Survive the Season: How to Combat Seasonal Allergies in Your Home [Infographic]

Wednesday, April 02, 2014 6:35 AM comments (0)

April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers just might bring seasonal allergies. Don’t suffer the sniffles, sneezes, and itchy, watery eyes of seasonal allergies without fighting back. Our springtime infographic highlights some allergy basics and provides tips to help you combat seasonal allergy symptoms in your home. 

Click on our infographic for more information and useful tips.

Am I Allergic? Common Food Allergies

Friday, August 09, 2013 10:00 AM comments (0)

food allergies

Food allergy is a reaction by the immune system that occurs quickly after eating a food. Symptoms occur with ingestion of even a tiny amount of a food and can range from rash or mild itching of the mouth and tongue to life-threatening and life-ending reactions. Many people who think they have a food allergy actually have food intolerance. Food allergy is estimated to affect six to eight percent of children under five, and three to four percent of adults. 

Intolerances to food will affect most people at some point in their lives. For example, lactose intolerance occurs when your body can’t break down milk sugar leading to bloating, cramping and diarrhea. While food intolerances can be uncomfortable they are less serious than food allergy and are not life-threatening. 

Common food allergies for adults:

  • Shellfish--shrimp, crab, lobster
  • Peanuts and tree nuts--walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, almonds

Common food allergies in children:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Peanuts and tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish and shellfish

How do you determine if you have a food allergy to a specific food? Understanding the symptoms of an allergic reaction is important. In allergic reactions, symptoms develop within seconds to a few hours of ingesting the food. Symptoms occur each time you ingest the food allergen. In fact, 85% of food allergic reactions occur have ingesting the same eight foods: milk, egg, wheat, soy, peanut/tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Symptoms can range from mild to severe—itching in the mouth; hives or eczema; swelling lips, face or tongue; trouble breathing; diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain; dizziness and fainting are all symptoms of allergic reactions. Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to foods. 

Rachel Story, MD, Allergist at NorthShore, highlights some approaches your physician might take to determine if you suffer from a more mild food allergy and what might be triggering your reactions:

  • History. A thorough history of reactions and the foods ingested in 2-3 hours prior to the reaction is important in diagnosis of food allergy.
  • Food diary. Your physician might ask you to start keeping a food diary for a period of time. Your diary will track what you eat, when you eat it and how you feel after eating certain foods.
  • Skin test. In a skin test, purified extracts of the suspected food will be placed on your back or arm and then the skin will be pricked with a skin-testing device to allow a small amount of the food to penetrate your skin. If you react with a raised bump you may have an allergy to that food. 
  • Blood tests. Blood tests can be performed to see if you have allergic antibodies to specific foods in your blood. These are often used with a skin test to identify food allergies.  

Food allergy can cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis.  Symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling of the airways with throat closing or difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse and fainting. This type of reaction must be treated immediately as it could result in death. All people with suspected food allergy should be evaluated by a physician as they may need to carry medications to treat accidental ingestions of food allergens. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and cetrizine (Zyrtec) are used to treat mild reactions. Severe reactions are treated with an injection of epinephrine that can be administered using an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, AuviQ).

There are currently no FDA-approved treatments for food allergy. However, much promising research is ongoing and there is hope for a treatment for food allergy in the next 5 to 10 years. 

Are you allergic to a food? How did you discover your food allergy?

Choosing Herbal Remedies to Ease Illness

Wednesday, February 06, 2013 8:10 AM comments (0)

Herbal-remediesNot all health conditions need to be treated with prescription or over-the-counter medications. In fact, in some cases, herbal remedies and supplements can help relieve symptoms and improve health.

While there is no “magic” supplement or “quick fix,” it is important to discuss any new treatment method (herbal or not) with your physician. This will ensure that no unwanted side effects or drug interactions will occur. To learn more about herbs and supplements, visit Consumerlab.com.

Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, Director of NorthShore’s Integrative Medicine program, offers the following herbal alternatives:

  • Allergies – An alternative to allergy medications may include nettles or D-Hist. This remedy includes four ingredients—quercetin, stinging nettle leaf, bromelain and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). You can either purchase these supplements separately or combined as D-Hist. Before combining these supplements with an existing treatment or medication, you should consult with your physician to confirm there won’t be any potential drug interactions.
  • Basic Health – A healthy diet is best for maintaining basic health. Many individuals can also benefit from taking Vitamin D, Omega-3  fatty acid and probiotic supplements.
  • Sleep – Having trouble sleeping? L-theanine, melatonin, 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) or SAM-e can all help aid sleep. It’s important to note that these herbs might not solve the problem immediately—sometimes it can take a few months before the full effects can be noticed.
  • Menopause—For many women, taking hormones or pain medication throughout menopause is not preferred. Black cohosh and eating organic whole food soy (edamame, tofu, miso, soy nuts) may help ease and improve symptoms.

Do you use herbal remedies to help relieve common health concerns? What works for you?

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