5 ways to tame seasonal allergies

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 40 million Americans are afflicted with seasonal allergies. NurseWise, a national multilingual nurse triage and health education provider, has assembled a few helpful tips to help you proactively manage your exposure and response to allergens and allergy triggers.

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Recent storms may cause a spike in allergy suffering

PHOENIX -- Like many people in the valley, Stephanie Rusden suffers from allergies.

"[I'm] always stuffed up, eyes are always red and so I have to worry about that," Rusden said.

To get by, she has to do a couple of different things.

"I try Claritin, but it doesn't really help, and then I take Benadryl for night and red eyes," she said.

With the recent storms dumping an enormous amount of rain, Rusden's allergies might spike as new plants start to sprout, grow and bloom.

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Study finds thunderstorms worsen asthma, allergy symptoms

In one of the first studies of its kind done in the United States, a University of Georgia professor teamed up with faculty at Emory University to research the effect thunderstorms can have on people with asthma and allergies.

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Achoo: Seasonal allergies on the rise

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The feeling of Autumn is already in the air…but so is pollen.

Seasonal allergies, otherwise known as "hay fever" has nothing to do with hay nor fever. Symptoms are similar to the common cold including sneezing, itchy throat and runny or stuffy nose.

According to Dr. Rajiv Arora of Family Allergy & Asthma in Lexington, ragweed pollen is the main culprit.

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The Gross Truth About How Often You Should Replace Your Pillow

The question: How often should I replace my pillow?

The answer: Nearly 70 percent of people say a comfortable pillow is very important to a good night's sleep, but many of us make a crucial mistake when it comes to our favorite pillows: We're keeping them for way too long.

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Heavy rains bring bad news for allergy sufferers

The heavy rains this monsoon season have been great for New Mexico. Putting a major league dent in the drought, along with making the state look greener, but it's been very bad for allergy sufferers.

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Allergy Update: Preparing for your child for Back to School

UAS is in the news! UAS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Frederick Schaffer shares information on preparing children for back to school. The article is featured in the July/August 2014 issue of NSIDE magazine, a Texas-based business and healthcare magazine. See the PDF and online preview below.

NSIDE TXMD: July/August 2014

Kids From Dairy Farms Have Lower Allergy Risk, Study Finds

TUESDAY, July 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children raised on dairy farms are much less likely to develop allergies than other youngsters, a new study finds.

Researchers tracked children who lived in rural areas of Sweden, half of them on dairy farms, from birth until 3 years of age. Children on dairy farms had one-tenth the risk of developing allergies as other rural youngsters.

"Our study also demonstrated for the first time that delayed maturation of the immune system, specifically B-cells, is a risk factor for development of allergies," researcher Anna-Carin Lundell, of the University of Gothenburg, said in a university news release.

She and her colleagues found that children who had allergies at ages 18 to 36 months had higher levels of immature B-cells in their blood at birth and during the first month of life.

Further research is needed to learn more about the association between delayed B-cell maturation early in life and increased risk of developing allergies, the researchers said. While a link was found between fewer allergies and growing up on dairy farms, it didn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

"We need to identify the specific factors on dairy farms that strengthen protection against allergies and appear to promote maturation of the immune system as early as the fetal stage," Lundell said.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Immunology.

Allergy rates in Western nations have risen dramatically in recent years. One widely held explanation for this trend is that children are less exposed to microorganisms and have fewer infections, resulting in delayed maturation of their immune system, according to background information in the news release.


By Robert Preidt
July 15, 2014


Is Your Air Conditioning Causing Your Allergies?

Summer is back, and so are many peoples’ allergies.

While people often suffer from spring allergies related to pollen, it’s not uncommon for people to suffer from allergies related to dust, dust mites, and animal dander. These allergens aren’t necessarily coming from the spring and summer conditions, rather they can be originating from inside your own house.

In 2013, American News Report reported a potential cause of allergies that can be easily addressed. With children being especially susceptible to allergies, we believe the message is worth repeating during this allergy season. At most, it may help prevent some allergies. At least, you’ll breath easier knowing there may be some relatively inexpensive ways of improving the air quality within your house.

Originally posted on American News Report, May 21, 2013 –

Children are most susceptible to allergies, and spring is one of the worst times for plant pollen allergies. Some doctors call Spring and Summer, “peak allergy season.”

“Food and skin allergies are on the rise and respiratory allergies are the most common type of allergy affecting children,” according to a report from the CDC published on May 2, 2013. There was a greater number of food and respiratory allergies with increased income, according to co-author LaJeana Howie, from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC.

Allergens can be in the carpet and also in the heating and air-conditioning vents in the family home. In some cases the quality of the air outside is not as bad as the air inside the home.

Children’s immune systems are still developing and so when a child sneezes or coughs and it’s not a cold or a virus that’s a sign that dust and other allergens may have reached a critical point in your home. It can take adults longer to show the symptoms of dust, dander and pollen allergies.

“Allergy Moms” say that taking care of a child with allergies is always a challenge because they never feel sure footed, the sand is always shifting. Even if a child has severe allergies such as a food allergy to peanuts or dairy it’s not unusual for the child to be allergic to many other different things to varying degrees. Even though and allergy mom may have “allergy proofed” their own home there’s always a good chance that air with allergens is going to come into the home and then be spread through the heating and air conditioning ducts.

Mark Masters, president of a professional carpet and duct cleaning company, says that the most common items they find in the home duct system are leftovers from the construction process. This can include dust from drywall, sawdust, concrete dust, as well as pollens and air particulates that were deposited during construction. Many of these particulates could be an allergen for a child, adult, or senior.

After you’ve taken your children or yourself to your family doctor there are other steps you can take that will mitigate the effects of these allergens. One important action you can take is to have your cooling and heating air ducts cleaned by a professional.

Another step you can take is an allergen filter system. Some of the better systems feature multistage allergen filtration. This type of system will remove allergens, particulates and contaminants by using a fan that runs continuously and circulates the air. Combined with an anti-allergen filter that effectively traps dust, allergens and other particulates such as dust mite droppings and dog dander indoor air quality can be improved.

If you’re like most people, changing a filter is a hassle that we’d rather avoid. Now there is technology that addresses that, it’s a ductless air conditioning system, which works only in the rooms where you are. This not only creates a healthier environment but a more economical one.

Doctors say that some allergy symptoms could be symptoms of something more serious. That includes a sinus infection or an upper respiratory infection. So seeing your family doctor first, and then taking steps to make the air better in your home, is the right order to get things done as we move into the spring and summer allergy season.

Doctors and other researchers are doing extensive studies to understand the risks and methods for preventing these allergies according to the CDC report.


July 14, 2014americannewsreport.com

8 Summer Miseries Made Worse by Global Warming, From Poison Ivy to Allergies

With average global temperatures expected to rise more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) over the coming decades, a new report from a leading U.S. environmental group warns that future summers are likely to be filled with more misery, from more prolific poison ivy and biting insects to worsened air and water quality and impacts on tourism.

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Study finds link between stress and allergy flare-ups

(NaturalNews) Allergy sufferers may want to focus on positive thoughts and stress reduction to find relief for their runny noses and itchy, watery eyes.

According to researchers at Ohio State University, there's a link between people's stress levels and bad moods and the frequency of their allergy flare-ups, or flares. (1) In the study, 179 patients were analyzed for three months by experts at the university, 39 percent of whom had more than one allergy flare. This group experienced higher stress than the group without allergy symptoms, and, all told, 64 percent of them had more than four flares over the course of 28 days. (1) Typically, the flares came within just a few short days of exposure to stress.

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Seasonal Allergy Symptoms Can Significantly Impair Driving Ability

Common seasonal allergy symptoms, such as watery eyes, sneezing and fatigue, can significantly impair driving ability, says a study in the July issue of Allergy. Allergy symptoms' effect on driving was comparable to having a blood-alcohol concentration nearing impaired levels, according to the researchers. Allergy medications weren't wholly effective at reducing the symptoms' effects.

Allergic rhinitis, or hay fever, has been linked to car accidents but the effects on a driver's performance weren't known, researchers said.

The study, in the Netherlands, involved 19 people in their early 30s with grass- and tree-pollen allergies. During the off-season, when they were free of symptoms, subjects were each treated in turn with an antihistamine, steroid nasal spray or a placebo pill or spray in four testing sessions on separate days. After each treatment, they were given grass and tree allergens or a placebo through a nasal spray to provoke allergy symptoms.

The subjects then did a 60-minute driving test in a vehicle with a camera that recorded how often they veered toward the center lane. The technique, called standard deviation of lateral position (SDLP), is commonly used to assess drunken driving. The higher the SDLP score, the greater the impairment. During the last 15 minutes of driving, subjects were given verbal memory tests where they were asked to recall as many words as possible from a list presented through the car audio system.

The greatest impairment occurred in participants with allergic symptoms who had received a placebo treatment. SDLP scores for this group were comparable to driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.03%, just under the legal limit of 0.05% in most countries, researchers said. (The U.S. limit is 0.08%.) Both the antihistamine and nasal spray reduced SDLP scores to non-significant levels.

Driving scores of allergy sufferers deteriorated further during the memory tests. In this case, only treatment with nasal spray improved SDLP scores. The antihistamine's effects were comparable to placebo, possibly because of additional mild sedation due to the drug, the researchers said.

Caveat: Participants were tested in easy driving conditions, without distraction from cell phones, radios, or bad weather. The study was partially funded with a grant from GlaxoSmithKline.

Title: Allergic rhinitis is a risk factor for traffic safety

Signs of teen obesity: How teenagers decorate their bedrooms provides important information about their weight and possible future health risks, says a study in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescence.

The study found overweight adolescents tended to accumulate objects that weren't associated with physical activity compared with peers who had a body-mass index that was normal or below normal. Teen BMIs increased with each additional object.

The study, at Utah State University, involved 234 students in grades 8 and 9. About 30% of both sexes had above-average BMIs. Students were given a checklist of 66 electronic and decorative objects and asked if they had the item in their bedroom and were satisfied with it, or if they wanted to have the item.

Bedrooms of boys with above-average BMIs had significantly more TVs, electronic games and magazines. Bedrooms of boys with average or below-average BMIs had more souvenirs from other places, computers, religious items and artwork or pictures.

Girls with above-average BMIs had more board games, dolls, and stereos. Girls with lower BMIs were more likely to have objects associated with physical activity, such as calendars, schedules and spinning disco balls.

Caveat: The influence of parents and peers wasn't assessed.

Title: Early adolescent Body Mass Index and the constructed environment

Prenatal insomnia: Mothers' loss of sleep in late pregnancy may trigger abnormal cellular activity in the fetal brain that could be associated with memory and behavioral problems in childhood, says a report in the August issue of Neurobiology of Disease. Prenatal stress has been shown to have harmful effects on fetal development, but the impact of sleep disturbances hasn't been explored, researchers said.

Disturbed sleep in late pregnancy appeared to overactivate microglia, brain cells involved in nervous-system development, and inflammatory proteins called cytokines, the study found.

Experiments in China subjected three groups of pregnant rats to 72 hours of sleep disruption in the early, middle and late stages of gestation. Controls weren't sleep-deprived. Memory and spatial-recognition tests were administered to the rats' offspring on the first day after birth and every week for three weeks. Intake of plain water or water containing 1% sucrose was compared among offspring groups. Tissue samples from the hippocampus, the brain's memory center, were also analyzed.

Rat offspring from the late sleep-deprived group took significantly longer to find an underwater platform than controls. Offspring from the early and middle sleep-deprived groups also took longer than controls to find the platform but the difference wasn't statistically significant. When the platform was removed and later returned to its original location, the late-deprived offspring spent significantly longer finding it than other groups, suggesting memory and spatial learning were impaired researchers said.

The late sleep-deprived group had lower birth weights and were smaller as adults than other groups. These rats exhibited a markedly reduced preference for the sucrose solution, an indication of anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure.

Caveat: The experiments were conducted on rats and would be difficult or impossible to perform on humans, researchers said.

Title: Maternal sleep deprivation inhibits hippocampal neurogenesis associated with inflammatory response in young offspring rats

Boater behavior: Public-education programs that promote the use of life jackets do little to alter boaters' behavior—but changing the law might, a study suggests.

Wearing of life jackets increased 41% in canoes, kayaks, dinghies and small motorboats after a new law in the state of Victoria, Australia, mandated their use, according to a study published online in Injury Prevention.

In the U.S., where life-jacket use is voluntary, about 22% of all boaters wore the flotation vests in 2013, according to the nonprofit health consulting firm JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. of Boston.

In the current study, researchers compared life-jacket use before and after the 2005 law came into effect, requiring life jackets be worn in boats up to 16 feet long. (Noncompliance resulted in $250 fines.) Trained observers stationed at boat ramps recorded life-jacket use.

Life-jacket usage by occupants of small boats increased to 63% from 22% after the law took effect. The largest increase of 56% was recorded in boaters age 60 and older; the smallest increase of 23% was in infants and children under age 9.

On larger boats, only children and teens increased their use of life jackets, by as much as 10%. Life-jacket use on yachts decreased by 17% after the law took effect.

A study published on Monday in Injury Prevention reported that boating-related drowning deaths in the six years after the 2005 legislation took effect fell to 16 from 59 recorded in the six years before it was introduced. Of the 16 boaters, 56% weren't wearing life jackets.

Caveat: Observers may have miscalculated boat lengths and children's ages. Observation rates varied slightly from region to region within the province.

Title: Did compulsory wear regulations increase personal flotation device (PFD) use by boaters in small power recreational vessels? A before-after observational study conducted in Victoria, Australia

Belted waists: Wearing belted clothing may cause physiological changes in the lower esophagus that increase the risk of inflammation and cancer, suggests a study in the July issue of Gut. Cancers of the lower esophagus are increasing, particularly among men. Acid reflux disease is a risk factor for esophageal cancers but many patients never experience reflux symptoms, such as heartburn, researchers said.

The study suggests pressure from waist belts, especially worn over a large waistline, can cause pockets of silent acid reflux to develop in the lower esophagus without noticeable symptoms.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland recruited 24 volunteers, 12 men and 12 women, in their mid-30s. Half had a normal weight and half were obese. The subjects swallowed a probe that recorded changes in the squamocolumnar junction, the area where the cells of the lower esophagus start to resemble stomach cells, during two experiments. In one, subjects consumed fish and chips in an upright position until full. In the other, they consumed the same meal wearing a wrestler's belt.

After eating, wearing a belt and having a large waist were more likely to cause the squamo-columnar junction to move higher in the esophagus and closer to the sphincter muscle that stops the backward flow of stomach contents.

The displaced junction caused a partial hiatus hernia, in which part of the stomach protrudes into the diaphragm, the study found. The belt was also associated with a short section of acid reflux above the junction that was more pronounced in subjects with larger waists.

Caveat: The long-term effects of wearing a belt aren't known. Weightlifter belts aren't typical belts worn by most people.

Title: Waist belt and central obesity cause partial hiatus hernia and short-segment acid reflux in asymptomatic volunteers

Nordic Poles Boost Artery-Disease Patients' Walking

People with peripheral artery disease, or narrowed leg arteries, were able to walk significantly farther using Nordic walking poles than when they didn't use poles, according to a study in the June issue of the British Journal of Surgery. Poles work the body 23% harder than normal walking, but the participants didn't seem aware of the extra exertion, the researchers said.

Peripheral artery disease (PAD), a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, affects an estimated 8 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.K. researchers recruited 52 patients with PAD, 39 to 84 years old. The subjects were asked to walk at a normal pace three times a week for 30 minutes. About half used walking poles. Walking tests were administered at the start of the study and every four weeks for 12 weeks and consisted of walking a 55-yard circuit as fast and as long as possible. The pole group performed the test twice at each session, once with poles and once without poles.

Claudication distance, the distance covered before experiencing leg pain, increased immediately in the pole group to approximately 162 yards from 136 yards. After 12 weeks, maximum walking distance had more than doubled in the pole group and claudication distance had increased by 60%.

Without poles, the subjects' walking distances also increased significantly. Controls had longer walking and claudication distances, but the change wasn't statistically significant.

Caveat: The study involved a small number of subjects.


By Ann Lukits
June 23, 2014

U.S. Born Children Have More Allergies than Immigrants

Research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics shows a startling disparity between children born in the U.S. and those who immigrate from other parts of the world: The foreign children have nearly half the risk of developing allergies and asthma as the U.S. born children.

According to Reuters Health, parents of 80,000 children were interviewed for the study between 2007 and 2008, accounting for demographics, income levels and geographic location as well as frequency of relocation. Between 34 and 35 percent of children born in the U.S. were diagnosed with allergies, including hay fever and food allergies, as well as asthma and eczema, compared with just over 20 percent of foreign-born children.

An expert not affiliated with the research told Reuters that food allergies have “increased tremendously” even affecting second-generation immigrants, “they’re identical (to U.S.-born people).” And the allergies became more severe the longer the foreign-born children were in the U.S. The research noted that 27 percent of immigrant children living in the U.S. for more than ten years had at least one type of allergy versus just 17 to 18 percent who had been in the U.S. two years or less.

Dr. Jonathan Silverberg from Beth Israel Medical Center and St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York and the study’s lead researcher says there may be several factors responsible for the rise in allergies, including obesity, changes in the climate and exposure to certain infections. With regards to environmental factors, Silverberg said Children born outside the U.S. are likely not exposed to these factors early in life and are therefore less likely to develop allergic diseases.”

The researchers hope the results will spark more investigation into what exactly is the cause of U.S. allergies and how they can be prevented.

This article was originally published on www.NaturallySavvy.com.


By Jill Ettinger
June 21, 2014

Polluting our health

Respiratory diseases lead list of concerns inflamed by 'bad air'

The first thing Julie Franks-Marchese does each morning is click an app on her phone that gives her an air-quality report for Valencia, Pa., where she lives with her husband, Michael Marchese, and their sons, Jesse, 11, and Tyler, 15. Then she plans her kids' days, prepares their medications and braces herself for disappointments caused by their asthma.

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Does eating local honey ease seasonal allergy symptoms?

You've probably heard that eating local honey can help ease your seasonal allergy symptoms. The idea is that bees transfer pollen spores from area plants to their comb, so ingesting that honey will increase your tolerance for those allergens, gradually building immunity over time. However, many experts say there is no compelling evidence to suggest this belief is true.

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Early Exposure To Bacteria Protects Children From Asthma And Allergies

Babies who are exposed to both bacteria and allergens in the first year of life are less likely to develop asthma and allergies, a study finds. It's the latest wrinkle in the hygiene hypothesis — the notion that exposure to bacteria trains the infant immune system to attack bad bugs and ignore harmless things like pollen and cat dander. Read more

Is It Allergies Or A Cold? 5 Ways To Tell

Seasonal allergies and colds share some common symptoms, so it may be hard to tell the two apart.

Both conditions typically involve sneezing, a runny nose and congestion. There are some differences, though. Additionally, colds usually include coughing and a sore throat, but these symptoms can also occur in people with hay fever who have post-nasal drip. Itchy eyes are common for seasonal allergies, but rare for colds.

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Tips for a Healthier Home

MISSION, KS--(Marketwired - Jun 4, 2014) - (Family Features) Every household has its honey-do list, but inevitably you're not always going to have time to cross off every project on the list. Rather than setting lofty goals that make it easy to procrastinate, the key to a productive and effective list is to be realistic. Start with the projects that will have an immediate effect on creating and maintaining a safer and healthier home.

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Hay Fever & Seasonal Allergies: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Itchy eyes, a congested nose, sneezing, wheezing and hives: these are symptoms of an allergic reaction to the environment caused when plants release pollen into the air, usually in the spring or fall. A colloquial term for seasonal allergies — and the inflammation of the nose and airways (and all that comes with it) — is hay fever, but that's a misnomer — those suffering from hay fever almost never get a fever, and hay is not the culprit. Doctors and researchers prefer the term "allergic rhinitis."

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Why Do Some People Develop Allergies as Adults?

Some children seem to outgrow allergies. But adults who have never had problems with pollen suddenly can start suffering the runny nose and itchy eyes of hay fever. To find out why, we turned to James Sublett, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and a practicing immunologist in Louisville, Ky. (Coincidentally, Louisville was identified by medical experts as the most challenging city for allergy sufferers for 2014.)

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The Case Against Antibacterial Soap

It's been ingrained in us since childhood. Don't want to get sick? Wash your hands with antibacterial soap. But the same compound we entrust to fend off the sniffles could actually be harming us—and creating an army of superbugs in the process. It's time to ban antibacterial soap.

If that sounds farfetched or alarmist, it shouldn't. In fact, it's already happening. Just this past Tuesday, Minnesota became the first state to ban antibacterial soaps loaded with something called triclosan, a nasty little chemical that comes with a whole host of problems. And you can find it in about 75% of all liquid soaps on the market.

Other states are almost certain to follow in Minnesota's footsteps, but even that ruling doesn't officially go into effect until 2017. So there's a good chance that you'll be seeing the stuff on drug store shelves for years to come. If you do, steer clear.

It Doesn't Actually Help

Ever since triclosan-inclusive products made their way into the home in the 90s, we've put the stuff in everything from liquid soaps and makeup to cutting boards and mattress pads.

Considering how prevalent the chemical is in our daily lives, it may surprise you that the FDA has never observed evidence that triclosan-based "antibacterial" soap has any benefit over non-drug-laced varieties. Even though the FDA published guidelines for chemicals in liquid soaps back in 1978, the agency never actually got around to finalizing them—meaning soap companies have never had any federally mandated rules to follow regarding chemical additives.

What the original 1978 draft did find, though, was that triclosan was totally ineffective. The FDA may not have proven definitively yet that antibacterial soap is safe, but they have proven, after 42 years of research and independent studies, it has zero health benefits over normal soap and water.

That's right: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states outright that triclosan soaps are no more beneficial to a user's health than the regular, non-antibacterial soaps our grandparents lathered up with. Straight from the agency itself:

FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water.

And despite your elementary school flu season training, washing your hands with antibacterial soap won't help you stave off that fever. As the name might imply, antibacterial soap targets bacteria—which are a different animal from the viruses that cause the common cold and flu.

Frequent hand washing is a very good idea when contagious diseases are floating around, but it's the washing, not the triclosan, that lessens your chance of getting sick. Using an antibacterial drug to fight a virus is like setting mouse traps to get rid of ants.

But It Might Hurt

As it turns out, triclosan is good at something; it helps fight gingivitis. But unless you're brushing your teeth with Dawn (please don't), that doesn't mean it belongs in soap. The reality is that antibacterial soap isn't really doing you any good; in fact, it's more likely that it's causing harm.

In multiple animal studies, triclosan has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system, the complex interplay of hormones that regulate most aspects of an animal's growth and reproduction. Exposure to triclosan has been shown to reduce sperm count in male fish, speed up the onset of puberty in female mice, and decrease the presence of thyroid hormones in male rats. Because of these findings in animal studies, the FDA and EPA are collaborating on research to study the drug's effect on the human endocrine system.

There's already some evidence of human side effects, though: a small study in Norway showed that children with higher concentrations of triclosan in their urine (a measure of triclosan exposure) were more likely to develop seasonal allergies.

Just this past December, the FDA issued a proposed ruling that would require antibacterial soap manufacturers to prove—with actual data—that their products "are safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections." So while the FDA isn't ringing alarm bells quite yet, it clearly thinks there's more to triclosan and compounds like it than what we currently know.

It's an Environmental Mess

We're not just hurting ourselves with our antibacterial soap addiction, though; it could also be doing harm to the world around us.

Not only is triclosan rinsed down our drains in enormous quantity, it's also used in some types of pesticides, meaning the compound finds its way into our waterways via sewage treatment plants and trickle-down filtration. The EPA says that triclosan may attach to suspended solids and sediments in waterways, meaning that critters higher on the food chain could carry higher concentrations of the compound, which is a problem when it reaches the creatures we catch and eat.

But it's not just the animals. Some studies have shown that plants grown in environments contaminated with triclosan actually soak up the compound and metabolize it, creating a bevy of new triclosan-embedded compounds that scientists are only just beginning to monitor in the plants that we eat.

In fact, our antibacterial soap is probably doing a much better job killing ocean life than anything living on our skin. According to a recent study, triclosan is 100 to 1,000 times more effective "in inhabiting and killing algae, crustaceans, and fish" than they are at killing microbes. Which is good news if you hate our ocean friends and bad news for everyone else.

And Leaves Us Vulnerable

As if all that wasn't enough bad news, it gets worse. Slathering everything we own in a layer of triclosan could very likely be the genesis of an antibacterial-resistant superbug.

Of course, that's an inherent risk when any antibacterial compound gets widespread use. Bacteria will almost always develop ways to resist a drug, regardless of how it's deployed. Life finds a way! The problem is, when a drug is everywhere, as triclosan seems to be, developing resistances happens at a wildly quicker rate.

And it doesn't end there. When bacteria develop resistance to one drug, that resistance often extends to other, similar drugs. We're already seeing some bacteria with resistance to triclosan, and researchers fear that triclosan-resistant strains of e. coli and salmonella could also become resistant to the heavy-duty antibacterial drugs used to fight serious bacterial infections in a hospital setting.

So what's the answer? Just use regular soap. The cold, hard truth is that antibacterial soaps don't carry any real benefit. And the companies that make them have known this all along. Take a close look at any antibacterial soap label the next time you're at the grocery store. It'll probably say something like "kills 99.9% of the most common bacteria."

Not "all" bacteria. Not "the really nasty, mess you up bacteria." Just "the most common bacteria." The normal flora that's always present on your skin and that (barring a few rare, serious medical conditions) isn't going to cause you any problem. In fact, a good, vigorous scrubbing with regular ol' soap and water will pretty much obliterate any germs you're looking to expunge.

So the next time you see your kid coming home covered in dirt, you'll still need to wash them (for god's sake wash them), but leave the antibacterial soap where it belongs—wasting away on some drug store shelf, waiting for the FDA to drop the boom.


By Ashley Feinberg and Robert Sorokanich
May 22, 2014

'Allergy-Friendly' Airline Is Now A Thing Thanks To Swiss International Air Lines

Swiss International Air Lines is taking one step toward a more allergy-friendly travel experience, and they mean business. The airline is the first of its kind to be certified as "allergy-friendly" by the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation.

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Bless You: Allergy Sufferers Having A Worse Spring Than Normal

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Another health warning as an especially bad allergy season hits Maryland hard. Doctors are seeing a spike in cases–and it may be a result of that polar vortex we dealt with this winter.

Christie Ileto has more on what’s being called the “pollen vortex.”

If surviving winter’s brutal blast wasn’t enough, allergy sufferers are barely getting by this spring.

“The worst part of it is the sneezing, the sniffing and the runny nose,” said Jim Connolly.

He isn’t alone. Dr. Baruch Friedman says many Marylanders are on track for a nasty allergy season.

“We’ve seen a much higher number of calls over these last couple of weeks,” he said. “We’ve had an incredibly prolonged and severe winter. What’s now happening is we’re getting the seasons coming together.”

Health experts say because of the polar vortex, many of the trees here in Maryland bloomed later and what that means for people who have allergies is that they will be experiencing tree and grass allergies at the same time.

“There’s a lot of grass; there’s a lot of pollen,” said allergy sufferer H.R. Cook. “The seasons are kind of mixed up this year.”

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, between 40 and 50 million Americans are affected by allergies. Eight percent of adults suffer from pollen allergies, including hay fever.

“Miserable. It’s hard to focus sometimes,” said Ronnie Lindo.

But with Mother Nature to blame, all allergy sufferers can do is weather the pollen storm.

Doctors recommend those with allergies consider allergy medications or injections to help build immunity and reduce allergic reactions.


By Christie Ileto
May 19, 2014

4 Ways To Pollen-Proof Your Workouts

There’s bad news for allergy sufferers this year: The so-called polar vortex has given way to a pollen vortex. “A long, harsh winter can lead to a tidal wave of pent-up pollen being released all at once,” says Michael Foggs, M.D., president of the American College of ­Allergy, Asthma and ­Immunology. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to spend the whole season on the treadmill instead of the track. Follow these strategies to make your outdoor time sniffle-free:

Watch the weather. Counts tend to be highest from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., but “some studies suggest pollen counts in certain parts of the country are higher in the afternoon,” Foggs says. And beware of dry, windy days. Wind vectors can carry pollen up to 400 miles. “Even if you’re nowhere near the plants that trigger your ­allergies, their pollens will find you,” he says. The ideal time to head outdoors: after a rainfall, which can wash pollen out of the air.

Protect your peepers. Your lashes or the creases around your eyes can trap pollen, leading to redness, itching, and irritation. To help block out allergens, wear wrap-around sunglasses or sports goggles during your workout.

Stay covered. Pollen and other environmental allergens can easily collect in your hair, too, especially if you wear gel, mousse, or hair spray. Wear a sun hat or baseball cap (they’ll help ward off sunburns, too).

Hit the shower. Before you go inside, slip out of your workout clothes and park your sneakers at the door, so you don’t track allergens into the house. You should also shower and wash your hair immediately after exercising to decrease your pollen load, suggests Foggs.


By Karen Asp
May 17, 2014

7 Ways Pets Improve Your Health

When you come home to a purr or wagging tail at the end of a stressful day, the sudden wave of calm you feel isn’t just your imagination. Research suggests that your fluffy friend truly is good for your physical and mental health. “Pets often provide unconditional acceptance and love and they’re always there for you,” says Gary A. Christenson, MD, chief medical officer at Boynton Health Service at the University of Minnesota. “There is a bond and companionship that makes a big difference in mental health,” not to mention the extra exercise you get from walks and playtime. Read on to learn the surprising ways your pet can boost your health.

Pets may lower your cholesterol

If you have a dog, those daily walks are helping to keep your cholesterol in check, says Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine. Plus, a survey by the Australian National Heart Foundation revealed that people who own pets, especially men, tend to have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Pets help relieve stress

Simply being in the same room as your pet can have a calming effect. “A powerful neurochemical, oxytocin, is released when we look at our companion animal, which brings feelings of joy,” says Johnson. “It’s also accompanied by a decrease in cortisol, a stress hormone.” Through her research with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Johnson has witnessed the powerful effects of animals. “One veteran couldn’t leave his home without his wife until we placed a dog with him and in less than a week he was able to go around his town,” she says.

Pets may reduce your blood pressure

It’s a win-win: petting your pooch or kitty brings down blood pressure while pleasing your pet. Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo discovered that in people already taking medication for hypertension, their blood pressure response to stress was cut by half if they owned a cat or dog.

Pets boost your fitness

A dog is the best companion for a stroll—even better than a friend. Johnson—co-author of Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound—led a study at the University of Missouri that found that dog walkers improved their fitness more than people who walked with other people. A separate study found that dog owners walked 300 minutes a week on average, while people who didn’t own dogs walked just 168 minutes a week. And a study in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health found that not only did dog owners walk more than non-owners, they were also 54% more likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity.

Pets reduce your cardiovascular disease risk

Lower cholesterol, stress, and blood pressure levels combined with increased fitness may add up to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. That’s a theory supported by the American Heart Association. In 2013, the AHA reviewed numerous studies examining the effects of pet ownership on cardiovascular disease risk and concluded that having a furry friend, particularly a dog, is associated with a reduction in risk and increased survival among patients.

Pets may prevent allergies in children

If you had a pet as a kid, you may be in luck. In a study published in Clinical & Experimental Allergy, children who were exposed to pets before they were six months old were less likely to develop allergic diseases, hay fever, and eczema as they got older. “In the first year of life, babies who are exposed to dogs in the household are more likely not to have allergies, asthma, and fewer upper respiratory infections,” says Johnson. “If exposed at an early age to dander and allergens, we may be less reactive to them over time.” And kids who grow up around farm animals, dogs, or cats typically have stronger immune systems and a reduced risk of developing asthma or eczema.

Pets relieve depression

Pets can provide social support for their owners, who tend to have better overall wellbeing than non-owners, according to a study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. And a large review of studies by the British Psychological Society found that dogs especially promote therapeutic and psychological wellbeing, particularly lowering stress levels and boosting self-esteem, as well as feelings of autonomy and competence. “The calming presence and the social bond that pets bring can be very powerful,” says Dr. Christenson. “Animals give something to focus on instead of the negative thoughts a depressed person is prone to have. When a pet pays attention to you, they’re giving you unconditional love and acceptance.”


Celia Shatzman


How Climate Change Is Making Allergies Worse

Thanks to all the pollen in the air, I spent the last few weeks coughing, wheezing and blowing my nose. Austin is infamous for bad allergy seasons. We have three of them: fall, winter, and spring. In the summer, it’s too hot for pollen (but the heat gives me something else to complain about).

Other Texas cities may have even stronger allergy seasons. And it could all get worse thanks to global climate change.

An little-noticed part of the National Climate Assessment, released yesterday by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, explains how: climate change results in “more frost-free days and warmer seasonal air temperatures,” according to the report. That can mean longer pollen seasons.


Even worse news for allergy sufferers is this tidbit: “Increased carbon dioxide [CO2] by itself can elevate production of plant-based allergens … Higher pollen concentrations and longer pollen seasons can increase allergic sensitizations and asthma episodes … and diminish productive work and school days.”

In a nutshell: plants eat CO2; more plants mean more pollen; and more pollen means worse allergies.

To back up its statements, the assessment cites a 2011 study showing how ragweed allergy seasons have lengthened in parts of North America.

That study says:

“… Data indicate a significant increase in the length of the ragweed pollen season by as much as 13 – 27 d at latitudes above ∼44°N since 1995. This is consistent with recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections regarding enhanced warming as a function of latitude. If similar warming trends accompany long-term climate change, greater exposure times to seasonal allergens may occur with subsequent effects on public health.”


It’s interesting to note that ragweed pollen actually decreased in Texas (as measured in Georgetown) during the time sampled for the report. But its increase in more northern climates was so dramatic they offset that decrease.

That suggests climate change might improve allergy conditions, at least for some plant species in some regions. But before Texas allergy sufferers throw out their Kleenex, it would behoove them to note the part of the assessment that says “simultaneous exposure to toxic air pollutants can worsen allergic responses.”

So, even in places where there’s less pollen, there could be more sneezin’.


By Mose Buchele
May 8, 2014

Asthma Linked to Bone Loss in Study

HealthDay News -- People with asthma could be at higher risk of bone loss, new research suggests. 

But it's not clear how the two conditions might be related.

"We know prolonged use of corticosteroids in the treatment of asthma is a risk factor of osteoporosis, but we haven't had definite data showing the relationship between asthma itself and bone loss," study author Dr. Jae-Woo Jung said in a news release from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).

"This study has shown a meaningful association between the two conditions, even in the absence of previous oral corticosteroid use," noted Jung.

The researchers studied more than 7,000 people, including 433 with asthma. They found that bone density in the lumbar spine and femur was significantly lower in those with asthma.

"It is difficult to pinpoint the cause of bone loss in this subset of patients," said allergist Dr. John Oppenheimer in a statement provided by the ACAAI.

"Reasons can include corticosteroid use, low levels of vitamin D or even race. This research has unveiled findings that need be further studied," he said.

Although steroid treatments for asthma may be a possible link to bone loss, no one should stop taking these drugs without talking to their doctor.

"Asthma is a serious disease that can be life-threatening," Oppenheimer said. "It is important that those with asthma and other breathing problems continue their prescribed treatment. It is also imperative that allergists discuss the potential of the disease itself or as a consequence of therapy in asthma sufferers."

Side effects from corticosteroid treatment are generally more evident with oral forms of the drugs instead of inhaled, though oral steroids are more effective. Doctors prescribe inhaled corticosteroids whenever possible. If oral corticosteroids are necessary, doctors will prescribe the lowest effective dose to help avoid side effects, according to the ACAAI news release.

The study appears in the May issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.


By Randy Dotinga
May 7, 2014

Why Are My Allergies So Bad?

It’s being called the “Pollen Vortex” of allergy seasons and we have the blood shot eyes and difficulty breathing to prove it (or is that just due to lack of sleep now that my twins are in “big girl” beds?). Breezy Mama turned to Dr. Jill Bryson, MD, primary care physician at Benton Family Clinic, to find out why this allergy season is particularly brutal, the symptoms that you have allergies and the safest treatments.

Why are allergies so bad for people this year?

There was an exceptionally harsh winter this year, with record-setting snowfall in some regions and extended below-freezing temperatures. This elongated winter meant late flowering for trees. As a result, trees had less time to pollinate, causing higher than normal amounts of pollen to be released all at once. This phenomenon is being referred to as the “pollen vortex”.

What are symptoms it’s allergies and not a cold or other illness?

The duration of symptoms is an important indicator. A cold typically lasts 3-14 days whereas allergy symptoms will remain for as long as the allergen is present. If you experience symptoms for longer than two weeks, you should see your primary care physician and request an allergy test.

Another indicator is the color of the mucus. If you are producing large amounts of yellow mucus, it is likely a cold.

What do you recommend to relieve allergies?

Patients that suffer from allergies should discuss care and treatment options with their primary care physician or family doctor. A primary care physician can test, diagnose and provide patients with accessible treatment options. If you have allergies for more than three months out of the year, talk to your doctor about allergy testing and immunotherapy (allergy shots). Immunotherapy treats the root cause of allergies, as opposed to over-the-counter medications (such as Claritin) that only mask symptoms. This means that patients taking immunotherapy will eventually build up an immune response to their allergens, so they don’t need to take ongoing medication. Another added benefit of allergy shots is customization. Unlike immunotherapy tablets that only treat one allergen at a time, allergy shots can be customized to treat all of your allergies simultaneously.

When I take an over the counter med, I get a little pain in my chest. Are there gentler solutions?

If you are experiencing pain from your medications, you should try a different method. There are a number of ways that allergy sufferers can both treat and minimize their symptoms. You may want to consider the following:

· Avoid your allergen: Once you know what allergen is causing a reaction, avoid contact! If you’re allergic to pollen, stay indoors in the morning/evening when pollen counts are at their highest.

· Clean House: Dust and mold are two of the most common allergens. If your allergy test shows you’re allergic to these, wash bedding in hot water to eliminate dust mites and other allergy triggers.

· Shower at night: Pollen in the air builds up on your clothes and hair throughout the day. Minimize your symptoms by showering in the early evening.

· Exercise at night: Pollen counts are highest in the morning so allergy sufferers should try to avoid outdoor exercise at this time.

Who offers the seasonal allergy shots and where can people get them?

Primary care physicians can deliver allergy shots that dramatically impact the quality of life for allergy sufferers. United Allergy Services (UAS) enables primary care physicians, pulmonologists, pediatricians and internal medicine physicians to provide their patients with customized allergy shots that patients can administer themselves at home. This means no more trips back and forth to the allergist’s office and within three to five years you could be symptom free. For seasonal and perennial allergy sufferers, self-administered immunotherapy under the guidance of a primary care physician allows a broader population of patients to receive high-quality, affordable, safe, allergy care so these patients can resume active, full, healthy lifestyles.

What do you recommend as the safest treatment for adults with allergies?

For both children and adults, the first step is to talk to your primary care physician about allergy testing. Allergy testing will allow you to identify and avoid your specific offending allergens. Such “avoidance therapy” in itself may diminish symptoms by as much as 50 percent. If ongoing treatment is necessary, I recommend immunotherapy. The safety of immunotherapy has been proven by more than a century of scientific research and medical practice. Furthermore, it is the only treatment that addresses the actual cause of allergies rather than the symptoms. Immunotherapy has also been shown to decrease the development and onset of new allergies and decrease the risk of developing allergic asthma.

What is the safest treatment for kids suffering from seasonal allergies?

Avoidance is a safe technique but it is generally impractical for kids. Kids should be enjoying life outdoors not suffering from seasonal allergies. I generally recommend immunotherapy.

Anything else you’d like to share about allergy season?

More than anything, be sure to talk to your doctor. Too many people are suffering unnecessarily from allergies and self-medicating. Schedule an appointment with your family doctor or discuss your symptoms during your next appointment. Don’t miss out on outdoor fun this year. Talk to your doctor and get tested.


By Chelsea Gladden
May 5, 2014

Spring allergy relief: Here's what to try first

New medications and old tricks can help ease that sneezing and sniffling.

Sneezing, congestion, runny noses and itchy eyes. For people with seasonal nasal allergies — commonly known as hay fever — these symptoms are nothing new. They are as predictable as the explosion of tree pollen happening now in many parts of the country and the bursts of grass and ragweed pollens still to come.

But when it comes to treating those symptoms, there is some news this year.

First, consumers can now buy one kind of allergy medicine, a steroid nasal spray, without a prescription. Nasacort is the first drug in that class to make it to drugstore shelves.

Second, the Food and Drug Administration has just approved the first two of several dissolvable pills that may replace allergy shots for some patients. The pills contain grass pollen extracts and, taken over time, will help some patients build up tolerance – without having to return to a doctor's office for months or years of injections.

But those medications are not the first things to try, doctors say. In fact, some tried and true strategies don't involve medication at all. Among them:

• Pay attention to pollen counts. "In many parts of the country, pollen counts are highest between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and start to rise again after dusk," says Michael Foggs, an allergy specialist in Chicago and president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Fit in your jog or gardening between those peaks or right after a cleansing rain, he suggests.

• Close your windows. "What I tell people with significant pollen allergies is that if they open the windows to get the breeze and fresh air, they also are inviting a cloud of pollen into their houses," says James Li, an allergy specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

• Turn on the air conditioner. Or at least run the fan on your heating and cooling system. Good ventilation, combined with a high-efficiency filter, will help clean indoor air.

• Keep yourself clean. After some time outside, leave your shoes at the door, rinse off in the shower and put on fresh clothes.

• Try nasal rinses or sprays. Saline rinses and sprays can help wash pollen away and soothe tissues. "We tell patients who live near the ocean to go jump in" for the saltwater effect, Foggs says.

• Don't forget your eyes. Strategies that help your nose often help eyes too. But some people need more. That might include prescription eye drops but also can include rinsing the eyes with cold water, using cold compresses or chilling artificial tear drops before use, says Mark Blecher, an ophthalmologist at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. "People tend to forget that things that are so simple and safe can be very helpful," he says.

Many people will find they do need medications to get through their worst weeks or months. The first to try, because they have the fewest potential side effects, are the non-sedating antihistamines on drugstore shelves, Foggs and Li say. If those don't work, steroid nasal sprays — the one available over the counter and prescription versions — are good options, they say. Guidelines from several physicians' groups say the steroid sprays are the most effective medications for nasal allergies. Additional prescription medications, including antihistamine nose sprays, are available.

"There's individual variability in response to medication," Li says. "You can try several until you find the best fit."

When those fail, or side effects are a problem, there's immunotherapy — treatments designed to lower sensitivity by exposing patients to tiny but increasing doses of allergens (the offending pollens or other substances). Traditionally, that has meant going to an allergist's office to get shots.

The new immunotherapy tablets can, after a first dose in a doctor's office, be taken at home. But there's a catch: the first few in the pipeline work against just one allergen type at a time. For example, the first two tablets approved by the FDA work against grass pollens; others will work against rag weed or dust mites. Allergy shots, by contrast, can combine extracts from several allergens. That comes in handy, since most people are allergic to more than one thing, Li and Foggs say.

Allergy specialists can test patients to find out exactly what those things are and whether any other conditions are causing their symptoms.


By Kim Painter
April 20, 2014

The Polar Vortex Is to Blame for This Year's Brutal Allergy Season

Those cold snaps helped spawn a spring allergy season so intense that it already has its own headline-ready nickname: the "pollen vortex."

One week ago, I purchased the first asthma inhaler I've owned since the 8th grade. I'd shown up at my doctor's office short of breath, and a lung function test promptly revealed that I was inhaling about one-fifth as much air as a healthy 24-year-old should be. "We're expecting a lot of cases like you," my doctor told me as he wrote my prescription. "It's going to be a hell of a pollen season."

And for that, you can blame the polar vortex—the extreme cold system that repeatedly hovered over much of the United States this year—along with the rest of this winter's brutal weather. Those cold snaps helped spawn a spring allergy season so intense that it already has its own headline-ready nickname: the "pollen vortex."

"The long winter, the particularly cold weather, it all pushed the pollen season back quite a bit," says Estelle Levetin, the chair of the biology department at the University of Tulsa. Individual flowering trees probably aren't producing more pollen, Levetin says—but they're all dumping their pollen at once, making this allergy season particularly difficult for people who are sensitive to more than one type of pollen.

"It's going to be a hell of a pollen season."

The simple reason is that flowers are temperature-sensitive. They don't open up and release pollen when it's cold. "If you look at daily pollen levels, typically, you would see them track the temperature," Levetin says. Trees that normally would have bloomed several weeks ago are just budding now. In Oklahoma, where Levetin lives, the first allergenic trees blossomed "easily a month late."

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America counts 45 million people in the United States who suffer from nasal allergies, and another 25 million with asthma—both conditions that can be can be aggravated by pollen. Those figures come with sweeping economic consequences. Every year, asthma costs $18 billion in hospital visits and lost workdays, according to the AAFA.

This week may offer some relief, thanks to the relationship between cold weather and pollen counts. People living in the West are already experiencing lower pollen levels due to the cold front moving across the country. When it hits, the cold slows the release of pollen. But unless a region undergoes freezing temperatures for several days, says Levetin, once warm weather returns, so will the pollen deluge.

While no single weather event—the cold snaps that caused this year's pollen vortex, for example—can be directly attributed to global warming, the science community is engaged in a lively debate over whether climate change is making unusual weather events, including severe cold temperatures, more likely. Jennifer Francis, a research professor at Rutgers University, argues that the rapidly warming Arctic has caused the jet stream to slow, which could result in atmospheric events, such as winter storms, staying put for longer.

But even if climate change can't be blamed for this year's pollen vortex, there is substantial evidence that a warming planet spells a more agonizing allergy season. Cold weather may have caused the current pollen backlog, but over the long term, the opposite may be true. Hotter temperatures, an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, and greater precipitation levels in some regions of the United States all conspire to create near-ideal conditions for the weedy plants that give off allergenic pollen, according to a 2008 study from the Environmental Protection Agency. "Warmer temperatures and increased precipitation cause some plants to grow faster, bloom earlier, and produce more pollen," the study found. "Temperature changes are expected to alter allergy seasons to begin earlier and last longer and the distribution of allergenic plant varieties to change over time."

The EPA is hardly alone in saying that climate change could make allergy season more hellish. A 2010 report by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences warns, "There is also a possibility that certain aero-allergens may become more allergenic as temperatures and CO2 concentrations increase." (Besides exacerbating the pollen count, climate change is linked in some regions to a rise in ozone, fine particles, and dust—all of which can cause or worsen respiratory diseases, the report found.)

Plant physiologists have observed that the weeds that produce many allergens have adapted the best to an atmosphere that is chock-full of carbon dioxide, Scientific American reported in 2012. Pollen from ragweed, for instance, which peaks in the summer and is one of the most common triggers for allergies, has exploded as the climate has warmed. From 1995 to 2011, according to the EPA, the ragweed allergy season grew up to 24 days longer in regions across the Midwest:

As the map suggests, northern regions of the United States, where warming in more pronounced, will bear the brunt of increases in most types of environmental allergens. Warmer temperatures are already allowing hickory and oak, two highly allergenic tree species, to thrive in new regions. In the United Kingdom, the Health Protection Agency has observed that the hay fever season is growing longer.

The future may offer a reprieve from agonizing allergy seasons. Leonard Bielory, an environmental sciences professor at Rutgers, predicted in Scientific American that a warming planet will eventually cause pollen counts to taper off. "It cannot continue on a linear scale," he said. "If heat goes up to a certain temperature, plants will die. It will hit a breaking point." Of course, at that point, a prolonged allergy season won't be high on the list of problems.

By Molly Redden
April 16, 2014

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.

Read more

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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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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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

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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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

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.