access to your pillow or sheets and being in the immediate space and air you breath in all night.

Easter and Passover Gifts or Decor

Many people choose to show their appreciation to their host or show their love to their family by bringing beautiful spring flowers or plants to the celebration. Unfortunately, people can have severe symptoms such as sneezing, along with nose and eye itching and watering related to the pollen, or just the smell of particular flowers. Even an asthma attack can be triggered from them. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there are many flowers you can get at a florist that produce little pollen. Look for tulipsroses, begonia, columbine, crocus, daffodil, and geraniums if you want to be safe.

Pet Allergies

We cannot forget about the cherished furry family members that may be in attendance for the spring holiday celebration. There may also be the propensity to give the give of baby chicks or bunnies this time of year. Dander, saliva, sweat, and urine from adorable dogs, cats, and even bunnies can trigger an allergic response in some people. If possible, try to keep pets confirmed to only a certain area of the celebration so that those that wish to enjoy them can, while those that are unable can find refuge elsewhere.

Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before returning to an animal free area of the celebration, before partaking in shared food items, or before touching your face, mouth, or eyes. Also, make sure the recipient of a new spring pet is not triggered by them. Although recent literature has shown us a true allergy to bird feathers is rare, there are substantial amounts of dust mites found in feathers that can trigger unwanted allergy symptoms.

Allergy Treatment Options

If you or a loved are unsure whether tree pollen, grass pollen, mold spores, dust mites, or animal dander are potential allergy triggers and the cause of the nasal congestion, runny nose, post nasal drip, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes you have been suffering with, seeing your provider for an allergy test may provide the clarity they are looking for! Some providers may have the ability to access food concerns as well. And if you are already aware of true allergy triggers, but the spring allergy medication and avoidance measures are just not cutting it, there is still time to see your provider and discuss starting allergen immunotherapy.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and immunology. 

United Allergy Services is also on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter. See other interesting and related articles on the UAS Blog.

https://unitedallergyservices.com/blog/patients/5-ways-tame-seasonal-allergies/


Baseball season for allergy sufferers

Tips for Balancing Baseball and Allergies

Spring means longer days, warmer weather, and the beginnings of baseball! Unfortunately for some allergy suffers, the start of the long-anticipated baseball season also means the time of year when allergens such as tree pollen are at an all-time high. Sneezing, wheezing, and itchy, watery eyes can make games or practice challenging for you or your little leaguer. Even more concerning? The thought of major league games and contact with baseball’s favorite sidekick...peanuts! You can still enjoy this spring and baseball season with a little planning for your allergies.

Eliminating all outdoor sports and activities may seem like the best decision, and for many, it is. However, if skipping out on baseball or other outdoor sports due to allergies just is not an option, we can help. Here are some tips that will help allergy suffers enjoy watching America’s pastime and PLAY BALL!

Airborne Allergy Tips

Check the weather forecast before heading to the game. When checking out the weather, it is good practice to also check the pollen counts in the area. Keep in mind that peak pollen times are typically in the first half of the day, specifically 5am 10am. Attending practices or games midday or in the afternoon may help to reduce exposures.

Baseball and outdoor allergies don't have to be in competition with one another. If you have a little leaguer, packing wet wipes is good practice. Wiping down their hands, face and neck can be helpful to combat those distracting allergy symptoms when out on the diamond. Also, make sure your favorite player is not relying on allergy medication that could make them drowsy. There are non-sedating medication options, or allergen immunotherapy that are worth discussing with their provider.

After a long practice or game, it is beneficial to change your clothing as soon as possible. Also helpful is an immediate shower, especially before crawling into bed. The shower will help to wash away any allergens that have adhered themselves to your skin or hair. This is especially important so that the allergens aren't transferred to your pillow or sheets, remaining in the immediate space you breathe in all night.

Planning for Stinging Insects and Food Allergies

If your allergies include stinging insects or even food, planning ahead can alleviate a lot of anxiety. Always make sure to carry a minimum of two epinephrine auto injectors if there is a known insect or food allergy. Make sure the epinephrine auto injectors can be accessed and administered within 60 seconds if the need arises.

If food allergies are present, especially peanut, legume, or tree nut, it can make the lyrics “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks” send shivers down your spine. Fortunately, most large baseball stadiums across the country have become aware of the dangers and distress surrounding food allergies and have started to offer peanut-free games or special accommodations for food allergy families with peanut-free designated seating. The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization typically releases an annual guide outlining which major league and minor league baseball stadiums offer peanut aware sporting events. Along with utilizing their helpful guide, FARE recommends “to reach out directly to the venue to learn more about their efforts”.

Some suggested questions to have ready when you contact the venue about are:

  • Are there any [peanut] allergy friendly games, sections, or suites available?
  • Does the venue utilize power washing for seating, and traffic pathways at the stadium?
  • Can you find ingredient lists or are they available upon request at the concessions?
  • Do they allow families to bring in their own safe meals and snacks?
  • Are emergency responders available to the public at every game, and are their sections closer to these personnel?

Planning and communication are key to enjoying baseball season and balancing your outdoor allergies. Talk to family, friends, coaches, players, and venues, to create a plan that is right for your family. However, missing out on baseball season does not have to be part of that plan. If you or your loved ones are not quite sure if allergies are playing a role, or if the over-the-counter allergy medication just is not cutting it, you have options. There is still time to see your provider and discuss allergy testing and begin allergen immunotherapy.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

About the Author:

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and immunology. 

 

United Allergy Services is also on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter. See other interesting and related articles on the UAS Blog.

https://unitedallergyservices.com/blog/patients/5-ways-tame-seasonal-allergies/

https://unitedallergyservices.com/blog/patients/versus-fall-alergies-will-win-7-tips-fight-allergies/


Tips for Traveling with Allergies

Spring is here, and for many families that means the much anticipated “Spring Break”! A time for overdue rest and relaxation, or maybe some quality time spent away with children and loved ones. While fun can be had at its best during this time, allergies can be at their worst, leaving sufferers to fear their upcoming travel plans. Here are some tips for maximizing enjoyment during Spring Break travel for allergy sufferers.

Preparing for your trip

Location is everything! Especially when it comes to allergen avoidance and whether the chosen destination will fuel or extinguish allergy symptoms. Keep in mind that pollen counts tend to be lower on the coast, so beaches or cruising can be ideal vacation ideas for spring break. The desert, or alternatively snowy mountain tops can also be ideal. Cold temperatures will keep pollen and mold counts low, and dust mites do not prefer elevations above 2,500 feet. Regardless of which destination is desired, it is ideal to check the current weather and allergen forecasts for that area prior to leaving.

What should you pack?

Although your favorite swimsuit, new strappy sandals, or warmest ski jacket may be top of mind when planning and packing, allergy control measures should equally be at the highest priority. Staying compliant with a recommended treatment protocol prior to departure is crucial, as well controlled allergies, asthma, or atopic dermatitis before departing will give the best opportunity for well-maintained symptoms while traveling and for the duration of the trip. Make sure to pack allergy medication and immunotherapy in a carry-on bag if traveling by plane. Try to keep medications in original packaging and pack all medication and allergen immunotherapy in a separate, clear bag. Any liquid or gel medications or immunotherapy will need to individually be 3-4 ounces or smaller, so consider purchasing travel sizes if standard sizes do not meet this requirement. It would be beneficial to pack 1-2 days of additional medication or immunotherapy than what will be needed in case of delay when traveling home. And it may be beneficial to set a reoccurring alarm on a phone before leaving, as it may be more difficult to remember to take medications and immunotherapy regularly while away having fun.

Aside from medications and/or immunotherapy, don’t forget to pack any hypoallergenic hygiene products regularly utilized such as lotions, ointments, creams, body wash, sunscreen, laundry detergent, and/or dust mite encasements for pillows. When searching for accommodations, please also be aware that more and more hotels are offering such things as mattress and pillow covers or hypoallergenic linens so you may not have to pack your own. It is also beneficial to make sure sleeping accommodations are smoke free, away from humid mold friendly pool areas, and are free of “pet friendly” labeling.

Other things to consider

When traveling to or from the destination, the air in enclosed spaces such as planes and trains can be extremely dry. Consider investing in nasal saline spray or washes, as well as portable humidifier. A humidifier will likely also be beneficial if staying in a hotel for more than a night or two. Staying well hydrated with water and non-caffeinated beverages will also greatly help you combat drying out. If traveling by car, considering utilizing the heat or air conditioning and keeping windows closed. Also, turning on the heat or air 10 minutes before departure can help clear vents of any residual allergen particles.

While enjoying your destination, keep in mind that peak pollen times are typically in the first half of the day (specifically 5am 10am), so scheduling desired outdoor activities for later in the day before dusk may help to reduce exposures. And similar to when you are at home, a daily shower, especially before crawling into bed, will help to wash away any allergens that have adhered themselves to your skin or hair and are hoping to enjoy your comfortable accommodations right alongside you. This is especially important before allowing them to have access to your pillow or sheets and being in the immediate space and air you breath in all night.

Tips for travel

Finally, if food allergies or stinging insect allergies are concerning companions, planning ahead can alleviate a lot of anxiety and allow for a smooth trip. Always make sure to carry a minimum of two epinephrine auto injectors if one is prescribed to you or a loved one. Make sure the epinephrine autoinjector is carried in a way it can be accessed and administered within 60 seconds of a need arising. If you or a loved one does have life threatening allergies , it is a good idea to check with your health insurance and ensure you know where to seek medical care should the need arise while you are out of town. Nothing makes returning home even more depressing than unforeseen medical bills.

If food allergies are present, it can make traveling easier to pack your own meals or snacks to have readily available in transit to or from your destination. Preparing food yourself is always the safest option, however, it may not be feasible if staying in a hotel, or may not allow you to feel you are enjoying all the perks of vacation and exploring a new place. Research the local favorites and dining hot spots you wish to visit in advance of leaving for your trip so that you can identify safe selections off the menu in advance or can call and speak with the chef or manager to make reservations and proper accommodations. This will allow you to enjoy immersing yourself in the food culture without the worry of unknown exposure or hassle of having to change restaurants after you have arrived to one.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and immunology. 

United Allergy Services is also on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter.


Oral Allergy Syndrome

Spring is just around the corner! Trees, plants, and flowers are beginning to grow and bloom. Fruits and vegetables are light, fresh, and crisp just like the spring air. However, that fresh spring air may carry more than just excitement for the season and oral allergy syndrome may give cause for concern.

Oral Allergy Syndrome

If you have seasonal allergies, spring may be associated with discomfort. Unfortunately, many people with seasonal allergies also suffer from oral allergy syndrome, sometimes called pollen food allergy syndrome. This syndrome occurs when there is a cross-reaction between the similar proteins found within certain types of foods. These foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and some nuts, can have similar allergy-causing proteins on the surface of the pollen grain.

Cross Reactivity

During the spring season, cross reactivity with tree pollen causes oral allergy syndrome. Birch pollen is the most common allergen trigger. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), oral allergy syndrome can occur in up to 50% - 75% of adults with a birch tree pollen allergy. Symptoms can occur when consuming a wide variety of foods, including those listed below:

  • almond
  • hazelnut
  • carrot
  • kiwi
  • soybean
  • peanut
  • celery
  • potato
  • apples
  • apricots
  • peaches
  • pears
  • plums
  • nectarines

Similarly, another common tree pollen, cedar, can also trigger oral allergy syndrome. Cedar allergy sufferers may have symptoms with several fruits and vegetables, including:

  • apples
  • cherries
  • bell peppers
  • kiwi
  • tomatoes

Symptoms and Treatment

Typically, if you have an oral allergy syndrome reaction you may experience itching in the mouth and throat. Symptoms tend to be more severe when the food is eaten raw or in the purest form. Peeling, cooking, canning, or baking the food can be helpful in reducing or completely avoiding the symptoms in some individuals.

In most cases, symptoms of oral allergy syndrome are localized to the mouth and are uncomfortable or annoying. However, up to 9% of people have reactions that affect a part of their body beyond their mouth. About 1.7% can suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. For this reason, it is crucial for people to determine the cause of their symptoms. Allergy testing and food journals along with medical advice from your healthcare provider are recommended. It is usually best to avoid eating the offending food, especially in that food's peak allergy season. Another consideration would be to treat the underlying pollen allergy with immunotherapy.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and immunology. 

United Allergy Services is also on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter.


Tree pollen allergy explanation and avoidance tips

Tree Pollen Allergy

March is finally here, and that means so is Spring. Longer days, morning walks in the garden, rain showers and rainbows are excitedly on the horizon. However, if you have spring allergies you may be less excited about the season. Spring is typically defined as starting with the vernal equinox, and this year that is March 20. Of course, our allergies don't need a calendar to tell us that tree pollen, the main culprit of the sniffles and sneezes during spring allergy season, is already here!

Trees typically start producing pollen as early as January in the Southern areas of the U.S. The Northern and Central areas follow with pollen production sometime in February. One outlier, the Ashe Juniper Tree (commonly called Mountain Cedar) wreaks havoc in Oklahoma and Texas as early as December. Many trees will continue to produce pollen through June. Also, the milder the winter season, the earlier the trees begin producing pollen. Similarly, late winter or early spring snowfall leads to more pollen. The copious amounts of moisture produced when the snow melts allows a greater volume of pollen production.

Understanding Pollen

Pollen is a powdery substance made up of small spores that come from male trees and flowers. There are two primary types of pollen. The first pollen type, “Sticky Pollen” is produced by plants and trees that have bright and attractive flowers. This kind of pollen sticks to bees and is transported during flight, fertilizing other plants. These bright flowers are commonly thought to be spring allergy offenders. However, sticky pollen doesn't release much pollen into the air, so they are likely not driving most allergy symptoms.

The other type of pollen is “Wind-Blown Pollen”. This pollen comes from larger trees like pine and oak. The pollen is released in large quantities into the air, fertilizing other trees of the same species. The pollen that causes stereotypical allergy symptoms like nasal congestion, runny nose, and itchy eyes is usually the wind-blown pollen. This pollen is very small and light, and is easily spread by the wind for miles and miles.

Allergy sufferers can benefit from checking local pollen counts to determine the density of pollen in the air on any given day. Pollen counts are determined by collecting pollen on special rods. It is then counted under a microscope and calculated in grains per cubic meter of air. Pollen counts tend to be highest early in the day, or when wind picks up just before a large rainstorm. If you like dancing in the rain, however, you are in luck. During a rainstorm and immediately following, pollen becomes still and dormant due to the rain making it damp and heavy. As the air becomes warm and dry following the storm, the pollen count will become potent again.

Managing Tree Pollen Allergies

For tree pollen allergy sufferers, it is recommended to avoid densely wooded areas, especially in early spring when pollen is the most abundant. If possible, avoid planting trees around the house that can cause allergy symptoms. Pass on major tree offenders like oak, birch, maple, cedar, juniper, and eucalyptus (unless you can guarantee they are female trees). Instead, look for friendlier species such as dogwood, pear, plum, redbud, or crape myrtle.

Pollen counts are never zero, and allergy sufferers will not truly be able to avoid tree pollen in the spring. However, some practices may help alleviate the severity of symptoms. Try utilizing the air conditioner and keeping windows and doors closed at home and in the car. Also, using the dryer instead of hang drying clothing will help decrease pollen exposures. One benefit of COVID-19 is that wearing some masks will help to minimize the amount of pollen that reaches the nasal passages, especially when worn in outdoor settings. Tree pollen allergy suffers should also make a habit of changing their clothes after coming in from being outdoors, and bathing prior to getting into bed/laying on upholstered furniture.

If you know someone that has difficulty with morning walks in the garden and they are unsure whether tree pollen is a trigger for their spring nasal congestion, runny nose, post nasal drip, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes, you can suggest they see their provider for an allergy test. It may provide the clarity they are looking for!

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA, and spent  8 years in clinical practice before joining United Allergy Services. Amanda is a past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and currently serves as Vice President of Clinical at UAS.

For more interesting insight from United Allergy Services, visit us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter.

 


Skin Relief Tips for atopic dermatitis and eczema

Skin Care Tips: Atopic Dermatitis

From Amanda Hofmann, VP Clinical at United Allergy Services:

Earlier this month, the famous groundhog, “Punxsutawney Phil”, saw his shadow and promised 6 more weeks of winter. This past week, Phil showed he was serious about that promise as winter storms swept across most of the US. This recent wintery weather has given us the perfect opportunity to talk about proper skin care, especially if eczema or atopic dermatitis is present.

What is Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis?

Commonly, patients and even healthcare providers use the terms ‘eczema’ and ‘atopic dermatitis’ interchangeably. All atopic dermatitis is a form of eczema, however not all eczema is atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema and typically begins in childhood. This skin condition is typically characterized by dry, itchy skin and rashes that range from red/purple to brown/gray. Skin becomes dry, itchy, and inflamed due to immune system hyper-reactivity and the lack of a protective protein called filaggrin. A key factor in atopic dermatitis is a lack of this protein. Filaggrin allows our skin to produce and maintain a strong skin barrier. Without a strong skin barrier, moisture can quickly escape the skin and bacteria carried by fingernails can easily penetrate the skin after scratching.

Atopic dermatitis is commonly triggered by allergen exposure, stress, infection, or weather changes. Also, combining cold, dry air outside and dry indoor heat causes moisture to escape from the skins surface, leading to dry skin. Layering clothing, blankets, or taking lengthy hot baths or showers can lead to skin dehydration. All of these factors are more present in winter, making this time of year prime for suffering an atopic dermatitis outbreak.

Skin Care Tips: Eczema and Atopic Dermatitis Relief

Here are some helpful hints on how to help the skin survive and get some much-needed relief:

  • Dress in soft, breathable clothing. Avoid itchy fabrics like wool that can further irritate the skin.
  • Despite the persistent itch, try not to scratch or rub the skin. Scratching causes additional skin damage and irritation, as well as causes more heat on the surface of the skin. Skin damage, irritation and heat leads to more intense itching. By refusing to scratch, the itching cycle can be broken and the skin will be protected from virus and bacteria carried by fingernails.
  • For relentless itching sensations, apply cool, damp cloths to affected areas to cool the skin down. Also useful are cold compresses, ice packs, or even that bag of frozen peas in the back of the freezer. Just make sure to always place a towel or barrier between vey cold or frozen items and bare skin.
  • Although hot showers and baths go hand in hand with winter weather, aim for lukewarm water bathing lasting for no more than 10 minutes.
  • When bathing, skip the harsh washcloths and loofahs. Instead use your hands to lather up with a good cleanser. (A cleanser is different than soap or body washes. Soaps and body washes typically contain sodium lauryl sulfate which is a skin irritant, and are not as moisturizing or hydrating as a cleanser)
  • Make sure cleansers, moisturizers, detergents, and skin hygiene products are fragrance free and dye free. (Look for the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance on products to guarantee they are free of fragrance, dyes and other common allergens.)
  • After bathing, pat the skin dry rather than harshly rubbing.
  • Replace moisture in the skin by applying a moisturizer immediately after taking a bath or shower. Aim for moisturizing to occur within the first 3 minutes.
  • Moisturizers are classified as an ointment, cream, or lotion based on the amount of oil and water they contain. Higher oil content in a moisturizer is usually better for providing relief and even treating atopic dermatitis. Ointments have the highest oil content and are the best line of defense for atopic dermatitis.
  • Try using a humidifier.  Change the water in the humidifier and clean the machine every three days. Using distilled or demineralized water is recommended.

The National Eczema Association is a great resource for learning more about eczema, atopic dermatitis, causes, symptoms, and treatment options. There is a wealth of information on their website: http://nationaleczema.org

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA, and spent  8 years in clinical practice before joining United Allergy Services. She is the Vice President of Clinical at UAS and the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and immunology. 

For more interesting insight from United Allergy Services, visit us on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter.

 


Are hypoallergenic pets a real thing?

Are Hypoallergenic Pets Real?

Are you one of those people that think life without a furry friend is unimaginable? You aren’t alone. In fact, millions of dedicated pet owners even suffer through pet related allergy symptoms because life without a fur-baby isn't an option for them. In a growing trend, many steadfast animal lovers are turning to “hypoallergenic” pets in hopes of keeping the allergy symptoms at bay.

What Does Hypoallergenic Mean?

Pet allergies can display in many ways including sneezing, runny nose, coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and even allergy induced asthma. The term hypoallergenic is defined as “designed to reduce or minimize the possibility of an allergic response; as by containing relatively few or no potentially irritating substances.” Applying this term to personal care products such as lotions and detergents makes sense. However, applying this label to animals is a little more difficult.

Most often, people believe the pet’s fur and shedding causes the pet allergy. Typically, because of this belief, pets that are hairless, do not shed, or shed minimally are called hypoallergenic. However, the main trigger for pet allergy is in the protein produced by the pet, not their fur. These proteins are carried on small, easily inhalable particles with the highest concentration found in the pet dander. Pet dander is the dead flaky skin that all warm blooded mammals produce. Substantial amounts of protein are also found in the animal’s saliva and urine.

Are Hypoallergenic Pets a Real Thing?

Some breeds may cause fewer problems for allergy sufferers. Because of grooming habits or shedding patterns, allergen exposure can be less in these cases. Both dogs and cats have the potential, however, to release allergens into the air you breathe. The proteins are present in all breeds, including those that some claim to be hypoallergenic. Cats tend to cause more allergic reactions than dogs because they groom themselves more often. Unfortunately, birds, and smaller mammals such as guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, and chinchillas also produce dander. On the bright side, because these animals are much smaller and typically dwell in contained spaces, they may provide less allergen exposure and therefore less symptoms. Snakes, frogs, lizards, turtles, and fish do not have the dander issue. Reptile friends can be great options for allergy sufferers desiring pet companionship.

There are Options

Everyone is different, and every family is faced with different challenges when it comes to choosing the right pet. The most effective way to protect your household from pet allergens is not to have any warm-blooded pets. For millions of animal lovers, though, this is unlikely option. Researching animals that produce less dander, saliva, and are low/non shedders is a great start.

Although there is no amount of cleaning that will eliminate all dander from a home, there are some best practices. Cleaning your house and bathing your pets regularly is the first step. Also, keeping pets out of bedrooms, off carpets, and off upholstered furniture can help. The goal is to minimize the concentration of allergens and in crucial places such as family gathering rooms and sleeping areas.

Another option of course, besides the avoidance measures listed above, is to consider the benefit of allergen immunotherapy for anyone suffering a pet allergy.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA, and spent  8 years in clinical practice before joining United Allergy Services. She is the Vice President of Clinical at UAS and the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and immunology. 

For more interesting insight from United Allergy Services, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.


Tips to avoid

Valentine's Day Allergy Offenders

Valentine's Day can be intimidating for allergy suffers. Far too frequently sweethearts visit the emergency room instead of their favorite restaurant or fill the day with sneezes instead of smooches. Avoiding the most common Valentine’s Day allergy offenders is possible, and here are some tips to keep everyone safe.

The Nose Knows

Flowers on Valentine's Day is a classic way to show your love. Unfortunately, flower pollen can trigger severe symptoms such as sneezing, itchy nose, and itchy/watery eyes or even asthma attacks. Luckily for the lovers out there, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there are many flowers options that produce little pollen and still set the mood. Look for tulipsroses, begonia, columbine, crocus, daffodil and geraniums for your allergy suffering sweetheart.

Before we check the box for being safe in the scent department, consider other smell related concerns. It’s important to know physical symptoms such as headaches and sneezing can be triggered from just the smell of some flowers. Often, these symptoms can also be related to perfume or cologne as well. Although these reactions are not actually a true allergy, and instead are generally a reaction to odors created by volatile organic compounds, they can cause a Valentine's Day disaster.

Food Allergy Offenders

Also on the list of iconic Valentine’s Day allergy offenders is that delectable box of chocolates. Allergy to chocolate is rare, but most chocolate is made with milk, and many of the chocolate assortments contain tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, and other more common food allergens. Read all food labels to stay safe and be sure to take note of label warnings such as, “May contain” or “Processed in a facility”. If these warnings pertain to you, your Valentine’s Day may be sweeter without it.

If you or your Valentine have any food allergies, of course, be sure to carry your epinephrine autoinjector at all times. It’s always the most important accessory you can have! Here’s another helpful hint if food allergies are on the table; Protect your Valentine by calling ahead to that romantic restaurant to discuss the food allergy before you go. Make sure the kitchen and chef can be accommodating on a busy night like Valentine’s Day. Better yet, you might get extra points in the Cupid category if you roll up your sleeves and prepare all your Valentine’s favorites yourself. Added bonus? You won’t have to worry about finding the perfect facemask to match your outfit this year!

Gifts That Don't Keep Giving

If your Valentine has their heart set on jewelry, keep in mind that it can contain varying amounts of nickel. A contact allergy to nickel can lead to symptoms such as severe itching, blisters, and rash in the area where the jewelry touches the skin. Unlike allergy to flowers and foods, a reaction to a metal may take several days to develop after exposure. If baubles and jewels are the burning desire of your Valentine, however, don’t worry! Sticking to jewelry made with stainless steel, copper, platinum and 24 karat gold is usually a safe choice.

Finally, consider skipping the stuffed animals this year. The bigger the teddy bear, unfortunately, can mean the bigger the dust mite population that it ends up harboring. These mites are one of the most common causes of allergies and can be found in any fabric item. Much like pollen, they can bring on sneezing and other nasal symptoms, and even result in asthma flareups. Keep the temptation for the plush gifts away and make your Valentine your main squeeze instead!

See more news and insights from United Allergy Services on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

 


5 ways to boost your healthcare practice in 2021

Every new year offers exciting possibilities, but it’s fair to assume that 2021 bears more anticipation than usual. At the center of the optimism is the arrival and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine–and the return to normalcy it will bring to communities around the country.

For healthcare providers in particular this can be a welcome reset, as well as an opportunity to evaluate how they can be more successful moving forward. Priorities can be reassessed, and new efforts can be pursued to adapt to an evolving marketplace. While all won’t change with the turning of the calendar, providers can prepare to do the most with their practices–and for their patients–by considering the following tips in the new year.

1. Expand your care through value-added care services

While accomplishing all of the above can seem daunting for practices, especially smaller ones, finding the right partners in care can help.

A value-added care services company that complements your patient care, such as United Allergy Services, can do more than just expand your services. You can leverage their unique strengths and bolster your brand at the same time. With 2021 right around the corner, and greater opportunities ahead, there’s no better time to explore your options and maximize your patient and business outcomes in the new year.

2. Adapt to post-COVID changes in patient behavior and preferences

The COVID pandemic has highlighted the importance of flexibility, adaptability, and innovation for all business. Healthcare practices are no different. The providers we work with that have seen the most success have leveraged technologies and services that have made them more adaptable.

Practices have seen a shift to low-touch, high-quality care due to the health and safety concerns of the pandemic. Fewer in-clinic patient traffic has given way to more telemedicine appointments and other methods to engage with patients remotely. While that may revert somewhat to pre-COVID norms, it’s important for providers to continue to explore who they can more conveniently provide care.

The United Allergy Services mode of treatment is well-suited to that shift. Our allergen immunotherapy protocol, available as either allergy shots or drops, is designed to be safely administered at home. Once prescribed, our allergy drops can either be picked up during an in-office appointment or delivered directly from our central pharmacy, giving you further options on how to flexibly offer care. Once a patient is on our treatment, our dedicated app, myAllergyPal, allows patients to track and log doses, access their allergy test results, and manage future doses and appointments all in the palm of their hands.

3. Strengthen your brand

Brand loyalty applies to healthcare patients, too. With practices differentiating themselves more and more through services, technologies, marketing and other methods of patient engagement, providers should consider their own best methods to strengthen their branding.

4. Digitally engage with your patients

It’s no secret that more patients are spending more of their time online and on mobile. Why not interact with them in those same spaces to share updates about your practice, topical health tips, and other pieces of information related to their care? Use of social media, email marketing, text messaging, and more can be valuable ways to bolster your patient relationships.

5. Be agile

It’s a common theme throughout the tips above, but worth closing on here. While providers must already consider a variety of dynamics on a daily basis, from regulatory and payer issues to everything surrounding their patient care, it is more important than ever to adopt an agile business mindset. Be proactive, take note of broad shifts in patient preferences, and demonstrate the ability to adjust to those preferences.

As a value-added services company, United Allergy Services has looked to support providers with that mindset. Allergies are among the most prevalent chronic health conditions in the country, making allergy care just another component of primary care. By working with us, you can lean on our strengths and expand your care while you focus on what you do best. Our services incorporate a variety of testing and treatment options and are scaled for a range of provider needs and patient populations.

Want to learn more about how United Allergy Services can boost your business outcomes in 2021? Complete the contact form below today to speak with a member of our team.


    'Tis the season for Cedar Fever

    In parts of Texas and surrounding areas, cedar allergies are one last health challenge in an already difficult year.

    2020 has been one for the ages, headlined by the widespread impact of the COVID pandemic. While Americans and the rest of the world await a vaccine, there are other concerns that can impact their health in the coming months. One of those is cedar allergies.

    Winter is generally not considered a peak season for environmental allergies. Grasses pollenate in the summer months, ragweed pollenates in the fall, and most trees release their pollen in the spring months. However, one tree that does so between December and February is mountain cedar. According to Thermo Scientific, cedar is one of the primary allergens in Texas, especially around the Edwards Aquifer region. It can also be found in parts of southern Arkansas and Oklahoma.

    Cedar is identifiable by its amber-colored pollen, which becomes ubiquitous from December through February. Its effect, often known locally as “cedar fever”, can lead to symptoms like itchy, stuffy, and runny nose, as well as sneezing and itchy and watery eyes for allergy sufferers. In more serious cases, it can lead to sinus infections or trigger allergic asthma symptoms.

    In a climate where people are already hyper-conscious of their breathing symptoms, cedar allergies cause additional stress. Could that congestion and coughing be allergies, or something worse? Providers that offer allergy testing can not only offer their patients short-term peace of mind but a path to long-term relief from the symptoms that bother their patients, now and year-round.

    While many allergy sufferers will practice a combination of avoidance and self-medication to get through cedar season, those are only short-term measures to combat the symptoms rather than the disease. Allergen immunotherapy represents a path to a long-term better quality of life, including during cedar season. With concerns such as the flu and COVID existing simultaneously, patients have all the more reason to seek understanding--and relief.