1. Can I do immunotherapy while pregnant?
Yes. If you are already on shots you will have to keep on the same dose once you find out to not build up to higher doses, which will involve higher risks for possible shot reactions. This way we prevent the risk of an allergic reaction to shots which can in turn affect the baby. If you know you are already pregnant before starting shots then it is much better to wait until the baby is born to start immunotherapy.
2. What is the minimum and maximum age for allergy shots?
In general, allergy shots can be started after 2 years of age and continued until 75 years old. However, as with any medical treatment, there are sometimes exceptions which vary on the individual needs of the patient; there are cases when patients younger than 2 or patients older than 75 can be on allergy shots.
3. It is known that asthmatics should not smoke, but can you actually develop asthma from smoking?
No. You cannot develop asthma from smoking alone. You can, however, develop chronic bronchitis or emphysema that can lead to symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath or worsen an existent asthma condition.
4. Can a Food Intolerance develop into a Food Allergy?
No. Food Intolerance has to do with an enzymatic digestive problem; it has nothing to do with a Food Allergy. Food Intolerance occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a particular food. This can lead to symptoms such as intestinal gas, abdominal pain or diarrhea. Food Allergy, on the other hand, involves the immune system. With a Food Allergy, even a microscopic amount of the food has the potential to lead to a serious or life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis.
5. If I am severely asthmatic, what special precautions should I take when fighting a cold or the flu?
If you are a severe asthmatic you have to be very careful when fighting a cold or flu. It is very important that every asthmatic gets the flu shot annually during peak flu season; this will diminish the frequency and potency of any future flu cases.
When you already have the flu you need to keep your airways open and clean by using sinus rinses, decongestants and nose sprays. You must keep all your asthma medications handy and use them as directed by your physician. If your symptoms persist and worsen then you need to make an appointment as soon as possible with your allergist or primary care physician.
6. How can I keep my skin moisturized if I suffer from severe skin allergies and also am allergic to most skin products?
For people allergic to skin products who also suffer from severe skin allergies there are a lot of non-allergenic moisturizers that are unscented (no perfumes) and have no paraminobenzenic ingredients like the ones present in some sunscreens and lotions. It is important for these patients to use products that will help keep skin moisturized (in general the greasier the better) like: Aquaphor®, Vanicream™, Aveeno® , Eucerin®, Cetaphil® , CeraVe®.
7. Is it OK to have house plants if I have asthma?
House plants can be a source of mold. It is not recommended to keep plants inside the home if you are an asthmatic also allergic to molds, especially indoor molds. In this case, it is best to get artificial plants (silk or plastic).
8. Is asthma gradually developed, or can you all of a sudden have a full blown asthma episode without having previous symptoms?
Asthma can start gradually or suddenly. This depends on the cause, exposures or precipitating factors of your individual asthma.
9. I am allergic to peanuts and gluten and I am visiting my family for the Holidays: How shall I have them prepare an allergy-free home and table without hurting their feelings?
Your family’s or friends’ feelings will not be hurt if you explain to them, ahead of time, the medical reason certain precautions need to be taken during your visit. They need to be properly informed of your food allergies (peanuts, gluten, or any other) and the seriousness of the health risk it would be to you if safety measures are ignored.
To make things a bit easier for everyone, you can send them ideas of some allergy-free recipes they could make for you; you can also prepare some “safe” treats yourself to take with you and share with others; you need to ask they mark clearly which dishes are safe for you to eat and which you need to steer clear from; it is also very important you explain to everyone the danger of “cross contamination” when preparing or handling the food during your visit.
If you give them ample time to prepare for your arrival there is no doubt they will understand and adapt accordingly; after all, these are your family and friends who wish you a healthy holiday season. Last but not least, when in doubt – avoid it, and carry your epinephrine auto injector at all times!
10. Are Asthma and Allergic Asthma the same thing?
Asthma or Non-Allergic Asthma – is triggered by factors not related to allergies. Like allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma is characterized by airway obstruction and inflammation that is at least partially reversible with medication; however symptoms in this type of asthma are NOT associated with an allergic reaction. Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, and chest tightness), but non-allergic asthma is triggered by other factors such as anxiety, stress, exercise, cold air, dry air, hyperventilation, smoke, viruses or other irritants. In non-allergic asthma, the immune system is not involved in the reaction. There is no cure for asthma. But with the proper diagnosis, medication and an asthma management plan, symptoms can be controlled.
Allergic Asthma – is the most common form of asthma and it is triggered by inhaling allergens. An allergen is a typically harmless substance such as: dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold. If you are allergic to a substance, this allergen triggers a response starting in the immune system. Through a complex reaction, these allergens then cause the passages in the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen. This results in coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.
11. I am allergic to grass pollen but the allergist told me to be aware of fruits. Do I have to be tested for food allergies too?
Once it is determined you are allergic to pollen or ragweed, your allergist will provide you a list of the fruits that you need to be cautious when eating as there is always a possibility for a cross reaction. This doesn’t mean you are now allergic to these fruits, it simply means you will need to be very careful when eating these fruits as traces of pollen or ragweed (the allergen you are allergic to) could be present, which could bring about allergy symptoms.
12. Can I be allergic to aspirin?
Yes. You can indeed be allergic to aspirin and other NSAIDs (Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs). Your allergist can perform diagnostic oral challenges to determine whether or not this is your case.
13. We bought a real Christmas tree and my son sneezes in the morning: Is that allergy to pines?
Not necessarily. His sneezing can be caused by a variety of factors. He could be sneezing due to the mold spores on the trees that trigger asthma or allergies, causing symptoms like sneezing or an itchy nose. The mold is found on the trees naturally but flourishes and rapidly spreads once inside centrally heated homes.
Some people who think are allergic to “pines” can in fact be experiencing an irritation to the smell found particularly on the type of pine used as Christmas trees, and not necessarily be allergic to pines in general. There are many people who are allergic to strong scents like those found in perfumes, lotions, candles, sprays and yes – even pine trees. But not all pine trees have strong smells, so it might just be a matter of looking for an unscented type of pine tree next holiday season.
14. I am pregnant: Can I still take over-the-counter medications for my allergy?
Not all OTC medications are safe to use during pregnancy. The safest OTC antihistamine or allergy medication to take during pregnancy is Zyrtec®. However, you should always consult with your allergist before taking any medications (even over-the-counter).
15. I get asthma attacks when the temperature drops and I am traveling to Canada for the Holidays, what should I do?
If asthmatic, when exposed to the cold weather, you must be mindful of having all your medication handy and using your rescue inhalers as needed. Avoid staying outdoors in freezing temperatures for long periods of time as this can exasperate symptoms quickly.
16. Can the season scented sprays be the cause of my wheezing?
Yes. Asthmatic people do have a hyper reactivity to smells and odors, so perfumes can trigger asthma attacks and symptoms of sneezing.
17. Can I be allergic to cinnamon?
Yes. Some people are born with an allergy to cinnamon (just like any other food allergy). There is a wide range of symptoms for people who are allergic to cinnamon – symptoms range from simple sneezing to difficulty breathing. The symptoms one suffers and the severity of each varies from person to person. Some may have only a mild reaction with only slight itchiness and redness around the mouth, while another person will experience diarrhea and respiratory problems.
The best treatment for any allergen is to try to avoid it. Any reaction, mild or severe, can be avoided by staying informed. Always check the ingredients of food items. If there is any uncertainty if a food contains cinnamon, do not eat it.
Lots of foods, and desserts especially, call for a teaspoon or two of cinnamon to add a layer of flavor. Instead of omitting the cinnamon, substitute it with another spice. Nutmeg, all spice, or both, are great alternatives to cinnamon. Try adding a dash of ginger, also, to brighten the flavor and add a slight heat element to the dish.
18. Is it possible to be allergic to water?
As strange as it may sound, yes. This is known as aquagenic urticaria, this condition is said to only affect one out of every 23 million people in the world. As you may imagine, being allergic to water is extremely rare, and most that are allergic to it are confined to their homes. A person with this type of allergy is hypersensitive to the ions found in non-distilled water, so most have to be very careful when drinking water, or they drink distilled water.
Someone with aquagenic urticaria can’t enjoy a shower after a stressful day’s work, soak in a hot bath or go for a swim. Even something as natural as sweating can cause a painful rash. People with this type of allergy have to wash, but showering is a painful experience and they can only do it for a minute at a time.
19. I have heard that wood fires could provoke asthma. Is this true?
Wood fires could provoke asthma due to the irritant effect of toxic fumes to which allergic and asthmatic persons are hypersensitive to.
20. Can someone be allergic to wine?
Yes. Wine contains proteins from grapes, bacteria, and yeast, as well as sulfites and other organic compounds and any of those can cause an allergic-like reaction. You can be allergic to the sulfites that are found in most, if not all, wines. Sulfites are compounds found in wines and other foods, and in medications and cosmetics. Sulfite additives can be used as preservatives in foods like soft drinks, dried fruit, pickled foods, gravies and sauces. In wine they are used as part of the fermentation process. Wine tends to contain some naturally occurring sulfites. So even if they are not added, they may still be present. Of course, if you are intolerant to them, there may be a threshold at which your symptoms aren’t aggravated. So a lower-sulfite wine may be fine for you to drink. A specific type of protein allergen called “LTP” is found in the skins of grapes, which makes red wine more likely than other type of alcoholic beverage to cause a reaction. Meanwhile, white wine is fermented without the grape skins lowering the chances for bothersome symptoms.