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?

The Healing Power of Music

Tuesday, August 06, 2013 11:24 AM comments (0)

music therapyMusic can improve mood, decrease pain and anxiety, and stimulate emotional expression. Music therapy has a long history but the first formal use of music therapy began in World War II, when hospitals used music to help soldiers suffering from “shell shock” or what would later be diagnosed as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Music therapy can and is being used by board certified music therapists to enhance conventional treatment for a variety of illnesses and disease processes – from anxiety, depression and stress to the management of pain and enhancement of functioning after degenerative neurologic disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and Parkinson’s disease. 

Heather Hodorowski, MS, MT-BC, LPC, Music Therapy Coordinator at NorthShore, highlights some of the benefits music has on health and well-being:

  • It’s heart healthy. Research has shown that blood flows more easily when music is played. This increase in blood flow is similar to the increased blood flow caused by aerobic activity. Music can also reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood. 
  • It elevates mood. Music can boost the brain’s production of the hormone dopamine. This increased dopamine production helps relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Music is processed directly by the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in mood and emotions. 
  • It stimulates memories. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia but music therapy has been shown to relieve some of its symptoms. Music therapy can relax an agitated patient, improve the mood and open communication in a previously uncommunicative patient by stimulating a memory associated with a song.  
  • It manages pain. By reducing stress levels and providing a strong competing stimulus to the pain signals that enter the brain, music therapy can assist in pain management. 

Has music therapy benefited you or someone in your family?

Simple Parenting Tips for a Happy, Healthy Family

Friday, August 02, 2013 12:00 PM comments (0)

parentingParenting may be one of the most rewarding jobs but it can also be the most demanding and difficult. Parents have a big impact on their growing children, influencing their attitudes, behaviors and habits. As parents, you are your child's first teacher.

While there isn’t a user manual on how to be a parent, there are things you can do to help. Susan Roth, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, outlines some ideas and rules parents can consider incorporating:

  • Set a good example. You are your child’s biggest fan, and in many cases he or she will watch your every move. Make smart choices when it comes to exercise and nutrition. Manage your stress, anger and emotions as best as you can.
  • Be consistent with discipline. Treat bad behavior the same way every time. It’s important that both parents are on the same page and approach discipline as a team. 
  • Make the most of your shared time. Schedules get busy and it may be difficult to find time together as a family. Set aside part of each day for family activities that don’t include technology—cell phones, computers, television, etc. If this shared time can involve active play, you’ll be staying fit as a family and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Encourage conversation and keep lines of communication open. If your schedule allows, try to eat at least one meal a day as a family. This is the perfect opportunity to have open discussions about your child’s day-to-day activities and any potential issues. If you can’t eat as a family, find time each day to check in with your child to see how everything is going.
  • Set a bedtime schedule. No matter his or her age, having an established bedtime and routine is very important. Children of all ages need a good night’s rest to be able to perform their best at school.
  • Volunteer at school. Volunteer at your child’s school, chaperone after-school activities or help organize activities after practice. This is an easy and natural way to get to know your child’s friends, teachers and the other parents. 

What tips or recommendations have helped you most as a parent?

Health Benefits of Biking and Bike Safety Tips [Infographic]

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 9:26 AM comments (0)

Whether it's part of your daily commute to work or simply your prefered mode of transportion for weekend errands, cycling is a great alternative to driving. When done safely, it's an easy way to include a little extra exercise each day and also do your part to help protect the environment.

The health benefits of biking are many, from boosting your immune system to lowering your risk of heart disease, but it's important to wear proper safety gear and always follow the rules of the road. Our latest NorthShore infographic covers the basics of two-wheel travel: health benefits, bike safety statistics and more. Click on the image below to view the full infographic.

bike safety

Part of the Team: Steven Levin, MD, Travels to Japan with the US Rugby Team

Friday, July 26, 2013 11:02 AM comments (0)

drlevinSteven Levin, MD, Sports Medicine at NorthShore, has been a team physician with the US Rugby Team for ten years, acting as their head physician during the Rugby World Cup in France in 2007. He has travelled with the team all over Canada, England, Wales, France and now Japan. He shares what it’s like to care for these daring athletes at the top of their game during a recent tournament in Japan.

We’re in Japan for the Pacific Cup, which includes teams like Canada and Tonga as well. We arrived in Nagoya, Japan after almost 20 hours of travel from Los Angeles. We played Tonga the night before we left LA and lost in a tough game 18-9. Luckily there were no major injuries on either side, although it looked like the Tongan team had several play stoppages for apparent injuries. In reality, it seemed as though the Tongans were mainly cramping up due to the physical game the US team played. Nonetheless we did lose a close game that we felt we were capable of winning.

Rugbyteam

Since I have been with USA Rugby I have gotten a bit of a reputation as a "rugby doc" and take care of many local and regional rugby players. I specialize in shoulders and knees and have operated on many of these players with shoulder and knee injuries. It is particularly rewarding to see so many get back in the game after recovering from surgery or rehab and then continue to play at such a high level.

During a game, the most common injuries that I see in rugby players are laceration, muscle, ligament and tendon strain, tears, concussions and occasionally fractures. There are no timeouts in rugby. As a physician I have to work fast, diagnose the problem and fix it quickly or the player must be substituted. If he is substituted then he can't return under the rules of the game, so there is a great deal of pressure to get the player back as quickly as possible if medically cleared. If the player has any type of bleeding injury, I have 10 minutes to get it under control (i.e. suture it) or the player is not allowed to return. It’s fast-paced and intense. But I enjoy it. 

I also really enjoy the camaraderie I have with the players. Rugby players are the toughest, purest, and most appreciative athletes I have had the pleasure to work with and treat.

From Home to the Classroom: Preparing Your Child for Preschool

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 1:49 PM comments (0)

preschoolSummer vacation is coming to a close, which means it’s time to start thinking about the approaching school year, especially if your little one is about to embark on preschool. The transition from home life to a classroom environment is an exciting time but it requires preparation for you and your child to be physically and emotionally ready.

Sharon Robinson, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, provides her recommendations and tips on how to ensure that your child will be ready for this brand new adventure:

  • Make an appointment with your pediatrician. Your child’s preschool will provide a list of vaccinations and health checks that are required and recommended before the first day of school.
  • Schedule an eye and hearing test. Most preschools will do an initial hearing and vision screening during the year. If there are abnormalities, schedule an appointment with you doctor for further evaluation.
  • Share your child’s special health needs with the school. Before the first day, make sure to notify the school of any medications, allergies or health concerns pertaining to your child. Make sure this information is shared with the school nurse.
  • Prepare an emergency card. This is also a good time to start helping your child memorize his or her home address and phone number.
  • Start talking about the change now. Preschool brings amazing experiences for your child but also new challenges. Children respond well to structure and routine, and preschools are designed to cater to these needs. Start talking about the expectations now—respecting peers and teachers, sharing, being good listeners. In addition, having a predictable daily routine, from set meal times to consistent bed times, will help to make the transition a smooth one.

What steps have you taken to prepare your child for preschool? 

Benefits of Massage Therapy for Cancer Patients

Friday, July 19, 2013 11:00 AM comments (0)

massage therapyMany think of a massage as a luxury, something you treat yourself to for stress relief after a particularly busy week at work or as a method of relief for the occasional shoulder twinge after a workout at the gym. And a massage can do exactly that but it can also be used for so much more.

Studies have shown that massage therapy can be beneficial for cancer patients both during and following treatment. Massage therapy can counteract many of the negative physical and emotional symptoms of cancer and side effects of cancer treatment for patients. More and more cancer patients are interested in finding ways to enhance their conventional treatment with complementary therapy options, including massage therapy.  

Charlotte Walker, Massage Therapist in NorthShore’s Department of Integrative Medicine, shares some of the potential benefits of massage therapy as a complementary treatment for cancer patients:

  • Reduces pain and relieves stress. Massage promotes relaxation and boosts the body’s production of endorphins, which can help relieve stress, reduce pain levels and swelling, and loosen aching, tense muscles.
  • Improves mood and quality of life. Increased anxiety and potential depression after a cancer diagnosis and during cancer treatment are not unusual for patients. Regular massage can reduce anxiety and help create a prolonged sense of well-being, improving a patient’s overall mood. Massage gives patients the time to breathe and relax, which can be the key to feeling your best during a difficult time.
  • Improves sleep patterns. Less pain and stress during the day means less pain and stress at night, which can help cancer patients sleep better and more soundly. 
  • Adds positive touch. Cancer treatments can be lifesaving but they are not always pleasant. The gentle, caring touch of massage therapy adds a positive touch in the midst of what might feel like the poking and prodding of treatment.

Join us on July 25th at 11 a.m. for our next online medical chat. Charlotte Walker will answer all questions related to massage therapy and pain management. Submit questions here: chat.

"I Thought I Was Too Young." Patient Karin Rigg Suffered a Heart Attack at 44

Monday, July 15, 2013 11:42 AM comments (0)

karin rigg

“This is something that happens to 80-year-old men,” Karin Rigg thought as she was wheeled into NorthShore’s Evanston Hospital for an angioplasty. A busy mom of four young children, Karin Rigg suffered a heart attack at only 44—a year after giving birth to her youngest child.  She never thought she was at risk for a heart attack. Yet, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in women 55 and younger. 

Successful efforts have been made to raise awareness that heart disease is a very real and very serious problem for women but more can still be done.  Studies show that only a little more than half of women would call an ambulance if they thought they were having a heart attack but more than 75 percent would call for a husband or partner.

Karin Rigg shares her experience as a young heart attack survivor and the changes she made to her life to improve her heart health. She also tells us why it is so important for women to start making their own health needs a priority. 

How do you protect your heart? Do you make your health a priority?

Staying in Shape: Exercise and Sports Safety for Kids and Young Athletes

Friday, July 12, 2013 1:59 PM comments (0)

Frequent exercise is an important part of keeping your kids happy, healthy and fit. Starting a fitness routine early can be a great way to teach your children how to live healthier lives for years to come. Whether your child is an athlete or just starting out, preventing injury is the key to keeping fitness safe and fun. 

Adam Bennett, Family and Sports Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of his suggestions for getting your kids interested in fitness and keeping exercise novices and young athletes safe and injury free.

kidsfitnessWhat are some good ways to motivate children to exercise if they are not naturally athletic or have not expressed an interest in participating in team sports?
Getting kids to exercise is often a tough challenge. Having your child choose a sport, no matter how obscure, may help encourage them to stay active—anything from fencing to yoga to bowling is worth a try. Other parents have had success by allowing their inactive kids to earn TV or video game time by spending time exercising. That said, most kids like doing what their friends are doing, so consider finding out if their friends play sports and encourage them to participate. Lastly, children learn by example. If you exercise, your child just might want to join you.

If a child has been fairly inactive, how should exercise be introduced to avoid injury?
It’s best to error on the side of a gradual transition. Kids of all shapes and sizes who have not exercised regularly are at risk for overuse injuries if they rush into activity too quickly. Exercising every other day is a great way to give your muscles, tendons and bones enough time to recover and prevent injury. Altering the type of activity might also be helpful, with perhaps one day of swimming followed by a game of basketball or a bike ride the next. 

How much water should children drink during exercise in the summer? Is water better than electrolyte replacement fluid?
Avoiding dehydration in the summer is very important. If your child is an athlete who will be at outdoor practice regularly during the summer, one easy way to avoid it is to weigh your child before and after exercise, especially during two-a-days. Athletes need to make sure they are drinking enough water to recover their pre-activity weight. If they haven’t, they might be dehydrated. Athletes should also be told to watch the color of their urine. A light yellow or clearer means they aren’t dehydrated. 

Water is fine for exercise lasting 20 minutes or less, but supplementation with water, electrolytes and sugar is essential for optimal performance and recovery when exercising for longer than 20 minutes, especially if the exercise involves intense exertion.

Are two-a-day practices safe for kids?
It’s not an ideal schedule to avoid overuse injuries and dehydration. If there is no pain or sign of injury, it’s a safe schedule, especially if children and coaches are vigilant about preventing dehydration. Most coaches are knowledgeable about proper conditioning and training programs and choose a program that gets their players fit without causing harm.

What can you do to prevent injury in young athletes?
Soreness that resolves itself after a day or two is common; however, pain that seems to be getting worse with each practice may be a sign of an overuse injury. Any swelling of joints, catching or locking of joints might also indicate a more serious injury. To prevent injury, a day of rest between workouts is wise. If the young athlete is a runner, mixing things up and trying some biking or swimming to cross train will give joints a break. 

If a young athlete is already suffering from some overuse injuries, like tendonitis, how can he or she prevent more serious injury? Can training continue? 
Overuse injuries can be a real problem in children who play multiple sports during the same season. During a sports season, dedicated days off from activity will help avoid further injury. In the summer or during off-season, regular exercise that is similar to the sport played may help avoid overuse injuries once their season starts up again. If injuries persist, physical therapy may be required.

Is a marathon safe for a younger runner?
If he or she is comfortable running long distances and distances are gradually increased during a supervised running program; there is no pain during training and there are days off to recover, it’s likely safe for a younger runner to participate in a marathon. Keep in mind, however, that a marathon is an intense endeavor which puts the body through unnatural stress. As such, a 10k or even a half marathon may a good alternative for younger runners before undertaking a marathon. 

How to Talk to Your Children About Tragic Events

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 4:47 PM comments (0)

childrenAll parents hope to shield their children from the knowledge that bad things happen in the world for as long as possible. Unfortunately, protecting your children from this knowlege isn't possible forever.  Frequently, children learn about violent and tragic events from their friends as well as from television. These tragedies can confuse and frighten children if they don’t think they can discuss them openly. Limiting exposure to the news may be helpful; however, parents can do so much more to help their children feel safe and secure.

What and how much do you say to children? How do you know they want or need to talk? How can you get them to open up to you about their fears? Dr. Robert Farra, PhD, recommends that parents:

  • Watch children closely. Some children, especially younger children, might not express their anxieties with words but might exhibit signs of anxiety or worry like changes in behavior, sleep and appetite.
  • Allow them to ask the questions. By allowing them to ask the questions, children will move at a pace and level of discussion that is comfortable for them. It will also be an indicator to you of how much they need or are developmentally prepared to know.
  • Encourage kids to write or draw their feelings. For some children talking about their feelings might not come easily. Children might be more comfortable writing down or drawing pictures that express their feelings. You can communicate through the work they produce. 
  • Provide as much comfort as possible. Let children know that they are safe both with words and your behavior. Children look to parents and authority figures for cues on how to react to a situation. If you are upset, it is okay to show your own emotions. Make sure to process and seek support for your own feelings so that you can better provide comfort to your children. Also remind them that there are police, firefighters and other adults keeping them safe too.
  • Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know." You won’t have all the answers. Just like children, adults experience confusion and fear in the wake of a traumatic event. By saying, “I don’t know,” you are telling your children that it is okay to be confused because you are too.

How do you discuss difficult topics with your children?

× Alternate Text