If you’ve ever wished for the convenience of picking up your prescription nasal steroid spray from your pharmacy without a doctor’s script you are now able to do so. Recently, the FDA approved the nasal steroid, triamcinolone (Nasacort), for over the counter use. The goal of this measure is to help the estimated 50 million-plus Americans who suffer with allergies every year.
While this may make life a bit simpler for allergy sufferers, consumers should still become informed before deciding if over-the-counter nasal allergy sprays are right for them. Although the sprays may be more easily obtained, they may not be a safe option for everyone. It’s still prudent to get an allergist’s advice before trying any new medication, especially those that previously required a prescription and doctor visit before using.
As with all medications, it is essential to make sure that you are treating the correct condition. Symptoms of allergic rhinitis can mimic other conditions such as sinus infections, viral infections, nasal polyps or in rare cases cancer of the nasal cavities. It is possible that a consumer may be treating the wrong problem and a more serious condition can go unnoticed. For this reason, we recommend always getting a professional opinion before trying any new medicine.
To help you learn more about whether Nasacort or another nasal steroid may be an option for treatment of your allergies, Dr. DeMarco has put together a list of the ten most frequently asked questions about the new nasal spray:
If you have other questions that aren’t answered here, please contact the offices of Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida at 904-730-4870 with your questions or to schedule a consult. We look forward to helping you live a “breathe easy” lifestyle.
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One of the more common allergy and asthma problems we see in North Florida are our patients’ responses to pollen. Pollen is a potent allergen that consists of microscopic, grains that are released by plants, then are carried to other plants by wind as part of nature’s pollination process. When pollen is being dispersed, it can be easily inhaled into sensitive nasal passages and trigger an allergic response. When you are allergic to pollen, your body sees it as an invader and mounts a defense that can result in watering eyes, constricted airways and a runny, itchy nose.
Here in Florida, pollen can be very difficult to avoid since each type of pollen in our area is released at different times. Our pollen seasons tend to begin earlier and last longer than those in other states and can be a year-round problem. Typically, Florida’s pollen seasons are December to May for tree pollen, April to November for grass pollen and July to November for weed pollen.
While we can’t control the seasons or the amount of pollen in the air, there are some things we can do to limit the extent of our exposure and our response to it.
1. When you’re experiencing allergy symptoms during pollen seasons, it’s best to keep your house and car windows shut at all times. While we have some beautiful weather here in Jacksonville, opening windows allows the pollen to get into your car or home and settle on every surface. Once pollen has accumulated on surfaces, even cleaning them can increase the possibility of an allergic reaction.
2. When you’re riding in the car, keep the air conditioning on the “recirculation” mode. This works to keep the already-filtered air circulating in the car. If the air conditioner is not needed, close all the vents. The vents still allow air flow when the air conditioning is off, so closing them will limit the pollen that makes it into the interior of your car.
3. While there is no solid evidence that cleaning your air conditioning ducts can help you control your allergies, it is still a good idea to take the precaution of having your air conditioning units cleaned and serviced by an air conditioning company in Jacksonville before allergy season sets in. It is also a good idea to have your air conditioner set to recycle the air in your home (similar to the recirculation setting in your car). Getting your air conditioning serviced and your filters replaced with a HEPA filter can also reduce the amount of allergens in the air around you.
4. Limit how much pollen you are tracking into your home, especially into your bed. When you come in from the outdoors, take a shower immediately and change clothes. For women especially, hair traps a good amount of pollen, so it’s important to wash your hair before bed each night.
5. Pollen counts in Jacksonville tend to be highest in the mornings, typically between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Limit your exposure by avoiding outdoors when pollen counts are highest. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, try to schedule your outings for the afternoons instead of the mornings. If you suffer from severe pollen allergies, you might consider engaging in indoor sporting activities only during the peak of pollen season.
6. Lawn mowing will stir up settled pollens, so mowing duties should be left to family members who aren’t allergic to pollen if at all possible. Wear a protective mask and eye protection while doing yard work during your pollen season. If that’s not an option, consider hiring a local lawn and landscaping company.
7. House pets that spend time outdoors will bring pollen indoors on their fur. Be sure to wash your pets at least one or two times per week during your peak allergy season. Always keep your pets off your bed and preferably out of your bedroom altogether.
8. Wash bed linens at least once per week to get rid of any pollen that may have settled there. When doing laundry, avoid using an outdoor clothesline during the pollen seasons.
9. Keep carpets vacuumed and clean. Vacuuming will remove pollen and other allergens (like pet dander) that have settled in your carpets. It would also be a good idea to steam clean your carpets at the beginning of the allergy season. Either do it yourself or have a professional Jacksonville carpet cleaning company do it for you.
10. Be proactive and aware! Check the pollen reports during allergy season. This will help you prepare for your day and know what to expect. For convenience, the Jacksonville area pollen forecast is regularly posted on our website at www.JaxAllergy.com.
Allergic reactions to pollen can be a frustrating and annoying part of your life, but following these tips can help limit your immune system’s response. If you believe your symptoms are worse than normal or you aren’t sure what’s causing your reactions, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified Jacksonville Allergy Specialists.
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Allergic reactions to dander are not due to the animal’s fur, because fur itself is not an allergen. Fur does trap pollen and dust; however, and the skin flakes that make up dander can trigger allergic reactions. If your child has pet allergies and breathes in dander or comes in contact with saliva or other less “benign” features of a pet (i.e., droppings), his body will go on alert and may release histamine and other chemicals in response. Histamine acts by inflaming the nose and airways and cause the well-known allergy symptoms of a runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing.
Good question! If your child seems to have year-round symptoms such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy or watery eyes and frequent sneezing indoors (as opposed to just having them happen at certain times of the year), these are signs that your child may have an allergy to dust mites, mold, or your pet. In the case of year-round symptoms, you will need to do a little work, with your allergist’s help, to determine if it’s your pet or something else causing the reactions.
Before scheduling that appointment though, do a little detective work yourself. First, watch your child playing with the pet. You want to try to pay attention to how he is before and after being in contact with the animal. It might also help to have your child spend time away from the house, say a weekend sleepover at Grandma’s or some other place without pets to determine if the symptoms have cleared up. When you re-introduce him to the pet, pay attention to his body’s reaction. By the way, just removing the pet won’t help — there is likely plenty of pet dander left around to trigger a reaction in the animal’s absence.
If you believe that your pet is causing the allergies, it’s time to schedule that appointment. Depending on the symptoms, we may prescribe an antihistamine to handle the reactions. But if the symptoms are more intense, then you will want to find out exactly what your child is allergic to and what the best treatment options are. It can be a very difficult decision, but if Fido is the culprit, one course of action, in addition to treatment, is to find a new home for your pet.
The way allergists determine what your child is allergic to is commonly through a skin prick or skin scratch test, also known as allergy testing. Although it looks like it hurts, in reality it only involves small indentations or “pricks” on the upper layer of the skin. The allergist places a drop of an allergen extract at each scratch location. These extracts include animal dander, mites, pollens, and plant and food extracts. If your child is allergic to any of the extracts, the allergist will look for small bumps like mosquito bites. These bumps are an immunologic reaction to the extract and are indicative of allergies.
Once all of the testing is done, the only definitive way to know for certain if the family pet is an issue is to remove the pet from your home and do a deep cleaning (especially of the carpets and anywhere the pet has slept). Although direct exposure to your pet may be over, it can take up to six months for the allergen levels in your house to fall enough to stop the reactions.
Probably not — some children are genetically predisposed to develop some sort of allergy. But if your family is set on having a pet then then do your best to keep the indoor environment as clean and as free of dander as possible
Also, be prepared for allergy symptoms to appear later on. It can take months of exposure before a child begins to have reactions to an animal.
Although it would seem like some breeds or species of animals would be more problematic than others, there is no scientific evidence to prove that. Even though some old wives’ tales say that short-haired animals are less allergenic than their long-haired counterparts, this isn’t true since it’s not the fur but the dander (skin cells) that causes the reactions. Keeping your pet well groomed and washed can help prevent dander shedding, but that won’t entirely eliminate the risk of allergic reaction.
One reason people believe cats are more of a problem is because their dander is harder to avoid. Cat dander is smaller and more “sticky” than dog dander. This allows it travel further through the air and stay on surfaces longer.
Some parents opt for small pets like hamsters or other rodents for their allergic children, but even these animals can lead to allergies when children come in contact with their droppings or other body fluids. Think about their environment: when they’re in their cages they cannot avoid their droppings. This gets in their fur and then can cause reactions when your child handles them.
Birds are a somewhat different story. Although extremely rare, bird droppings can cause a chronic reaction known as “bird-fancier’s lung.” Symptoms include progressive shortness of breath, fatigue and scarring of lung tissues. More commonly, we often treat patients who are allergic to the feathers for the bird.
If a pet is a “must-have,” consider our scaly friends: fish and reptiles. Some types of lizards can be very easy to care for, easy to clean and are very friendly. They still don’t make the perfect pet, though: reptiles can carry salmonella, so may not be best suited for small children.
If you do opt for this type of pet, you should follow a few basic safety tips. Make sure your child washes his or her hands after playing with the pet, don’t kiss the pet, and keep the pet in a regularly cleaned cage that’s away from your dining area.
The best treatment option depends on the kinds of reactions your child has to his pet. Typically, for any sort of respiratory allergic reaction, you can get a prescription medicine to counter the symptoms. Please be aware that some people think they can just take an over-the-counter product such as Benadryl, but these often have undesirable side effects, such as drowsiness. There are several non-drowsy preparations available over the counter.
Allergen immunotherapy, or “allergy shots”, is the ultimate allergy therapy for many people with allergies. It works by retraining the immune system to be more tolerant of environmental allergens. Immunotherapy is a long-term solution and often provides decades of relief. This is most beneficial in cases where someone cannot avoid exposure to the animal or if the allergic reactions cannot be relieved with medications.
Realistically, you may not be able to avoid all of the common allergens, but there are some steps you can take to reduce exposure:
Let pets out of the house as often as possible. If that’s not possible, try to restrict your pet to non-carpeted areas of the house and definitely keep it out of your child’s bedroom. Also keep pets off of furniture! The upholstery on your couch is a pet-dander magnet.
Invest in an air cleaner or purifier, and/or upgrade your filters. Keeping the tabby cat to one room won’t solve the problem in the other rooms. Air currents still spread the allergens, but you can fit your heating and air conditioning system with an upgraded filter. This alone won’t solve all problems, however, since the pet dander that has fallen on surfaces isn’t airborne.
Perform a thorough cleaning regularly. Upholstered furniture, carpets, bedding and even your walls can capture pet dander. If possible, remove carpeted flooring and replace with hard-surface flooring. If this isn’t feasible, make sure you vacuum and dust regularly (every other day is good); this will go a long way toward reducing the amount of allergens in your house.
Change your child’s clothes after he is done playing with the pet. Have your child wash his hands regularly and have him avoid touching his eyes or other sensitive parts of his face prone to a reaction. Make sure your child bathes or showers before bed to avoid bringing the allergens into his room and bedding.
We realize that pets often become part of the family and getting rid of them may not be possible. However, if your child is prone to pet allergies, you do have some decisions to make. All of the medications, immunotherapy and cleaning measures won’t guarantee the eradication of your child’s allergies, but with proper care and treatment, you can keep allergies under control.
If you believe you or your child has pet allergies, contact Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida today at 904-730-4870 or on our site at www.JaxAllergy.com and schedule an appointment.
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Warmest of Christmas and New Year’s wishes from our office family to you and yours!
Christmas and New Year’s Office Hours:
*Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve–OPEN until 3pm
*Christmas Day and New Year’s Day–CLOSED
Tree pollen: LOW
Grass pollen: NONE
Weed pollen: NONE
Mold spores: LOW
If you are concerned that your child is suffering from allergies, asthma or other related conditions here are some things to keep in mind. Some allergies are mild and can be managed with periodic over-the-counter medicine. However, types of pediatric allergies and asthma vary between children and should not be treated with a “cookie cutter” approach. Often, allergies and asthma can be quite severe with a substantial impact on the child’s quality of life. Additionally, pediatric allergies and some of their treatments can have broad effects on the immediate and long-term health of children. Getting support early in life or near the onset of allergic symptoms can help children have the best chance for a positive long-term outcome.
There are many health specialists who can provide general guidance regarding allergic conditions. But, as with other specialties, specific experience with childhood allergic disease is very important.
A pediatric allergist is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and other allergic conditions in children. The allergist has undergone extensive training to identify the various factors that can trigger allergies and asthma.
After graduating from a four year undergraduate program and earning a medical degree (M.D. or D.O) following four years of medical school, the allergist then completes a three-year residency training program with an additional two or three years of fellowship study solely dedicated to the field of pediatric allergy and immunology.
You can be certain that your child’s physician has met these requirements if he or she is certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. All allergists at Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida are certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology and actively participate in maintenance of certification (MOC), which assures they are up to date with the latest scientific and clinical advances in the field.
Time is valuable and an accurate diagnosis is essential to the successful management of allergies. It is crucial to make the correct diagnosis as early as possible. Accurate interpretation of allergy test results is particularly important for children with food allergies, so that the culprit food is identified and other foods are not unnecessarily placed on the child’s food allergy list.
We emphasize bringing value to every patient’s appointment and begin by obtaining a detailed history of your child’s symptoms. Based on that information, we develop the most appropriate treatment plan for your child while explaining the diagnosis in detail and answering your questions. We also believe it is important to help our young patients understand their illness, which gives them knowledge and confidence to share their condition with other adults who may care for them.
There are several treatment options available to help cope with the symptoms of allergies and asthma. Over-the-counter treatments are often used as temporary stopgap measures and some come with notable side effects (i.e. drowsiness or hyperactivity). Prescription medications may offer better long-term symptom control with fewer side effects, but they also do not address the underlying triggers for allergy and asthma symptoms. For this reason, allergists rely on the details of the health history before deciding on the best course of action.
Our treatments center on identification and avoidance of underlying allergic triggers.
We strive to use the least amount of medication possible to control symptoms, improve quality of life, and improve long-term outcomes. We recognize that children often have better results when they receive coordinated care and that’s why we will partner with you and your child’s pediatrician to assure the best possible outcome. By working together, we can better identify allergic triggers and develop a unique therapy tailored for your child.
We also understand that some parents are concerned about any medications being used and prefer to take a more holistic approach to treating allergies. Allergen immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots or allergy injections) is a more natural option for patients. It is the ultimate long-term treatment for many people with allergic nasal conditions, allergic eye conditions and severe insect sting allergies (bees, wasps, fire ants, etc…). Allergen immunotherapy works by gradually retraining the immune system to be more tolerant of environmental allergens without the use of medications. Its success rate is high—75-85% and is the one of the most cost effective long term treatment for allergies.
The long-term management of allergies and asthma can be challenging and it’s important to remain mindful about how the illness and the medications may be affecting your child’s quality of life. There are various medications that can be used to treat allergies, but some can impart undesirable effects. Some children may find that their sleep patterns are disrupted while taking antihistamines or decongestants. Sometimes it’s best to start new medications when there is going to be a break from school or closer to the weekend to give children time to adjust and cause the least amount of disruption.
Children may carry some childhood allergies well into adulthood and therefore it is important for parents to work with trained pediatric allergists who can help you and your children cope with these illnesses as they move forward.
Ultimately, through a concerted group effort, we can help children learn how to best handle their symptoms and whether their treatment is effectively controlling their allergies.
Please visit our homepage at jaxallergy.com and contact us or call 904-730-4870 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
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