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Fall Allergy Season is here

Fall Allergy Season is here

As most allergy sufferers will tell you, allergy symptoms can always be bothersome, turning any time of year into sneezing season. A runny nose, itchy eyes and scratchy throat can arise as the days get shorter and the leaves begin to change.

The fall can be especially difficult for people who are sensitive to mold and ragweed pollen. But these seasonal elements are not the only triggers that can make symptoms worse this time of year. There are also a few lesser-known triggers. Here are four things you might not know about fall allergies, courtesy of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology:

 Hay Fever

Hay fever, a term from a bygone era, actually has nothing to do with hay; Instead, it s a general term used to describe the symptoms of late summer allergies. Ragweed is a common cause of hay fever, which is also known as allergic rhinitis. The plant usually begins to pollinate in mid-August and may continue to be a problem until a hard freeze, depending on where you live. See an allergist for prescription medications to control symptoms or to see if allergy shots may be your best option.

 Lingering Warm Weather 

While most people enjoy Indian summer, unseasonably warm temperatures can make rhinitis symptoms last longer. Mold spores can also be released when humidity is high, or the weather is dry and windy. Be sure to begin taking medications before your symptoms start. Track your allergy symptoms and bring ot your visit with you primary care clinican and/or allergist to find relief.

 Pesky Leaves

Some folks might find it difficult to keep up with raking leaves throughout the autumn. But for allergy sufferers, raking presents its own problem. It can stir agitating pollen and mold into the air, causing allergy and asthma symptoms. Those with allergies should wear an NIOSH rated N95mask when raking leaves, mowing the lawn and gardening.

School Allergens 

It s not only seasonal pollen and mold that triggers allergies this time of year. Kids are often exposed to classroom irritants and allergy triggers. These can include chalk dust and classroom pets. Students with food allergies may also be exposed to allergens in the lunch room. Kids with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) may experience attacks during recess or gym class. Help your child understand what can trigger their allergies and asthma, and how they can avoid symptoms. Be sure to notify teachers and the school nurse of any emergency medications, such as quick relief inhalers and epinephrine.

No matter the season, it s important for those who think they may be suffering from allergies or asthma to see a board-certified allergist. A primary care clinician or allergist can help you develop a treatment plan, which can include both medication and avoidance techniques.

Having your allergies properly identified and treated will help you and your family enjoy the season. To schedule an appointment with a Pentucket Medical primary care clinician/ pediatrician and/or allergist call 888-227-3762 or visit www.pmaonline.com for a complete listing of clinicians. 

How I became an allergist – By John Hein, MD

Hein | allergist |Newburyport

When I was in the first grade, I was having difficulty in school. I told my mother that I could not hear the teacher. A test indicated that my hearing was significantly impaired. 

Further investigation revealed that my adenoids were enlarged and were affecting my hearing. As a result, my adenoids were surgically removed.  During the operation it was discovered that the allergic cells in my body were extremely elevated. 

My surgeon recommended that I be evaluated by an allergist. 

Allergy testing showed that I was allergic to many molds and other environmental allergens. 

After frequent doctor visits and treatments in childhood, my health and school performance greatly improved. And this experience opened my eyes to the career I have chosen for my life:  I was inspired to pursue a career as an allergist. 

I am extremely happy to be in the profession that I am today, a field of medicine in which a physician can make life-changing differences in lives of our patients.  My life goal is to help others like myself, because I know from my own experience how allergies can miserably impair someone’s life. 

Working as an allergist puts you in a field of work where you can actually cure people. You can really watch them go from being very sick to becoming very healthy, and it’s really gratifying as a physician to see this. 

I would like to do everything possible to improve the health and quality of life of my patients.

John Hein, MD,  AAAAI, is a member of Pentucket Medical’s Allergy Department. Dr. Hein practices in Newburyport and Haverhill. For an appointment, please call 888-227 3762.

What’s the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?

 whats the difference between food allergy and intolerance

Food Allergy

Food allergy is caused by the body’s immune system reacting adversely to the consumption of a specific food.  Symptoms occur shortly after a food is placed in a person’s mouth.  Initial symptoms include oral itching, tingling, and swelling.  Symptoms typically occur within seconds to minutes after the food is placed in the mouth.  Symptoms may progress into facial swelling and hives.  If the food is swallowed, nausea and vomiting may occur.  Symptoms may worsen, resulting in faintness and a drop in blood pressure.

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance encompasses a wide variety of adverse reactions following food consumption.  These reactions are often not caused by the body’s immune system.  Intolerances may be classified as gastrointestinal, metabolic, chemical, or toxic.  Gastrointestinal disorders include gluten intolerance (celiac disease) and colitis.  Metabolic disorders include lactose intolerance and carbohydrate malabsorption.  Chemical disorders include reactions from MSG and food dyes.  Toxic reactions occur from eating spoiled foods.

Identifying Food Allergens

People often have a strong suspicion of their specific food allergy.  Patients explain that every time they consume a certain food, the same symptoms occur.  Symptoms occur quickly after exposure, and they resolve by the next day.  Common food allergens in adults include:

  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • shellfish
  • finned fish
  • raw fruits

Children may additionally be allergic to:

  • cow’s milk
  • hen’s eggs

These allergies can be quickly identified by allergy testing.

Diagnosing Food Intolerance

Food intolerance can be difficult to diagnose.  Allergy testing does not identify food intolerance.  Because of the wide spectrum of food intolerances, a careful history must be taken in order to identify a specific diagnosis.  Elimination diets are sometimes needed to identify the specific food trigger.  Consultation with a gastrointestinal specialist can help aid in the diagnosis of gluten intolerance and colitis.  The patient’s story often guides the clinician’s path in establishing the diagnosis.

What is Hay Fever?

hayfeverinformation

What is Hay Fever?

Hay fever is an allergic reaction that occurs in the late summer and early fall.  Symptoms include itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and fatigue.  These symptoms can be accompanied by cough and wheezing.

The name “Hay fever” originates from symptoms that occur during the time of year when farmers harvest and bale hay.  This is typically in the late summer and early fall.  The name “Hay fever” is a misnomer in that baled hay is usually not the cause of symptoms.  Instead, plants that pollinate during the hay baling season are the culprits.  These plants are weeds including Ragweed and Mugwort.  These weeds use the wind for pollination.  Their pollen grains become airborne and can travel for many miles.  These pollen grains induce allergic symptoms when they come in contact with a person’s eyes, nose, or lungs.

 How do I know if I have Hay fever?

You may have Hay fever if your allergic symptoms worsen during the months of August, September, and October.  Symptoms improve after the first hard frost of the year.  The diagnosis can be confirmed by an allergist by performing allergy tests that identify sensitivity to weed pollens.

 What can I do about my Hay fever?

Symptoms are reduced by minimizing time outdoors.  Windows in your house should be closed.  Air conditioning is helpful and can remove pollen particles from indoor air.  Over the counter antihistamines can treat the majority of symptoms.  Symptoms of cough and wheezing are more concerning and should be addressed by a doctor.  Patients whose symptoms are not relieved by medications may benefit from allergen immunotherapy or “allergy shots”.  Immunotherapy reduces the body’s allergic response to allergens and can be a cure for many patients.

Is there a cure for food allergy?

Well, it depends on the type of food someone is allergic to.

Recently there has been information in the press about advances in peanut allergy treatment.  Researchers are currently studying the effects of giving multiple small doses of peanut in attempt to cure the allergy.  Although this therapy may work in some patients, the rate of treatment-related side effects is quite high.  Even in patients who respond positively to this treatment, it is unclear if their desensitized state will be maintained for long periods of time.  Due to the high rate of side effects and unclear duration of improvement, desensitization therapy for peanut allergy is not currently standard of care.  Allergists continue to recommend avoidance of peanut consumption if a patient has peanut allergy.

On the other hand, allergies to fruits and vegetables have a more promising prognosis.  Oral itching after eating foods such as raw apples, cherries, and carrots is a common complaint in New England.  Cooked forms of these foods are often tolerated.  These symptoms are termed the “Oral Allergy Syndrome”.  Patients who have a severe allergy to pollen often complain of itching or swelling of the mouth after eating raw fruits and vegetables.  This is caused by structural similarities between pollen and raw fruits and vegetables.  Cooking these foods changes their structure, making them less allergic.  Because pollen allergy is the cause of this syndrome, reducing pollen sensitivity often improves food-related symptoms.  Many patients who undergo 2 or more years of pollen desensitization, or “allergy shots,” report an improvement in their fruit and vegetable allergy.

Although a definitive cure for all food allergies is not yet available, there is hope for people who suffer from raw fruit and vegetable allergy.  Please contact your local allergist for more information.

Wheat allergy and gluten intolerance- Are they the same thing?

The short answer is no.

When someone is allergic to wheat, they may develop symptoms of an itchy mouth immediately after eating.  The itchy mouth may be followed by lip swelling, tongue swelling, and hives.  This allergic reaction could also be associated with nausea and vomiting.  These symptoms will occur within seconds to minutes after consuming wheat.  Symptoms generally occur every time wheat is consumed.  In reality, wheat allergy is relatively uncommon in adults.  Children with wheat allergy usually outgrow this allergy by the age of 5 years.

Gluten intolerance manifests itself in a completely different way.  Symptoms of gluten intolerance are often nonspecific.  People may develop bloating and loose stools after consuming foods that contain gluten.  However, symptoms may not occur immediately after eating gluten.  The intolerance may be present for months or years before one realizes there is something wrong.  The more specific name for gluten intolerance is Celiac disease.  When people with Celiac disease consume gluten, an immune response occurs in the small intestine.  This response results in the loss of absorptive capacity of the intestine.  People with gluten intolerance may have weight loss and nutrition deficiencies due to the loss of intestinal absorptive capacity.  A chronic itchy, bumpy rash may also occur on the extensor surface of the elbows, knees, and buttocks.  The most noticeable symptoms are often flatulence and loose, fatty stools.

How are these disorders diagnosed?

Wheat allergy is diagnosed by an allergist after a careful history is taken.  An allergist may perform skin or blood tests to confirm a suspected diagnosis.

Gluten intolerance is best diagnosed by a gastrointestinal specialist.  This specialist looks for characteristic loss of absorptive properties in the small intestine.  Blood tests and genetic studies may also be performed to support the diagnosis.

What happens when the diagnosis is confirmed?

Patients with wheat allergy must avoid consumption of wheat.  However, other grains are often tolerated.  Patients should carry an epinephrine pen in the event that a severe allergic reaction occurs.  Wheat allergy is often outgrown, so regular follow-up visits with the allergist can assess for resolution of this allergy.

Patients with gluten intolerance must avoid gluten indefinitely.  These foods include wheat, rye and barley.  A gluten-free diet must be strictly followed to allow the return of normal intestinal functioning.  The prognosis is good as long as a life-long gluten-free diet is followed.

 

 

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