10 spots in your home where allergies can attack

Your home should be your safe haven, but if you're an allergy sufferer, it might actually be the source of your misery. Check out the interactive home tour, below, to see where in your house different allergens can lurk. And then follow the tips provided to do what you can to rid your house of any nasty molds, dust mites, and more that make your allergies act up.


Windows: Pollen granules can infiltrate your home through improperly sealed windows. Caulk and seal your windows to stop the infiltration! Then choose the “circulate” setting for your home and auto-air-conditioning system to avoid introducing outside air containing airborne allergens

Under the Couch: Dust mites can’t be drowned, so the most effective way to get rid of them is to reduce the amount of dust in your home (shock!). Use a damp mop and damp cloth under furniture (like the couch) and on floors, windowsills, window-blend slats, bedsprings, and other areas that act as dust mite catchers.

Carpets: Teeny, tiny pollen granules are produced in such high quantities that they can travel through the air for miles. If you’re pollen-sensitive, you need to do what you can to avoid it. Removing carpeting and area rugs is a good place to start. This also helps reduce the amount of dust—another allergen—in your home.


Pet Bowl: The major allergen from animals is not their fur but proteins secreted by skin glands that are found in dander, in the saliva that sticks to fur when the animal ticks itself, and in the animal’s urine. No need to get rid of your furry friend through! To keep allergies to a minimum, bathe your pet weekly, which will help remove dander. Also wash your face, hands, and arms after grooming or playing with pets.


Bed: Dust mites (or, rather their waste) can be major allergens. Wash all bedding in hot water weekly to reduce the dust mite population, Use a damp mop and damp cloth under furniture (like the couch) and on floors, windowsills, window-blind slats, bedsprings, and other areas that act as dust mite catchers.

Upholstered Chair: Any upholstered furniture can be a mecca for allergens—like animal dander. To reduce the amount of allergens on your upholstered chair. Keep your pets off it!

Fireplace: Mold, a light and easily transportable allergen, can cling to tree bark. Before you start a fire or even bring wood inside, check the bark for mold. If it’s showing signs, ditch it.


Shower Curtains: Mold loves wet places, so your shower is a prime hot spot for this problematic allergen. Use mold-killing solutions in bathrooms and shower stalls, on bathrooms tiles, shower curtains, and around the bathtub and toilet tank.

The Air: Mold thrives year-round indoors—especially in humid places, like your bathroom. Use exhaust fans to reduce the humidity level and make it a less hospitable place for molds to live. Also, consider replacing carpets in this room with tile or linoleum.


Shoe Shelf: Mold are light and transportable, and really thrive in wet and humid places. Your closet can be a major allergy culprit, especially if you’re in the habit of tossing your soaking-wet shoes in there when you come in from the rain. The best bet: If you’ve got wet shoes or clothes, make sure they’re completely dry before you put them away.


April 14, 2014

Achoo! These cities are the worst for spring allergies

Which cities are the worst for Spring allergies?

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) ranks communities based on pollen, the number of over-the-counter and prescription medications per patient, and the number of board-certified allergists per patient in the 100 most populous cities in the continental USA. How the cities ranked:

Louisville comes out on top in a new listing of the 100 most challenging cities to live in with allergies.

Louisville has sprung to the top of the sneeze list.

Louisville is the worst city for spring allergies this year, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). The city ranked No. 5 last spring.

The foundation, based in Landover, Md., Monday releases its annual Spring Allergy Capitals report, which ranks the 100 most challenging cities to live in with allergies.

The ranking, based on 2013 data, has some surprises. Dallas leaped from No. 23 in 2013 to No. 7 this year, with a higher pollen score. New York rose from No. 43 last year to No. 13, with more people buying allergy medications.

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The 10 Worst Cities For Spring 2014 Allergies

Despite the lingering chilly temperatures and persistent threats of snowfall, millions of Americans have started heading to their doctors with itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, headaches, difficulty breathing and more of the classic symptoms of seasonal allergies.

For the nearly 45 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, the joy of springtime can be significantly dampened. But to help them plan ahead, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has once again compiled a list of the most challenging places to live for people with allergies this spring -- should it ever arrive.

In fact, because of the sporadic warm days followed by snowfall, mold may be a bigger issue this year in addition to pollen, according to the AAFA. "No matter what time of the year it is, and no matter what Mother Nature sends our way, people with allergies need to be prepared,” Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, M.D., medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY and an ambassador for the AAFA said in a statement.

Being prepared can include medications, but people with allergies can also cope with a handful of simple lifestyle strategies such as leaving shoes and jackets outside, keeping windows closed, washing hair before bed and staying inside when pollen counts peak.

To calculate the Allergy Capitals report, the AAFA tallied local pollen levels, use of over-the-counter and prescription allergy medication and number of board-certified allergists in each area. Then, each city is assigned a score out of a total of 100 points. Virginia Beach made the biggest jump from last year's rankings, up to 20 from 66. And Los Angeles dropped the most, from 38 to 77.

Below, you'll find the 10 worst U.S. cities for spring allergies. Head over to the AAFA site for the full list of 100.

  • 10
    McAllen, Texas
    Rank last year: #4
    Total score: 87.61
  • 9
    Birmingham, Alabama
     Flickr:Max Wolfe
    Rank last year: #14
    Total score: 87.71
  • 8
    Richmond, Virginia
    Rank last year: #22
    Total score: 88.68
  • 7
    Dallas, Texas
    Rank last year: #23
    Total score: 88.82
  • 6
    Chattanooga, Tennessee
     Flickr: Space Ritual
    Rank last year: #3
    Total score: 90.18
  • 5
    Jackson, Mississippi
     Flickr / Ken Lund
    Rank last year: #1
    Total score: 90.61
  • 4
    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Rank last year: #9
    Total score: 91.19
  • 3
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    Rank last year: #10
    Total score: 91.93
  • 2
    Memphis, Tennessee
    Rank last year: #8
    Total score: 97.10
  • 1
    Louisville, Kentucky
    Rank last year: #5. This is Louisville's third #1 ranking in 12 years.
    Total score: 100.00


March 31, 2014

10 best tips to ease spring allergies

Let's clear the air: Pollen is hard to escape, but there are common-sense steps you can take

It's about that time: Temperatures rise, trees bloom and your nose starts to run. It itches, too; you keep sneezing or coughing, and your eyes won't stop watering. These are all signs of seasonal allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever and most commonly caused by tree pollen that irritates your nasal passages.

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Common Cold Meds May Pose Health Threats: Interaction of two ingredients could cause serious side effects, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, March 19, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Over-the-counter sinus and pain remedies that combine two common ingredients -- phenylephrine and acetaminophen -- might cause serious side effects such as high blood pressure, dizziness and tremors, New Zealand researchers warn.

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How to deal with allergies in the spring time

(CNN) — Tomorrow (Thursday, March 20th) is the first day of spring and whether warm temps greet you or you have a chill in the air - allergy season is fast approaching. Martha shade gives us some tips on how allergy sufferers can manage this time of year.

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Allergy Relief: 9 Ways To Prepare For Spring Allergies Inside And Outside The Home

The trees are mobilizing, the grass is greener, and the flowers blooming could only mean one thing: Spring is just around the corner, and so is allergy season. The sneezing, itchy-eyes, and congestion could lead allergy sufferers to long for the days of sleet and slush, but this doesn’t mean you should remain homebound during the warmer months. If you’re itching for allergy relief this spring, here are eight ways to prepare for allergy season inside and outside the home to keep you symptom-free.

1. Avoid Allergy Triggers

One of the best ways to prevent the worsening of allergies is to avoid or get rid of the triggers as soon as possible, Dr. Ed Neuzil, a nurse practitioner and owner of the Allergy, Sinus and Asthma Family Health Center in Central Florida told Medical Daily. “People with strong grass or ragweed allergies may suffer from oral allergy syndrome, which happens when your body’s immune system mistakes proteins in certain fruits with the allergy-causing grass, tree, or weed pollens,” he said. These fruits include apples, peaches, pears, and melons. As a rule of thumb when eating fruits, munch with caution, and stop consuming if your lips begin to tingle, or if your throat gets scratchy.

2. Eat Healthily

To eat healthily could mean different things to different people. However, avoiding certain foods could help reduce your risk of allergies. Genetically engineered (GE) foods, common in the American diet, have been show to trigger allergies and asthma. A study in the journal PNAS found junk food may reduce microbial richness or healthy bacteria, which can lead to a rise in allergic and inflammatory diseases. In other words, the lack of beneficial bacteria in the intestine will allow allergies, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases to be present where they otherwise wouldn’t.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese could make it difficult for you to breathe, which could be detrimental if you suffer from allergies. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says people who have more fat stored around their neck are susceptible to experiencing pauses in their breathing or shallow breaths, especially in their sleep. In addition, fat that is stored in the abdomen can prevent your lungs from expanding and the diaphragm from moving downward because of the excess fat. Losing weight may help improve your breathing, and could alleviate allergy symptoms.

4. Limit Use of Allergy Medication

At the very first sign of sneezing, itching, and coughing, your first instinct may be to use medication. However, allergy sufferers are advised to limit the use of Afrin-like medications and allergy eye drops. “These are addictive to the nose and should not be used for more than 3 days in a row,” Dr. Milo F. Vassallo, allergist in New York City told Medical Daily in an email. Vassallo advises to not overdo the eye drops that “get the red out” because the ingredient naphazoline can be bad for the eyes if it’s used regularly. Instead, opt for those with only the ketotifen ingredient.

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5. Clean Your Air Conditioning and Furnace Filters

If you have your AC installed year-round, be sure to clean the filter before spring comes. It’s important to change the filters every three months and use pollen filters or screens for the window, says Vassallo. Pollen filters such as minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV) tell you how well the filter can remove pollen and mold from the air — rating eight to 12.

6. Spring Clean Your Bedroom

It’s easy for dust to accumulate behind the bed, under the bed, on the dressers, and even on the ceiling fan. Simply use a wet cloth to eliminate dust and dust mite-prone areas, such as carpeting, blinds and curtains, and stuffed animals, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. As for your bed, wash everything in 130-degree water, and wipe the mattress with a damp cloth.

7. Shower and Wash Your Hair Before Bed

Practicing good hygiene is always important, especially during allergy season. Taking a shower or washing your hair before going to bed, says Vassallo, can help remove any pollen trapped in the hair and skin. Failure to do so may increase the possibility that the pollen “transports in doors and onto the pillows.” Overall, cleaning up before bed can reduce irritation.

8. Change Your Front Entrance

The snowy winter months could have made a doormat a permanent fixture in your front door, but it may not be so good when it comes to spring allergy season. A doormat that is made from natural material, such as rope or other fibers, can deteriorate and become a site for mites, mold, and fungus that can get into the house. Also, encourage your family and house guests to take off their shoes before entering the house to reduce the amount of allergens that enter.

9. Wear Your Glasses or Sunglasses Outside

The best way to protect your eyes during allergy season is to cover them by wearing your glasses or sunglasses outside. This keeps away pollen and other irritants away from this area and reduces itchiness and redness, says Yale Health. You can also wear a hat with a wide brim to also reduce pollen exposure.


By Lizette Borreli
March 14, 2014

Allergic symptoms such as sneezing are similar to those of EoE (Eosinophilic Esophagitis)

9 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Sneezing

Cold and flu season may be winding down, but sneezing -- with allergies surely on the way -- is here to stay. We all do it, though some of us are more disruptively loud than others. It's a reflex we simply can't control. But other than the most obvious causes -- fresh pepper, anyone? -- how much do we really know about what our sneezes mean? Here are a few fun facts you probably didn't know about sneezing.

1. Your sneezes travel up to 100 miles per hour.
At least, according to some. The brave "MythBusters" guys actually timed theirs, clocking those sneezes between 30 and 35 miles per hour.

2. Their germ-ridden spray can land pretty far away.
Some guess you'll spread in a five-foot radius, others have wagered mucus lands as far as 30 feet away. At that rate, there's practically no escaping those germs!

3. We sneeze to give our noses a reboot.
In 2012, researchers figured out why, precisely, we sneeze, and what's supposed to happen when we do. ScienceDaily reported:

Much like a temperamental computer, our noses require a "reboot" when overwhelmed, and this biological reboot is triggered by the pressure force of a sneeze. When a sneeze works properly, it resets the environment within nasal passages so "bad" particles breathed in through the nose can be trapped. The sneeze is accomplished by biochemical signals that regulate the beating of cilia (microscopic hairs) on the cells that line our nasal cavities.

4. Sunlight causes many people to sneeze.
Feather, pepper, colds, flus and pesky allergies aren't the only reasons we let a sneeze rip. Theories abound to other causes, but one in particular has been scientifically studied: bright light. About one in four people sneeze in sunlight, a reaction called a photic sneeze reflex, LiveScience reported. Scientists don't entirely understand why this happens, but expect that the message the brain receives to shrink the pupils in the presence of bright light may cross paths with the message the brain receives to sneeze.

5. It's quite normal to sneeze in twos or threes.
Those "bad" particles such as pollen and other environmental allergies are trapped in the nasal passages and expelled by sneezes aren't exactly sprinting to the exit. It often takes more than one attempt to kick those irritants out, which can lead to multiple sneezes in a row, Everyday Health reported.

6. Your eyes close involuntarily.
Despite the panic it instills if you happen to be driving when you feel a sneeze coming on, there's not much you can do to keep your peepers open. Part of the message the brain receives in the lead-up to a sneeze is to close those eyes. It's an involuntary reflex similar to the way your knee reacts when your doctor taps on it with that teeny-tiny hammer, NBC News reported. A sneeze can't, however, pop your eye out, like some tall tales would have you believe.

7. Your heart does not stop when you sneeze.
Despite the persistent urban legend, your heart does not skip a beat mid-sternutation (fancy word for sneezing alert!). What may happen, according to the New York Times, is that the heart rate naturally slows -- just a tad. This is due to both the deep breath most people take before sneezing and the stimulation of the vagus nerve that occurs during a sneeze. Most people don't even notice any change, and "the effect is minimal," the Times reported.

8. A sneeze is better out than in.
First, an important distinction: There's the type of stifling that occurs when you feel like you might need to sneeze, and then there's the type of stifling where the sneeze is already halfway out of your face. In the latter case, whether you're in church or at a movie or in a lecture, stop trying to stuff that sneeze back in. While rare, it can lead to injuries, including broken blood vessels in the eyes, weakened blood vessels in the brain, ruptured ear drums or problems with the diaphragm. "I wouldn't recommend suppressing a sneeze by any method," head and neck surgeon Alan Wild, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, told LiveScience.

9. But you can quiet the urge to sneeze.
If you only have that sneeze-on-its-way tingly feeling, there are a few tricks that seem to nip a sneeze in the bud, Wild told LiveScience. Try rubbing your nose, pressing on your upper lip underneath your nose or forcing a big, deep breath out your nose.


March 14, 2014

United Allergy Services launches mobile healthcare app to encourage patient medication adherence.

‘myAllergyPal’ Allows Patients Undergoing Immunotherapy Treatment to Track Symptoms, Medication and Medical Appointments

SAN ANTONIO, March 6, 2014 – United Allergy Services (UAS), a leading healthcare services company that enables family physicians, pediatricians and health systems to deliver safe and effective allergy testing and customized immunotherapy services, today announced myAllergyPal, an innovative mobile application that enables patients to track home-based immunotherapy treatment progress.

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Immunotherapy Best for Chronic Rhinitis

SAN DIEGO -- Treating allergic rhinitis with immunotherapy appeared to reduce the risk of chronic upper respiratory conditions, a Medicaid study showed.

Treatment for those conditions was three-fold more likely to decline in the 18 months after immunotherapy than in matched patients treated for rhinitis pharmacologically or otherwise (down 6% versus 2%, P<0.0001), Cheryl Hankin, PhD, of the health research company BioMedEcon in Moss Beach, Calif., and colleagues found.

The difference was significant in chronic sinusitis, pharyngitis, tonsil or adenoid disease as well as nasal polyps and influenza, they reported here at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology meeting.

The results weren't unexpected but should help in counseling patients considering immunotherapy for allergic rhinitis, Theodore M. Freeman, MD, an allergist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas, told MedPage Today.

"This is absolutely confirming what I hear from my patients," he said."Now with this data, I can say it's documented that you're going to reduce the number of infections you're going to get and things like that."

Another implication is validating immunotherapy as important for allergic rhinitis, Hankin told reporters at a press conference.

"The public health and public policy message is that allergic rhinitis is not just a nuisance disease but is a precursor for the development of serious and extremely expensive respiratory disease," she said, noting that it also adds impetus to fast referral from primary care.

Her group had previously shown cost-effectiveness of allergy immunotherapy for hay fever using the same Florida Medicaid databases from 1997 through 2009.

The new analysis included 4,967 patients who had immunotherapy (likely almost all subcutaneous, given that the oral form isn't reimbursed) for newly diagnosed allergic rhinitis, and an equal group of matched allergic rhinitis patients who didn't get that treatment.

The likelihood of a decline in use of outpatient services over 18 months after immunotherapy versus controls was:

  • 35-fold higher for nasal polyps (down 0.34% versus up 0.14%, P=0.0131)
  • Two-fold more likely for chronic sinusitis (down 3.81% versus 2.15%, P<0.0001)
  • 35-fold higher for "other" upper respiratory tract disease (down 0.30% versus up 0.06%, P=0.0131)
  • Eight-fold more likely for chronic pharyngitis and nasopharyngitis (down 4.57% versus 0.62%, P<0.0001)
  • Four-fold more likely for chronic tonsil and adenoid disease (down 1.39% versus 0.34%, P<0.0001)

The same pattern with generally even greater magnitude of difference was seen at 6 and 12 months.

Immunotherapy was also associated with a three-fold higher likelihood of decrease in flu-related treatments (down 1.05% versus 0.34%, P<0.0001), but Harkin said this was not likely causal.

Rather, it suggested "that by getting specialty treatment, they're also getting preventive treatment," she said. "Their specialists are looking out for them."

The results should generalize from the Florida Medicaid population to other settings, Freeman suggested.

The study was supported by AAAAI; the Joint Council of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Hankin reported relevant financial relationships with Teva and Greer Labs.

Freeman reported relevant financial relationships with McKesson and UpToDate.

Primary source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
Source reference: Hankin CS, et al "Allergy immunotherapy significantly reduces outpatient services use for chronic respiratory conditions in patients with newly-diagnosed allergic rhinitis" AAAAI 2014; Abstract 579.


By Crystal Phend
March 4, 2014

Prevalence of allergies the same, regardless of where you live

In the largest, most comprehensive, nationwide study to examine the prevalence of allergies from early childhood to old age, scientists from the National Institutes of Health report that allergy prevalence is the same across different regions of the United States, except in children 5 years and younger.

“Before this study, if you would have asked 10 allergy specialists if allergy prevalence varied depending on where people live, all 10 of them would have said yes, because allergen exposures tend to be more common in certain regions of the U.S.,” said Darryl Zeldin, M.D., scientific director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH. “This study suggests that people prone to developing allergies are going to develop an allergy to whatever is in their environment. It’s what people become allergic to that differs.

The research appeared online in February in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, and is the result of analyses performed on blood serum data compiled from approximately 10,000 Americans in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006.

Although the study found that the overall prevalence of allergies did not differ between regions, researchers discovered that one group of participants did exhibit a regional response to allergens. Among children aged 1-5, those from the southern U.S. displayed a higher prevalence of allergies than their peers living in other U.S. regions. These southern states included Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida.

“The higher allergy prevalence among the youngest children in southern states seemed to be attributable to dust mites and cockroaches,” explained Paivi Salo, Ph.D., an epidemiologist in Zeldin’s research group and lead author on the paper. “As children get older, both indoor and outdoor allergies become more common, and the difference in the overall prevalence of allergies fades away.”

The NHANES 2005-2006 not only tested a greater number of allergens across a wider age range than prior NHANES studies, but also provided quantitative information on the extent of allergic sensitization. The survey analyzed serum for nine different antibodies in children aged 1-5, and nineteen different antibodies in subjects 6 years and older. Previous NHANES studies used skin prick tests to test for allergies.

The scientists determined risk factors that made a person more likely to be allergic. The study found that in the 6 years and older group, males, non-Hispanic blacks, and those who avoided pets had an increased chance of having allergen-specific IgE antibodies, the common hallmark of allergies.

Socioeconomic status (SES) did not predict allergies, but people in higher SES groups were more commonly allergic to dogs and cats, whereas those in lower SES groups were more commonly allergic to shrimp and cockroaches.

By generating a more complete picture of U.S. allergen sensitivity, the team uncovered regional differences in the prevalence of specific types of allergies. Sensitization to indoor allergens was more prevalent in the South, while sensitivity to outdoor allergens was more common in the West. Food allergies among those 6 years and older were also highest in the South.

The researchers anticipate using more NHANES 2005-2006 data to examine questions allergists have been asking for decades. For example, using dust samples obtained from subjects’ homes, the group plans to examine the link between allergen exposure and disease outcomes in a large representative sample of the U.S. population.

NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of NIH. For more information on environmental health topics, visit http://www.niehs.nih.gov. Subscribe to one or more of the NIEHS news lists to stay current on NIEHS news, press releases, grant opportunities, training, events, and publications.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.


Salo PM, Arbes SJ Jr, Jaramillo R, Calatroni A, Weir CH, Sever ML, Hoppin JA, Rose KM, Liu AH, Gergen PJ, Mitchell HE, Zeldin DC. 2014. Prevalence of allergic sensitization in the United States: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006. J Allergy Clin Immunol; doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2013.12.1071 [Online 9 February 2014].


March 4, 2014

Pollen Allergies Rise During Spring in South Florida

For many South Florida children, March brings pollen allergy symptoms.  As trees and grass blossom, they release pollens that can trigger a reaction in your child's immune system, leading to sneezes, coughs, itchy eyes or more serious allergic reactions.

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Cockroaches: Why They Are So Difficult to Control

The National Pest Management Association discusses five hardy characteristics of cockroaches

FAIRFAX, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Cockroaches have been around for millions of years, evolving into some of the most adaptable pests on Earth. Aside from their creepy appearance, cockroaches display some unique behaviors and survival tactics that help them thrive in many different environments, including homes. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) explores what makes these pests so difficult to control.

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Got allergies but still want pets?

Dogs may be man’s best friend, but household pets of all shapes, sizes and breeds can be an allergen nightmare for some families. Released today, the Allergen All-Star Pet Awards are here to help families concerned about allergens find the perfect companion.

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Is It a Cold or Winter Allergies?

If you’re sniffling and sneezing this winter, you might think it’s a winter cold or flu — but it could be allergies.

“In the winter, most of the allergies that you’re going to suffer from are going to be indoor allergies — mold, cockroaches, dust mites and animal dander,” Joan Lehach, M.D., an allergist and clinical immunologist with a focus on integrative medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, told weather.com.

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Becky Wilcox | People on the Move

Becky Wilcox, Chief Human Resources Officer


Date added: February 10, 2014
Submission Type: Promotion
Current employer: United Allergy Services
Current title/position: Chief Human Resources Officer
Industry: Health Care
Position level: C-Level
Previous position: Director of Human Capital
Duties/responsibilities:Becky Wilcox led the Human Resources and Talent Acquisition teams and recently integrated these teams with Training and Organizational Development to form Human Capital. She built a team that supports growing HR and Talent needs through programs designed to recruit, retain and engage employees.


February 10, 2014

UAS WAO Abstract Published Online

Congratulations to Frederick M. Schaffer, M.D., CMO; Larry Garner, allergy consultant; and Andrew Naples, clinical research coordinator; on the recent publication of The Safety of the United Allergy Services Immunotherapy Protocol. The abstract was published online in a supplement to the World Allergy Organization (WAO) Journal on February 3, 2014.

Click the link to access the publication: http://www.waojournal.org/content/7/S1/P24

The data was presented at the WAO Annual Symposium on Immunotherapy and Biologics in Chicago. The team earned Top Abstract Award by the WAO and was honored at the symposium in December.

5 Best Tips To Prevent Indoor Allergies

Home is the best thing in the world - except if you are allergic to your house. Many people are reported to be allergic to something or the other inside their own houses. These are some indoor allergies that are caused due to indoor allergens like dust, moth, dirt and mosquito. Pets are also responsible for causing allergies. There are some people who are allergic to dog fur and cat hair as well. RECOMMENDED READ: 9 Ways To Quit Smoking Indoor allergens are more prominent in areas like the bedroom, bathroom and playrooms. The allergens can cause rashes, boils and respiratory problems like sneezing, coughing, asthma and so on. Every person has a different allergic reaction to an allergen, and hence it is essential to know how to prevent indoor allergies at home. In this article we will find ways to free the house from indoor allergens and make it allergy free. To prevent indoor allergies, survey your house and find the possible allergens. This should be the first step for making your house allergy proof. Once you know the cause of allergies, you may take one of the following steps.
Dust prevention
The major indoor allergies are caused by dust and dirt. Dust can cause rashes, breathing problems and uneasiness. To prevent dust from entering the house, you have to use a few precautions. Dusting the house regularly is one common precaution. Apart from that you must keep the furniture and accessories clean. Wash the pillow covers, bed covers and blankets regularly. These are some things that have dust accumulated on them. Also to prevent dust you may keep the windows closed; use dust traps if necessary.
Moth traps and Mosquito traps
Moth, flies and mosquitoes can also be a cause for allergies. A good tip to prevent indoor allergies is using moth traps or mosquito traps. Use these traps outside the main doors and windows to keep these out of your home. There are electrical and mechanical traps available in the market. You may also use certain insect sprays which would kill the existing moth and mosquito population in your house.
Pet care
Pets are also one major cause of allergies at home. Pets like dogs and cats lose hair frequently. The hair and fur of these animals can trigger an allergy in many people. One good tip to prevent indoor allergies due to pets is by maintaining and caring for the pets. The animals should be cleaned, washed and their hair should be trimmed every once in a while. There are some medicinal shampoos and creams that prevent hair fall for animals. These are a few ways by which you can avoid any allergens that irritate any person.
Avoid strong incense
Some people are reported to be allergic to strong smelling perfumes or room fresheners. If you are one of them, avoid using heavily scented perfumes, incense sticks, room fresheners and bathroom fresheners. The pungent smell can cause severe cold, headache and even nausea at times. So keep these tips in mind if you want to make your home free of allergies.
By Anvi Mehta
January 25, 2014

Obese children more susceptible to asthma from air pollution

Obese children exposed to high levels of air pollutants were nearly three times as likely to have asthma, compared with non-obese children and lower levels of pollution exposure, report researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), including Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health.

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Cedar and allergy symptoms hit highest levels of the season

Those aren't puffs of smoke drifting on the horizon. They are clouds of pollen from mountain cedar trees, the winter scourge of Central and South Texas.

On Thursday, mountain cedar counts shot up to 34,280 grains of pollen per cubic meter, the highest level this season but well below the record levels of 80,000 set in the 1980s.

At PRG Recruiting, a small recruiting firm at Loop 410 at McCullough Avenue, the morning meeting turned into a discussion of allergy medications because so many employees were suffering.

“It's hard to sleep, it's hard to eat, it's hard to breathe,” said Delaney Tholen, a recruiter at PRG. “Our office manager stocked up on Kleenex.”

The level of pollen isn't abnormally high for this time of year, said Dr. Dale Mohar, a Kerrville allergist. What's unusual is that levels have been high every day since Saturday.

“Usually we'll get one or two really high days, and then it will drop back down again,” Mohar said. “They're staying pretty darn high right now. In all honesty, I quit counting at 20,000 because there's really no point. I just say '20,000-plus' and call it a day. At that point it's ridiculous, and you're miserable.”

Spurs guard Patty Mills tweeted about his misery Monday with the hashtags #allergies #kickingmybum #needneweyeballs.

Mountain cedar, the common name for Ashe juniper, is the only tree that pollinates here this time of year, said Dr. Robert Ramirez, a principal investigator at Biogenics Research Chamber. Pollen levels usually hit in early December and creep up until hitting a peak in January. And they pollinate a lot.

“Each tree can technically produce up to a billion particles of pollen over the course of the season,” said Ramirez, a board-certified allergist and partner at Certified Allergy & Asthma of San Antonio.

Longtime radio personality Chris Duel said allergies have plagued him all week.

“This is the seventh day now for me,” he said. “It's got me totally knocked out. It's crazy. I have congestion, sore throat, headache, fatigue, a lot of sneezing. On Saturday I went outside and from 1 to 2 p.m. I must have sneezed about 500 times.”

Blame a rainy fall that nourished the mountain cedars in the Hill Country and north winds for blowing their pollen into San Antonio.

Cedar pollen counts began rising in early December and got worse around Christmas, reaching their worst levels this week.

Counts in January 2012 and January 2013 didn't rise above 32,000. The drought in 2011 killed off some of the mountain cedar trees in the Hill Country, said Dr. Paul Ratner, medical director of Sylvana Research, which tracks pollen counts.

But the drought may be a double-edged sword when it comes to mountain cedars, Mohar said.

“The last theory I saw was, because we've been in a long-term drought, the trees were stressed, so they go into survival mode and actually pollinate even heavier trying to propagate the species,” Mohar said. “We did get a little bit of rain in the fall, and that was probably just enough to make them healthier, yet they're still in survival mode.”

Cedar levels are at unusually high levels in Austin, although lower than those in San Antonio. Some Austin residents have called 911 to report smoke that turned out to be puffs of cedar pollen blowing from trees, according to KXAN-TV in Austin.

A spokesman for the San Antonio Fire Department said he was not aware of any such calls here.

Traditionally, the counts start dropping the first week of February, Mohar said. Until then the only relief might come from a freak ice storm.

“I call it job security when the (nurses) complain,” Mohar said.


 By Jessica Belasco
January 16, 2014

United Allergy Services streamlines HR and recruitment: Salesforce.com-integrated solution eases document management for UAS

Founded in 2009, United Allergy Services (UAS) provides effective allergy testing and immunotherapy to the healthcare systems and professionals that treat patients with seasonal and perennial allergies.

Employing over 800 people, the service line features an in-office Allergy Centre, staffing and training, on-going education for the physician and staff, technology services, reimbursement assistance, quality assurance and regulatory compliance, and supply and inventory management.

UAS has effectively expanded access to allergy testing and treatment to the more than 60 million US residents suffering from allergies.

As a rapidly growing company, the human resources team at UAS was struggling with the burgeoning employee records it was required to manage.

“We were keeping our HR and recruitment records in paper files, making any reporting or searching of data lengthy and inefficient,” says Peter Gerard, VP of Human Resources at UAS.

“We needed a system which could help manage our human capital and recruitment processes efficiently and quickly.”

On top of this was the need to manage its healthcare training programs.

“The healthcare market is suffering from a shortage of licensed and trained professionals,” Gerard says. “As a multi-state enterprise, working with some of the largest healthcare systems in the country, UAS is capable of bringing hundreds of certified, trained professionals to the market and we needed a system which could enable us to track our work in this area.”

Gerard was also keen to find a solution that would integrate with Salesforce.com and other current systems in use by UAS. Fairsail won the selection process, built on the Force.com platform and fully compatible with its existing technology.

After the initial consultation with Fairsail, UAS selected the two modules that would help them address the business challenges they faced.

“Fairsail had some great features to offer which we knew would provide a solution to the challenges we were facing,” says Gerard. “This, along with its ability to plug directly into the Salesforce.com environment made it the clear choice for us.”

The module selected by UAS was Fairsail Recruit because of its ability to integrate and audit the entire process of recruitment, which for a rapidly growing organization like UAS was essential.

It offers a robust recruitment and selection process, managing all processes from specifying job requirements to making a job offer. Criteria such as skills, competencies and qualifications can easily be added to the process helping users identify the best candidates.

Furthermore, its integration with social media and job boards means vacancies can now be shared to wider talent pools without any additional effort.

UAS also opted for a second Fairsail module, Human Capital Management (HCM), to bring together processes such as performance ratings, job descriptions and development plans in a single portal.

It allows managers to track and interact with employees to work on career paths and strategic planning through its HR management portal, and brings together an entire workforce via its collaboration portal.

“Our HR team saw a difference immediately,” Gerard says. “It enabled us to electronically process candidate applications in a system which is easy to track.

“Fairsail Recruit has made the process of finding and assessing applicants much easier, allowing us to search by applicant and vacancies online and automate the hiring and on-boarding process.

“On the Human Capital Management side of the program, Fairsail has the ability to save employee data and run useful reports which allow managers to track employee development and engagement.”

With HR now freed up from the lengthy paperwork of the old system, the team is able to focus on how it can best support business growth plans for the future – turning HR from an administrative function to a strategic one.

“We now have better reporting and more robust data to help us focus on the strategic priorities for HR going forward. Fairsail has saved us money and man-hours by automating emails, steps and processes meaning we now have a faster and more efficient reporting program.”

As UAS continues to grow, Fairsail is growing alongside it to rapidly develop the product to capture and report even more data. Since implementing the new system, UAS has requested upgrades or new features on a fairly consistent basis, challenging Fairsail to meet the requirements of a large and growing business.


Posted by Ben Rossi
January 15, 2014

Something To Sneeze At: National Survey Reveals That Majority Of Seasonal/Perennial Allergy Sufferers Want To Be Treated By A Primary Care Physician--Not An Allergist

SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 14, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- According to the results of a recent United Allergy Services survey, two-thirds (68 percent) of U.S. seasonal/perennial allergy sufferers would rather seek treatment for their allergy symptoms from a primary care physician (PCP) than an allergist. Allergies are the fifth leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all agesi, and, with repeated exposure to allergens, many patients can develop allergic asthma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that today, approximately 50 million Americans suffer from allergies and allergic asthma, and the prevalence is increasing.

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Allergists Accused Of Shutting Out Competition

The Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care and United Allergy Services hit several coalitions of board-certified allergists, including the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, with a lawsuit in Texas federal court Monday, alleging anti-competitive practices.

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Less Variety in Babies’ Gut Bacteria May Lead to Asthma Risk

Swedish study followed 47 infants for 7 years.

FRIDAY, Jan. 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Infants with fewer types of intestinal bacteria are at increased risk for developing asthma, a small new study suggests.

Researchers assessed the varieties of gut bacteria in 47 infants and then followed them until they were 7 years old. At that age, 17 percent had chronic asthma, 28 percent had hay fever, 26 percent had the skin condition eczema, and 34 percent reacted to the allergens in a skin prick test.

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Women More Likely To Have Allergies, Asthma Than Men: Study

Sorry ladies -- you're more apt to experience the runny nose and watery eyes from allergies than men are, experts say.

While rhinitis (the name for symptoms that affect the nose, such as stuffy and runny nose), asthma and food allergies are more common among prepubescent males, after puberty, women are more likely than men to experience these conditions.

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Reducing Indoor Allergies This Winter

The weather outside may be frightful this time of year, making a toasty fire indoors so delightful. However, for many Americans, this cozy inside feeling may not last very long due to indoor allergens and overall poor air quality.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) reports “50 million Americans suffer from allergies, making it the fifth leading chronic disease among all ages, and the third most common among children under 18.”

So, what exactly are allergies and why are they wreaking havoc in our bodies and lives? Allergies are due to an abnormal immune response, which prompts your immune system to overreact (by inflaming your sinuses, skin or digestive system) to foreign substances like dust or animal dander. The most popular type of allergy is called “indoor/outdoor” which can be triggered by items like tree/grass, pollen and mold. And in terms of risk factors, children with one allergic parent have a 50 percent chance of developing allergies; if both parents have allergies, the risk is 75 percent.

During the winter season where everyone is inside due to cold weather, family gatherings and special holiday occasions these allergies can become intense and without proper allergen reduction techniques, it can turn a cozy home into an indoor nightmare. However, no need to move just yet. The following ideas below contain many innovative steps in keeping your home allergy-free this winter season ranging from technologically advanced and high-end to quick, easy and affordable.

Rip Up Those Carpets: Removing carpeting and using hardwood or other flooring can greatly reduce indoor allergens. If removing your old carpeting isn’t an option, use low-pile carpeting and vacuum often with a cleaner that has a high-efficiency, small particle (HEPA) air filter.

Maintaining An Even Temperature: Humidity is a home’s worst enemy and humid houses are breeding grounds for dust mites and mold. Maintaining a temperature at 70 F and keeping humidity levels no higher than 50 percent can truly aid in keeping mold at bay. Replacing central heating and cooling system filters once a month will also result in longer lasting machines.

No Pests: Dust mites are one of the main indoor pest allergens, they can usually be controlled by vacuuming carpets, washing hard surfaces, reducing air infiltration in to the home and lowering the humidity level. If you have visible pests indoors such as insects or mice, there are many safe, green and non-toxic ways eliminate the problem. If you do not feel like dealing with pest control yourself, just call a professional. Some pest control companies now use environmentally friendly and less toxic methods of pest control.

Think Alternative Materials: Think alternative materials when building or renovating a home. While these materials can be pricey, better health and reduced respiratory allergy issues, especially in young children, far outweigh the one-time investment. Builders like Majestic Estates build healthy homes which eliminates the problem of indoor air pollution. Unlike most construction, no materials containing formaldehyde will be used in the building of their new healthy Dream Home and only high performance alternative and recycled materials like metal standing seem roofs will be used throughout the process. This construction eliminates the presence of toxins and poor air quality that contaminate the inside of traditionally built homes.

Steel Is The New Wood: Other bold new ways of healthier construction can be found in companies such as Hi-Tech Building Systems, a company that supplies ThermaSteel steel structural insulated panels (SSIPs). This product is made of recyclable steel that protects against issues associated with traditional wood construction such as rot, mold, mildew and unhealthy infestations and insects, significantly reducing unwanted allergens that can affect allergy sufferers.

January 6, 2014

Allergies Can Turn Into Serious Infections

Cedar fever has is some of the worst it has ever been in Central Texas, and for most allergy sufferers it could take on a whole new meaning of sickness.

When winds kick up that is when allergies kick in. Romona Cruz-Peters' hoarse voice is proof that cedar fever got the best of her this year.

"It's defiantly been the worst I've had since living in Texas," Cruz-Peters said. "It started off with the usual sniffling, sneezing, and watery eyes."

That little stuffy nose escalated in to something more serious. Her allergies turned into a fever, then turned in to a sinus infection and now she believed she may have laryngitis.

"I had no idea that it could make you really ill and, in fact, dangerously sick," Cruz-Peters said.

Central Texas is covered in cedar trees, and pollen counts have reached record highs, so doctors warn secondary illnesses are common.

Doctor Ross Tobleman with Scott and White Hospital in Round Rock said the winds have been blowing pollen everywhere around the city, and it is causing people to become sick with serious infections.

"Once you have that immune reaction the mucus will travel to different places, and it will get into your lungs," Doctor Tobleman said. Doctor Tobleman said developing bronchitis or sinus infections are the most common infections.

To help keep allergy symptoms from getting worse, doctors recommend taking medicine from day one and wash sheets often. "Before you go to bed at night wash your hair to get all the pollen out to help your symptoms at night," Tobleman said.

By Cassie Gallo
January 22, 2104

Improving pollen forecasting

Possible hope for hay fever suffers: a new approach for measuring the properties and spread of airborne pollen, aimed at improving the forecasting of this natural allergen has been published.

Doggone Dog Dander – Not With These Non-Shedders

Love Fido, but allergic to his fur? You’re not alone! Approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from allergic reactions to household animals (this includes allergies to both feline and canine dander). Even more surprising? An even higher rate of 20 -30 percent of Americans with asthma also show signs of pet allergy symptoms.

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Microscopic reasons why pets protect against allergies

(CNN) -- It's all about dogs, dust and microbes.

Scientists have long known that kids who grow up with a pet, like a dog or cat, or live on a farm with plenty of livestock are less likely to develop asthma or allergies.

They didn't know what exactly protected these kids, but speculated that it had something to do with the "hygiene hypothesis" -- the idea that modern lifestyles are too clean, and therefore our immune systems aren't exposed to enough bacteria, viruses and parasites (the kind that likely hitch rides in pet hair) to build up proper immunity.

Now, researchers think they are getting closer to a possible explanation.

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan exposed a group of mice to dust from a dog owner's home, then doused them and a population of mice who weren't given dog dust to two asthma-related allergens (including cockroach compounds).

The mice that had been exposed to the dog dust showed much lower inflammation in their airways, and produced less mucus than the mice that received no dust or dust from a non-dog household.

But it wasn't the dust that was protective, but what lived in the dust -- microbes that actually reshape the community of living organisms in the rodents' gut. These changes influenced the immune response of the mice and their ability to fight off certain allergens.

Specifically, the researchers found that a single bacteria called Lactobacillus johnsonii was very prominent in the guts of the mice who lived with dog-related dust. When the researchers gave a live form of the bacteria to the mice that had not been exposed to dog dust, they found that the animals developed similar protection against allergens that the dust-exposed mice had.

What's encouraging about the findings, which were published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the fact that the dust associated with the dogs seemed to prompt an immune response against microbes that have been linked to asthma in kids.

So the results could lead to future studies on how manipulating gut bacteria -- possibly with probiotics or other microbial strategies -- could treat or protect children from allergies and asthma.


By Alexandra Sifferlin
December 18, 2013

Holiday season triggers allergies

Getting out the boxes of holiday decorations from years gone by is a time-honored tradition. But in addition to stirring up memories, it also stirs up allergies.

"The dust from the boxes and on the decorations that have been packed away in dank basements or dusty attics is triggering reactions in allergy and asthma patients," said Joseph Leija, MD, allergist. During the allergy season (March-October), Dr. Leija is responsible for providing the official count for the Midwest, which is available at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital's website, via phone through Chicago media outlets.

Antibiotic Use in Infancy Could Increase Risk of Asthma: Childhood asthma and allergies linked to antibiotic use during first two years

(dailyRx News) The number of people with asthma has significantly increased over the last three decades. Different medical exposures during infancy may have something to do with the rising number.

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Data presented at World Allergy Organization Annual Symposium demonstrates safety of self-administered allergy shots

SAN ANTONIO– December 13, 2013 United Allergy Services (UAS)®, a leading healthcare services company assisting family physicians and health systems to deliver safe and effective allergy testing and customized immunotherapy services, today announced that data from a recent retrospective study citing the safety of UAS’ protocols for seasonal and perennial allergy treatment in the primary care setting will be presented at the World Allergy Organization’s (WAO) Annual Symposium on Immunotherapy and Biologics in Chicago. The abstract was also recognized with a Top Abstract Award by the WAO.

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9 Spots Where Allergy Triggers Hide

You may think you’ve got allergy and asthma triggers under control in your own home. But do you really? Allergic Living helps root out some crafty culprits that have your household wheezing and sneezing:

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Got the sniffles? Migraines spike with allergies and hay fever, researchers find

CINCINNATI— People with migraine who also battle allergies and hay fever (rhinitis) endure a more severe form of headaches than their peers who struggle with migraine, but aren't affected by the seasonal or year-round sniffles, according to researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC), Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Vedanta Research.

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Your Month-by-Month Guide to Allergies

You may feel as though you have year-round allergies, and you may be right. See what's most likely to be causing you to sneeze and wheeze as the months go by.

If you suffer from allergies for even part of the year, you may wonder when you'll get a reprieve. People with spring allergies, fall allergies, or winter allergies might feel relief during their off seasons, but for those who experience allergy symptoms year-round — it's a constant battle with allergens in the air. Here's a look at which allergies plague people most — and when.


During the winter, there's less pollen (if any) floating around, but cranking up the heat indoors can kick up house dust, a winter allergy trigger. If you're allergic to dust, winter allergies can be just as bad as in the spring and fall. To reduce dust exposure, it helps to keep your home's humidity below 55 percent, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly, and encase pillows and mattresses with dust-mite-proof covers.


Mold and dust can cause year-round allergy symptoms, but even if dust and mold don't bring on the sniffles for you, trees can cause your allergies to flare at this time of year, depending on where you live. "We can see tree pollen as early as February, even in the Northeast," says Marjorie L. Slankard, MD, an associate attending physician and director of the Allergy Clinic at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. In the United States, trees that commonly cause allergies include catalpa, elm, hickory, olive, pecan, sycamore, and walnut. Tree pollen can cause the same symptoms as most spring allergies — watery eyes, sneezing, and nasal congestion


Tree pollen remains high on the list of allergens for March, which marks the beginning of spring. "If the trees, grasses, and pollens start coming out early, March can be rough going for people with spring allergies," Dr. Slankard says. Though nice spring weather beckons you outside, if you have spring allergies, keep your eye on the pollen count. The higher the count, the worse the allergies will be. A good place to check pollen counts is at the National Allergy Bureau of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.


April showers can bring … spring allergies. All that rain can make for blooming flowers, but as beautiful as they are, flowers and their pollen means discomfort for people with spring allergies. In some areas of the country, grass pollen emerges in April, too. Between the pollen from the flowers and the pollen from the grass, spring allergies may make you feel especially miserable.


Allergic to tree pollen? Although tree pollination can begin as early as February, it can last through May. That means you might need to slog through spring allergies for four long months. Grass pollen can also emerge this time of year in some parts of the country.


June is a key grass pollen month in many areas, and it's likely that grass pollen will start to trigger your spring allergies by this time of year if it hasn't already. As the days get longer and the temperature gets higher, you'll probably want to spend more time outdoors. If you suffer from spring allergies, you may have good days and bad days — the temperature, the rainfall amount, and even the time of day will affect grass pollen levels, and you'll need to adjust accordingly.


The good news is that by July, grass pollen should subside and you might feel like your spring allergies are finally becoming manageable again. The bad news is that July marks the start of fungus spores and seeds, so if you're allergic to molds and spores, too, you may feel like your allergies never end. Mold can grow on fallen leaves, compost piles, grasses, and grains.


August is a prime month for people with summer allergies to mold spores, which peak during hot, humid weather. You might want to stay inside on days when the mold spore count is particularly high. The best way to keep away from these allergens is to run the air conditioning with a HEPA filter — this cool comfort indoors should help you feel better during the dog days of August.


Late summer/early fall ragweed is the most common cause of fall allergies. Depending on where you live, ragweed-fueled fall allergies can start in August or September and continue through October and possibly November. Pollen grains are lightweight and spread easily, especially on windy days. The more wet and windy autumn is in your area, the more easily the pollen spreads, and the worse your symptoms will feel


Chances that fall allergies will ease by October get better the farther north you go in the United States. But in warmer climates, fall allergies can linger well into this month. Seasonal rain and wind can also ramp up mold spores — if your fall allergies include mold or fungi spores, your symptoms may linger.


The ragweed pollen season usually ends by mid-November in most areas of the country. If you have fall allergies and react to fungi and molds, you probably face your worst symptoms in late summer and early fall. Although you might feel miserable from the end of March until November, making it seem like you have year-round allergies, you should get a break now. November may be one of the best months for people with outdoor allergies, which allows for enjoying the crisp weather. Then, just in time, indoor allergies to pet dander and indoor molds pick up.


As pretty as they are, real Christmas trees can make you wheeze and sneeze. It's likely not the tree itself that triggers allergies but the microscopic mold spores that can harbor in its branches. If you can't resist buying a live tree despite winter allergies, take it home a week before you plan to decorate it and leave it in a garage or an enclosed porch. Then give it a good shake to try to get rid of any spores.


By Beth W. Orenstein
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

Study: Hay Fever More Commonly Found In Southern U.S. Kids

Children in the southern United States are more likely to suffer from hay fever, according to research conducted by the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI).

Researchers looked at data from over 91,000 kids, finding that over 18 percent suffered from the disorder. Hay fever rates were highest in the southern and southeastern U.S., while the lowest rates occurred in Alaska, Montana and Vermont.

"According to the study, wetter regions with average humidity were associated with a decreased number of children with hay fever," said Dr. Micheal Foggs, president elect of the ACAAI. "The study also found areas of the south with warm temperatures and elevated UV indexes seem to harbor more hay fever sufferers."

Over the counter hay fever remedies include nasal corticosteroid sprays, antihistamines, decongestants, montelukast (Singulair), allergy shots and sinus rinses.


by RTT Staff Writer
November 15, 2013

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Nov. 7-11

The annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology was held from Nov. 7 to 11 in Baltimore and attracted approximately 3,500 participants from around the world, including allergy and immunology specialists as well as other health care professionals. The conference featured presentations focusing on the latest advances in the prevention and treatment of asthma, food and medication allergies, immune dysfunction, and sleep apnea.

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Hidden Allergy Triggers In Your Home

Tis the season to avoid hidden allergy triggers so you can be freer to enjoy your home and family.

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The Top 10 Allergy Myths

Like getting in the ring and getting knocked around, allergies can take us down hard. It can be a battle to get through them but it’s nice to know what’s true and what’s false about allergies. Let’s tighten our gloves and do some allergy myth busting with the Top 10 Allergy Myths below!


By Bob Jenson
November 12, 2013

Cat Allergies Double Among Asthma Sufferers, Study Reveals

The number of people with asthma who are allergic to cats is on the rise -- it's doubled over 18 years, a new study finds.

"From 1976 to 1994, positive allergy skin tests in people with asthma have increased significantly," study author Dr. Leonard Bielory said in a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

Not only have we found the number of asthma sufferers allergic to cats has more than doubled, but those with asthma are also 32 percent more likely to be allergic to cats than those without asthma," he added.

The researchers also found that people with asthma are more likely to be allergic to several environmental triggers common in the fall, including ragweed, ryegrass and fungus.

The study was scheduled for presentation Friday at the ACAAI's annual meeting, in Baltimore. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

About 60 percent to 85 percent of people with asthma have at least one allergy, but the most common types of allergies in people with asthma have not been well researched, according to the ACAAI.

"This study helps us better understand common trends in allergy and asthma, which can lead to improved diagnosis and treatment," Dr. James Sublett, chair of the ACAAI indoor environment committee, said in the news release. "While it is unknown exactly why there has been an increase in asthma and allergy sufferers, it is thought a number of environmental factors can be responsible."

During the holidays, allergy symptoms can suddenly appear in people with asthma and those who've never had allergies. For example, while visiting friends and relatives with cats, a person may develop a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes.

There is also something called the Thanksgiving Effect, where college students return home and discover that they are now allergic to a pet that never before triggered symptoms.

"Allergies can strike at any age in life, with symptoms disappearing and resurfacing years later," Bielory said. "Allergies and asthma are serious diseases. Misdiagnoses and inappropriate treatment can be dangerous."


Nov. 8, 2013

To prevent allergic reactions, you might try washing bed pillows and microwaving fruit

The fall allergy season is in full swing and will be with us until early frost chills the air. Ragweed allergy, or hay fever, brings symptoms that include sneezing; stuffy or runny nose; itchy eyes, nose and throat; and trouble sleeping. There is a lot of conventional wisdom about allergies and how to handle them, and not all of it is right.

Here are some common misconceptions, along with tips for preventing allergic reactions:

Fruit is not always your friend. Many favorite fruits — apples, bananas, peaches, plums, etc. — can cause symptoms similar to grass or tree pollen reactions. If you are sensitive, cook the fruit in the microwave for 10 seconds to deactivate the proteins, and do not eat the skin.

Cleaner is not always better. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” has a nice ring to it. However, a little exposure to dirt and germs is actually a good thing during childhood, because it strengthens the immune system. When cleaning, always use products labeled nontoxic, and remove excess books, magazines and other clutter from the sleeping area to reduce dust buildup.

Vintage pillow equals heavy allergy symptoms. If your pillow is older than three years and has not been washed during that time, it weighs more now than when you bought it. It’s loaded with dust mites that are next to your face while you sleep. The microscopic mites cause allergies in many people.

Use hypoallergenic pillows over down pillows, and use a zippered pillow protector that you wash weekly for a double barrier. For a down-alternative pillow, use a commercial washer (or a front-loading home machine) and warm water, and dry it on a low setting with two tennis balls to refluff. Dry-clean down pillows.

There’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. Poodles, labradoodles and Yorkshire terriers are all considered hypoallergenic because they don’t shed hair, but there’s no scientific proof that these breeds produce lower amounts of Can f 1, the most common dog allergen. Minimize contact with pets, never allow them on the bed and always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after playing with an animal. Also, wash and groom the pet to remove excess hair. And vacuum regularly.

Always use a nylon shower-curtain liner. Allergy sufferers are told to shower often to remove pollen and pet dander from their bodies. But the phthalate chemicals in vinyl shower curtains emit chemical odors with humidity and heat, and also attract mold and mildew. For those with allergic sensitivities, these smells can cause airways to constrict and even provoke an asthma attack. Replace your vinyl liner with a nylon liner, which can be washed and is less prone to mold buildup.

Mold is not just a bathroom tile issue. Mold is a huge trigger for allergies and asthma, and it’s more prevalent than you might realize. Watch for mold in the dishwasher and refrigerator pan, on your air-conditioning system and on any wood, paper or cotton materials that sit in water for too long.

Freeze stuffed toys. Your child’s favorite stuffed animals can harbor dust mites that may trigger allergies and asthma. To prevent buildup of mites, freeze all stuffed toys for 24 hours in a zip-lock bag at least once a month. Some stuffed animals can be washed in a machine. (Of course, that can leave the toys misshapen, which can be very upsetting to the child.)

Watch the ingredients. We’re told to lather up with lotions and sunscreen, but be careful and watch the ingredients. To reduce the chance of contact dermatitis, insist that such products are parabens-free and hypoallergenic, or made for sensitive skin.

Tear out the carpet. Tile and hardwood floors are a much better choice, but carpeting must be vacuumed or cleaned regularly. Shake out and vacuum area rugs regularly, and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

Keep the outside world from coming in. Always take off your shoes when going indoors and keep all outdoor tools and toys in a garage or shed. If you don’t, you will be dragging dirt and pollen into your living area and provoking allergies and asthma.

By following these simple strategies, it is possible for many people to eliminate the wheezes and sneezes and enjoy a better quality of life.


By Robin Wilson
November 5, 2013

Fall Allergies: Leaves Problematic for Mold Allergy Patients

Fun fall decorations, such as pumpkins, hay bales and cornstalks are a great way to get in the seasonal spirit. And who doesn't love stunning fall foliage?

But if you have mold allergies, these signs of the season can do a number of your health, Michael Beninger, MD, an ear, nose and throat expert at the Cleveland Clinic warned in a news release.

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When Allergies Trigger Asthma: Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma. Proper diagnosis and treatment are key to preventing attacks.

More than 26 million Americans have asthma, and the number of people with it continues to rise. A chronic and potentially dangerous disease in which the airways of the lungs become inflamed, asthma is closely intertwined with allergies. “Anything that can cause allergies can also cause asthma symptoms,” said David Rosenstreich, MD, director of the Allergy and Immunology Division at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

As many as three out of four adults with asthma have at least one allergy. In fact, the most common form of asthma is allergic asthma, which accounts for 60 percent of all cases. Allergic asthma, also known as extrinsic asthma, is set off by inhaled allergens such as dust mites, mold, pollen, and pet dander. “When some people breathe in allergens, the tubes in their lungs become inflamed,” said Dr. Rosenstreich.

“People think of seasonal allergies as a runny nose, but your airway starts at your nose,” said Boyd Hehn, MD, a pulmonologist at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospitals in Philadelphia. “So it’s a chain reaction where that runny nose will cause the asthma to act up and the airway to become inflamed.”

Non-allergic, or intrinsic asthma, can be triggered by other factors such as anxiety, stress, exercise, cold air, and viruses. But many of the symptoms are the same for both kinds of asthma, including coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.

Rachel Lewis has been dealing with allergic asthma since she was a child, and she suffered her first asthma attack at age 7. “The doctors told me I would grow out of my allergies, but they’ve only gotten worse,” said Lewis, 30.

For people like Lewis, it’s critical to manage their exposure to allergens that may trigger attacks.

Doctors who suspect a patient has allergic asthma perform tests to see what they’re specifically allergic to. This can be done with a skin test, where a small amount of allergen is placed on top or slightly below the skin with a needle. Doctors then look for an immediate reaction, usually a rash resembling a mosquito bite. A blood test can also be done to look for allergen-specific antibodies in the bloodstream.

Fall allergy season is here, and people sensitive to common autumn allergens such as ragweed and mold are starting to feel its effects.

“Once the ragweed comes out, a lot of asthma patients are coming into the office,” said Dr. Hehn. “Controlling the allergies can only help in limiting asthma symptoms.”

Lewis lives in Texas, where fall can be a windy season with a lot of allergens blowing around. She’s looking forward to winter, “when I can go outside and actually breathe.”

Experts recommend those sensitive to seasonal allergies limit their time outdoors on days when there are high allergen counts. These daily counts can be found online through the National Allergy Bureau, part of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

There are several simple steps that someone with allergic asthma can take to control their symptoms. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep home and car windows shut during peak allergy times.
  • Use an in-home air filtration system.
  • Protective bedding covers can keep dust mites out of pillows and mattresses.
  • Limit cats and dogs to certain rooms in the home, and keep them out of the bedroom.
  • Bathing pets regularly reduces allergen counts, and frequent vacuuming can help control dander.

Lewis has her own strategies to manage her allergic asthma:

  • She takes hot showers after she’s been outside and exposed to pollen.
  • She only uses fragrance-free laundry detergents.
  • When she cleans, she wears a mask.
  • She keeps a lint roller with her to get pet dander off her clothing.

“It’s a constant effort to keep all my symptoms balanced and controlled,” said Lewis. “Some people think I’m overreacting and making my allergic asthma a bigger deal than it is. But until you go through that experience of not being able to breathe, then you don’t really know what it’s like and how scary it can be.”


By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
October 29, 2013

You versus Fall Allergies: Who Will Win? 7 Tips to Fight Allergies!

The days are getting shorter, the leaves are starting to fall, and the temperature is slowly dropping; autumn has officially arrived! You may also notice that you’re beginning to experience itchy eyes, sniffling, and constant sneezing. Could it be the common cold? Maybe. However, if your symptoms haven’t stopped, you might be dealing with fall allergies.

According to What to Do About Allergies, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, the ragweed plant, the most common agent of fall allergy symptoms, starts to produce pollen from late summer up until the fall. Allergic rhinitis, or “hay fever”, may not be harmful to humans, but it does trigger attacks in the immune system. Even those living far away from areas with ragweed can be affected by it since pollen travels on the wind for hundreds of miles.

What can be done to combat allergic reactions? Studies have suggested the following easy tips for college students to follow:

1. Limit your time outdoors to afternoons. If you want to play football in the Green with your friends, do so in the afternoon because this is when pollen and mold spore counts are lowest.

2. Wash up as soon as you return from being outside. Clean your hands and face, and take a shower to get rid of any pollen you may have collected from the outside air. Your roommate would probably appreciate it too.

3. Turn on your air conditioner. Keep your windows closed and keep the A/C on to clean out the air inside and keep the outdoor allergens outside where they belong. All the dorms should come with air conditioning. Take advantage of what NJIT housing has to offer!

4. Use a neti pot to rinse out your nose. A salt-water solution can be extremely effective in clearing your nostrils of pollen. Neti pots are super affordable for someone on a college budget and can be purchased at any drugstore.

5. Avoid eating certain foods. Here’s a fun fact: bananas, melons, and chamomile have the same proteins as those found in ragweed, which can make your symptoms worse.

6. Keep your dorm clean. As much of a pain as it is, it’s essential to regularly vacuum your floor and use a dust cloth to clear away any airborne particles in your room. Besides, it feels great knowing that your dorm is freshly cleaned!

7. See a doctor if your allergies are interfering with daily activities. Your doctor will be able to figure out what exactly is triggering your reactions and can treat you accordingly.


by Briana Mancenido
October 27, 2013


Think You Have A Cold? Think Again

Itchy throat? Runny nose? You must have caught that bug that is "going around" the office, right? Well, not so fast. While we're quick to jump to the "I've got the latest bug" conclusion, most of us neglect considering another extremely common ailment this time of year: allergies.

There are actually tons of reasons why you might suffer from these late-onset seasonal allergies, even if you've never had a problem with them before. Sometimes stress causes our body to deplete its stores of vitamin C — leaving our immune system vulnerable.

Allergic reactions can also often affect our guts, leading to sluggishness and even depression. Ultimately, consider getting a professional allergy test if you've got a cold that you just can't seem to shake — it could be something else entirely.


By Kelly Bourdet
Oct 24, 2013

5 Surprising Ways Hotels Can Make You Sick

When traveling, your hotel is your home away from home. But you and your family may have unwanted company -- your hotel room could be a haven for germs, parasites, and other threats to healthy travel.

Before you book your next getaway, know what dangers could be lurking in hotel rooms and how to avoid travel sickness.

Poor Air Quality

Sub-par air quality in your hotel room can quickly put a damper on your trip and increase the chances that you’ll get sick.

“Stale air is unhealthy. It invites irritants into the body,” says Gaylen Kelton, MD, professor of clinical family medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and IU Travel Medicine in Indianapolis. “It can aggravate allergies and just be a nuisance.”

Cigarette smoke is a common irritant. Most hotels in North America offer the option of non-smoking rooms, but they may be harder to find internationally.

“In China, even though there are no-smoking signs on the walls in the hotel rooms, they still reek of smoke,” says Dr. Kelton.

If you do smell smoke or stale air, Kelton says it’s best to resist the urge to turn on the fan or air conditioner. If the air filters aren’t changed regularly, you could make matters worse and blow more irritants into your hotel room. Instead, open a window to get some fresh air into the room.

Germs in Unexpected Places

Most people expect to find germs on places like door handles and toilets in a public place like a hotel. But research shows the highest concentrations of germs in hotel rooms are often in places many people don’t hesitate to touch as soon as they set their bags down.

A small study of nine hotel rooms presented at the American Society for Microbiology in 2012 showed remote controls, telephones, carpets, and bedside lamp switches contained high levels of fecal and aerobic bacteria. Those types of bacteria could lead to gastrointestinal illnesses, among others.

Researchers found that cleaning items on maids’ carts, like mops and sponges, also had high levels of both types of bacteria. That raises the risk of spreading potentially disease-causing germs from room to room while cleaning.

To prevent hotel room germs from spoiling your trip, bring sanitizing wipes and wipe down high contact surfaces when you arrive. Also remember to wash hands frequently.

Slipping Risks

Germs may actually be the least of your worries in a hotel room bathroom, says Kelton. Bigger threats to healthy travel are slips and falls on unfamiliar territory. “More accidents happen in showers from falls than anything else when traveling,” says Kelton.

In hotel room bathrooms, you may encounter a different setup than you're used to at home, and that can trigger falls, says Kelton. For example, you might have a walk-in shower at home, but at the hotel, you have to step into a tub shower. Or the floor may not have a mat or carpet and could become slippery when wet.

Another often-overlooked danger in the bathroom is scalds and burns. “Hotels have the hot water set at a higher temperature than at home, so you need to gauge the temperature appropriately,” says Kelton. “Kids may turn on the hot water all the way at home and be okay, but the hotel’s water is hotter.”

A final water warning for international travelers: Kelton says that if you aren’t going to drink tap water anywhere else on your trip, don’t do it at the hotel either. That means using bottled water to drink in your room as well as to brush your teeth.

Allergies and Sensitivities

Dust mites, down comforters, and other potential allergens might trigger the sniffles in particularly sensitive travelers -- allergy and asthma sufferers, we mean you.

If you have allergies or sensitive skin, Kelton says it’s worth calling ahead to ask if the hotel offers allergy-friendly rooms or if they can tell you what cleaning products they use -- harsh cleaning solutions or laundry detergents can also be irritating if you have sensitive skin. Some hotel chains will also allow you to pre-order foam rather than feather pillows.

Kelton also advises against trying the tempting free toiletries at hotels if you have sensitive skin. “Using a new soap or shampoo may cause some people to have a reaction,” he says.

Bed Bugs

What's most surprising about bed bug infestations is that they're still a problem. Since the late 1990s, they've had a worldwide resurgence. Bed bug infestations have now been reported in all 50 U.S. states, often in hotels.

The blood-sucking insects feed on people. Bed bug bites can start out as small pricks in the skin, but can grow and become inflamed and cause itching.

More than 40 disease-causing pathogens have been detected in bed bugs, but the good news so far is that there's no definitive evidence that they transmit any disease to humans.

To reduce your risk of becoming a bed bug’s dinner or means of transport to its next meal, follow these steps:

  • Check the mattress, box spring, and behind the headboard for signs of bed bugs. Signs may include brown spots (which could be the bugs’ feces) and bed bug skins, as well as any live bed bugs. The bugs tend to harbor in mattress piping.
  • Do not put your luggage or other personal items on beds or other soft, upholstered furnishings that may harbor bed bugs. Put clothing and luggage on dressers or luggage racks.
  • Keep your suitcases, briefcases, and computers and their cases closed when not in use.

Taking these precautions involves some legwork (and detective work), but it all translates to a better travel experience.


By Jennifer Warner
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
October 24, 2013

Allergy Testing and Treatment in Your Medical Practice

In this week's installment of revenue sources for your medical practice, I want to introduce to you different ways of thinking about testing and treating your patients for their seasonal allergies. The results for your patients and bottom line are nothing to sneeze at.

Read more

Healthy Holiday Tips

You might think that by the time the holidays arrive, allergy season is long gone. However, for millions of allergy sufferers, the reality is that allergens still abound. From pet dander to volatile organic compounds, indoor allergens can cause discomfort and health issues as bothersome as when pollen is in season.

Read more

Experts: High pollen count increases medical dangers

Borger resident Edwin Scott said his allergies have been so bad this season he’s been chasing his Zyrtec with Allegra. “Usually, I use Benadryl or something (to supplement Zyrtec), not one of the name-brand medicines,” Scott said.
Allergens may be something to sneeze at, but area residents should not underestimate them as higher moisture levels and higher temperatures have caused higher pollen levels, local allergy experts said.

“People should not take allergies as something mild,” Dr. Constantine K. Saadeh said. “(Allergies) can have serious ramifications.”

Serious allergy suffers face sinus infections that can lead to meningitis, he said.

People who suffer from asthma caused by allergies can suffer irreparable lung damage if their asthma goes untreated, Saadeh said.

West Texas A&M University Purchasing Director Bryan Glenn said he couldn’t make it to work Friday because of his seasonal allergy symptoms. He said he’s been taking allergy shots to no avail.

“My face is swollen and eyes are runny … ready for the first freeze,” Glenn said.

WT biology professor Arun Ghosh cited research by Rutgers University environmentalist Leonard Bielory to explain heightened pollen levels worldwide. Global climate change is prompting many plant species into a sort of species-
survival mode in which they release more pollen, Ghosh said.

“(Plants) cannot move themselves, so it’s kind of a gene-controlled phenomenon,” Ghosh said. “They are producing more reproductive units.”

Ghosh said West Texas residents face the worst allergy conditions in the state. He said he assumed allergens wouldn’t be prevalent in the area when he first moved to the Texas Panhandle due to the region’s limited plant life.

“Just the opposite thing is true,” Ghosh said. “Pollen grains, they can fly 300 to 400 miles. We receive pollen grains from Oklahoma, we receive pollen grains from Colorado, New Mexico — all of our neighboring states.”

This summer, a team of of WT researchers measured heightened levels of ragweed in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Ghosh said. Nine years ago, researchers found scattered patches of ragweed in the canyon, but due to recent rains, a “continuous trail” of ragweed littered the landscape this summer, Ghosh said.

“Ragweed is the most important culprit that is causing allergies to 90 percent of people who are suffering from allergies in the world,” he said.

Another area culprit is the fungus alternaria, which forms on wheat plants and agitates residents with mold allergies, Ghosh said.

Saadeh said allergy sufferers can can take preventative measures to head off their symptoms, such as avoiding going outside between 4 and 8 p.m., as well as avoiding the outdoors when wind speeds range from 20 to 30 mph.

Over-the-counter antihistamine medicine can help mild allergy sufferers, but people experiencing more serious symptoms should talk to a doctor, he said. It’s also a good idea to wash clothes in hot water to deal with pollens that stick to clothing, Saadeh said.

Ghosh said allergy sufferers also should consider wearing a face mask when working outdoors. Parents can help their children tolerate allergies by letting them play outside at an early age, he said, and residents suffering from allergies should consider having their homes inspected for mold growing inside walls or air ducts.

To many, allergies are a minor annoyance, but they can be dangerous for others, Ghosh said. After all, pollens might be responsible for killing off the dinosaurs.

“You laugh at that, but it’s a very plausible theory, and many archaeologists and scientists … believe that the dinosaurs became extinct because of allergies,” Ghosh said.


By Russell Anglin
October 12, 2013