Wilmington, NC Allergy Treatment
Are allergies and asthma related?
Yes. Up to 90% of Asthma in children has an allergic component. By middle age, other factors including smoke, pollution and chemicals, start to significantly affect someone's ability to breathe.
What is the difference between skin testing and blood test for allergies?
Skin testing for allergies offers immediate results, which are clearly visible on the skin in minutes. Blood tests for allergies provide the level of antibody to a given allergen in someone's blood, which may or may not translate to real symptoms. Blood testing is generally reserved for patients unable to stop antihistaminesor patients who cannot be skin tested.
Are allergy shots effective?
Allergy shots are the most effective treatment for sinus allergies, eye allergies, allergic asthma and stinging allergies. Shots are the only form of treatment that can actually reverse the allergic process, essentially "fixing" most of somone's allergies, rather than just temporarily treating the symptoms with medication. Without allergy shots, it is unlikely patients will "outgrow" their allergies.
Should an otolaryngologist (ENT Doctor) treat my allergies?
An Otolaryngologist is a doctor specializing in the treatment of ear, nose and throat diseases. Half of the problems these physicians encounter are probably due, either directly or indirectly to allergy. Chronic nasal congestion and post nasal drip, seasonal or constant, is often allergic and may be complicated by chronic sinus and middle ear disease. Hearing loss, dizziness, headaches, weeping ear canals, and chronic sore throats may be due to an allergy. The Otolaryngologist who does allergy treatment is able to follow the patient's progress with specialized examinations and nose and throat medical and surgical treatment.
What is Mold Allergy?
Mold and mildew are fungi. They differ from plants or animals in how they reproduce and grow. The “seeds” called spores, are spread by the wind outdoors and by air indoors. Some spores are released in dry, windy weather. Others are released with the fog or dew when humidity is high.
Inhaling the spores causes allergic reactions in some people. Allergic symptoms from fungus spores are most common from July to late summer. With fungi growing in so many places, allergic reactions can occur year round.
Although there are many types of molds, only a few dozen cause allergic reactions: Alternaria Cladosproium (Hormodendrum), Aureobasidium, Penicillium, Helmin thosporium, Epicoccum, Fusarium, Mucor, Rhizopus and Aureobasidium (Pullulaira) are the major culprits. Some common spores can be identified when viewed under a microscope. Some form recognizable growth colonies.
Many molds grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, in compost piles and on grasses and grains. Unlike pollens, molds do not die with the first killing frost. Most outdoor molds become dormant during the winter. In the spring they grow on plants killed by the cold.
Indoors, fungi grow on damp areas, particularly the bathroom, kitchen or basement.
Who gets the allergy?
It is common for people to get the mold allergy if they or other family members are allergic to substances such as pollen or animal dander. People may become allergic to only mold or fungi, or they may have problems with dust mites, pollens or others spores. If you are allergic to only fungi, it is unlikely that you would be bothered by all fungi. The different types of fungi spores have only limited similarities.
People in some occupations have more exposure to mold and are at greater risk of developing allergies. Farmers, dairymen, loggers, bakers, mill workers, carpenters, greenhouse employees, wine makers and furniture repairers are at increased risk.
There is only weak evidence that allergic symptoms are caused by food fungi (e.g. mushrooms, dried fruit, and foods containing yeast, vinegar or soy sauce). It is more likely that reactions to food fungi are caused by the food’s direct effect on the blood vessels. For example, histamine may be present because of the formation of red wines.
Fungi on house plants can cause an allergic reaction, but this is only likely to happen if the soil is disturbed.
Fungi can even grow on the human body. If not properly treated, intense inflammation can recur often. It can permanently damage airway walls. This is not common, though.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of mold allergy are very similar to the symptoms of other allergies, such as sneezing, itching, nasal discharge, congestion and dry, scaling skin. Some people with mold allergies may have allergy symptoms the entire summer because of outdoor molds or year-round if symptoms are due to indoor molds.
Mold spores can deposit on the lining of the nose and cause hay fever symptoms. They also can reach the lungs, to cause asthma or another serious illness call allergic cronchopulmilary aspergillosis.
Sometimes the reactions are immediate and sometimes the reaction is delayed. Symptoms often worsen in a damp or moldy room such as a basement, this may suggest mold allergy.
How is mold allergy treated?
As with most allergies, patients should:
- Avoid contact with spores – Wear a dusk mask when cutting grass, digging around plants, picking up leaves and disturbing other plants materials. Reduce the humidity indoors to prevent fungi from growing. Theses measures will reduce symptoms.
- Take medications for nasal or other allergic symptoms – Antihistamines and decongestants are available over the counter, without a prescription. Since antihistamines can cause drowsiness, it is best to take them before bedtime. If drowsiness continues to be a problem, talk to your doctor about talking son-sedating antihistamines, which require prescriptions. For moderate allergy symptoms, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroid nasal sprays.
- If medications are inadequate – Talk to your doctor or Allergy Technician about taking shots (immunotherapy). This works for some carefully selected patients.
How can I prevent a reaction to mold?
Allergies cannot be cured but the symptoms of the allergy can be reduced by avoiding contact with the spores. Several measures will help:
Stay indoors during periods when the published mold count is high. This will lessen the amount you inhale. Mold spores are “counted” by collecting a sample of particulates in the air then identifying and counting the mold spores in the sample
The amount of airborne spores is likely to change quickly, depending on the weather. The counts reported are always for a past time period and my not reflect what is currently in the air. The mold that causes your allergy reaction may not be counted separately. This means that allergy symptoms may not relate closely to the published count. Knowing the count can help you decide when to stay indoors.
Use a central air conditioning with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter attachment. It will help trap spores before they reach you. Air conditioning with HEPA filter attached works better that electrostatic air cleaning devices and much better than freestanding air cleaners. Devices that treat air with heat, ions or ozone are not recommended.
No air cleaners will help if excess moisture remains. If indoor humidity is above 50 percent, risks of fungus growth rise steeply. Hydrometers can be used to measure humidity accurately. The goal is to keep humidity below 45 percent and preferably about 35 percent.
If humidifiers are necessary, scrub the fluid reservoirs at least twice a week to prevent mold growth. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers can also be a source of mold and should be cleaned.
To prevent mold and mildew build up inside the home, especially in bathrooms basements and laundry areas, be aggressive about reducing dampness:
- Put an exhaust fan or open a window in the bathroom.
- Quickly repair any plumbing leaks
- Remove bathroom carpeting where moisture is a concern
- Scour sinks and tubs at least monthly.
Fungi thrive on soap and other films that coat tiles and grout. For problem areas, use ordinary laundry bleach (one quart diluted in a quart of water). Fungicides (chemicals that kill fungus) are less important than good scrubbing. Fungicides may be added to paint primer or wallpaper paste to slow fungus growth on treated areas. This will have little effect if excess moisture remains.
- Clean garbage pail frequently
- Repair basement plumbing leaks ,blocked drains, poorly vented clothes dryers and water seepage through walls.
- Raise the temperature in the basement to help humidity levels. Small space heaters or low wattage light bulbs may be useful in damp closets. Be careful where they are placed, though, to avoid creating a fire hazard.
- Polyurethane and rubber foams seem especially prone to fungus invasion. If bedding is made form these foams, it should be covered in plastic.
- Clean refrigerator door gaskets and drip pans
- Use an electric dehumidifier
- Recycle or throw away old books, newspapers, clothing or bedding.
- Promote ground water drainage away from the house.
- Remove leaves and dead vegetation near the foundation and the rain gutter. Completely shaded homes dry out slowly and dense bushes and other plants around the foundation promote the dampness.
- In the winter, condensation on cold walls encourages mold growth, but even thick insulation can be invaded if water vapor barriers in exterior walls are not effective.
What is dust mite allergy?
If you have allergies or asthma, a tiny creature living in your home could be making big problems for you. Although you can’t see them, if you have allergies or asthma you may be feeling their effects only too well. They are dust mites, and they live in many homes throughout the world.
Household dust is not a single substance, but rather a mixture of many materials. Dust may contain tiny fibers shed from different kinds of fabric, as well as tiny particles of feathers, dander from pet dogs or cats, bacteria, food, plant and insect parts, and household fungus spores. It also contains many microscopic mites and their waste products.
These waste products, not the mites themselves are what causes allergic reactions. Dust mite waste contains a protein that is an allergen—a substance that provokes an allergic immune reaction—for many people. Throughout its life, a single dust mite produces up to 200 times its body weight in waste.
Most dust mites die when exposed to low humidity levels or extreme temperatures. They leave their waste behind which continues to cause allergic reactions. In warm, humid houses, dust mites can easily survive year round.
Dust mites may be the most common cause of year-round allergies and asthma. About 20 million Americans have dust mite allergies. Dust mites are well adapted to most areas of the world –they are found on every continent except Antarctica. It may not be possible to rid your home entirely of these creatures, but there are ways in which you can lessen your allergic reaction to them.
What is a dust mite?
Too small to be seen with the naked eye, a dust mite measures only about one-quarter to one-third of a millimeter. Under a microscope, they can be seen as whitish bugs. Having eight rather than six legs, mites are technically insects but arthropods, like spiders.
Mites are primitive creatures that have no developed respiratory system and no eyes. They spend their lives moving about, eating, reproducing and eliminating waste products. A mite’s life cycle consists of several stages, from egg to adult. A female may lay as many as a 100 eggs in her lifetime. Depending on the species, it takes two to five weeks for an adult mite to develop from an egg. Adults may live for over two to four months.
Dust mites thrive in temperatures of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and relative humidity levels of 70 percent to 80 percent. There are at least 13 species of mites, all of which are well adapted to the environment inside your home. They feed chiefly on the tiny flakes of human skin that people normally shed each day. These flakes work their way deep into the inner layers of furniture, carpets, bedding and even stuffed toys. These are the places where mites thrive. An average adult person may shed up to 1.5 grams of skin a day; this is enough to feed 1 million dust mites!
What can I do?
Unless you live in Antarctica or an extremely dry climate, there is probably no practical way to completely rid your home of dust mites. You can take action to lessen your effects.
Having dust mites doesn’t mean your house isn’t clean. In most areas of the world, these creatures are in every house, no matter how immaculate. That said, it is true that keeping your home as free of dust as possible can lessen dust mite allergy.
Studies show that more dust mites live in the bedroom than anywhere else in the home. To attack the problem of dust mite allergies, the bedroom is the best place to start.
Unfortunately, vacuuming is not enough to remove the mites and mite waste. Up to 95 percent of mites may remain after vacuuming because they live deep inside the stuffing of sofas, chairs, mattresses, pillows and carpeting.
The first and most important step to reduce dust mites is to cover mattresses and pillows in zippered dust-proof covers. These covers are made of a material with pores too small to let dust mites and their waste products through and are called allergen-impermeable. Plastic or vinyl covers are the least expensive but some people find them uncomfortable. Other fabric allergen impermeable covers can be purchased from allergy supply companies, as well as many regular bedding cases.
The next most important step is to wash the sheets and blankets weekly in hot water. Temperatures of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit are needed to kill dust mites.
Other desirable, but not as critical, steps are to rid the bedroom of all types of materials that mites love. Avoid having wall-to-wall carpeting, blinds, wool blankets, upholstered furniture and down-filled pillows or blankets in the bedroom. Keep pets out of this room as well. Windows should have roll-type shades instead of curtains; if you do have curtains, be sure to wash them often.
It is ideal for someone without dust mite allergies to do the cleaning of the bedroom. If this is not possible, wear a filtering mask when dusting or vacuuming. Many drug stores carry these items. Because dusting and vacuuming stir up dust, try to do these chores at a time of day when you can stay out of the bed room for a while afterward.
Special filters for vacuum cleaners can help to keep mites and mite waste from circulating back into the air. These fibers can be bought from an allergy supply company or in some specialty vacuum stores.
Other rooms can be treated similarly to the bedroom. Avoid having wall-to-wall carpeting, if possible. If you do use carpeting, the type with a short, tight pile is less hospitable to mites than those with loose piles or shag types. Better still are washable throw rugs and regularly damp mopped wood, linoleum or tiled floors.
Wash rugs in hot water whenever possible. Cold waters leave up to 10 percent of mites behind. Dry cleaning kills all mites and is good for removing dust from fabrics.
Reduce the humidly in your home to less than 59 percent by using a dehumidifier or an air conditioner. If you have taken as many of these actions as practically possible and are still having allergic reactions to house dust mites, allergy shots may help. A dust mite extract can be formulated to boost your immune system response specifically to dust mite allergens. Shots for this purpose have been shown to be very effective.
Dust mites are probably impossible to avoid completely. Still, they do not have to make your life miserable. There are many ways you can change the environment in side your home to reduce the numbers of these unwanted “guests.”
Who gets pet allergies?
Six out of 10 people in the United States come in contact with cats or dogs. The total pet population is more than 100 million.
Allergies to pets with fur or feathers are common, especially among people who have other allergies or asthma. 15 to 30 percent of people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs.
People with dog allergies may be allergic to all dogs or only some breeds. Cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.
What causes a pet allergy?
The job of the immune system cells is to find foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria, and get rid of them. Normally, this response protects us from dangerous disease. People with pet allergies have super sensitive immune systems that react to harmless proteins in the pet’s dander (dead skin that is shed) saliva or urine. These proteins are called allergens.
Dogs and cats secrete fluids and shed dander that contains allergens. They collect on fur and other surfaces. The allergens will not lose their strength for a long time, sometimes for several months. They appear to stick and adhere to walls, clothing and other surfaces.
Pet hair is not an allergen. It can collect dander, though. It also harbors other allergens like dust and pollen.
Cat and dog allergens are everywhere. Pet dander is even in homes never occupied by theses animals because it is carried on people’s clothing. The allergens get in the air with petting, grooming or stirring the air where the allergens have settled. Once airborne, the particles can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time.
What are the symptoms?
Reactions to cat and dog allergens that land on the membranes that line the eyes and nose include swelling and itching of the membranes, stuffy nose and inflamed eyes. A pet scratch or lick can cause the skin area to become red.
If allergen levels are low or sensitive is minor, symptoms may not appear until several days after contact with the pet.
Many airborne particles are small enough to get into the lungs. When inhaled, the allergens combine with antibodies. This can cause severe breathing problems – coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath in highly sensitive people within 15-20 minutes. Sometimes highly sensitive people also get an intense rash on the face, neck or upper chest.
For about 20 to 30 percent of people with asthma, cat contact can trigger a severe asthma attack. Cat allergies can also lead to chronic asthma.
How is a pet allergy diagnosed?
If a pet allergy is suspected, the doctor may diagnose it by taking a medical history and testing the blood of the patients. Some people are so attached to their pets they will deny that their pets could cause their symptoms. In these cases, the patients are removed from the animal’s environment to see if symptoms go away. It does not help to remove the dog or cat. Allergens still in the area can cause symptoms months after the animal is gone.
To diagnose cat-induced asthma, the patient must have both of the following:
- Asthma symptoms when exposed to cat or cat allergen
- An allergic reaction
Taking a blood test called RAST – radioallergosorbent test (RAST) makes sure the diagnosis is correct; the doctor will watch what happened when a cat is added then removed from the patient’s environment several times.
What is the best treatment?
The best treatment is to avoid contact with cats or dogs or their dander. Keep the pets out of the house and avoid visiting people with pets. Avoiding cats and dogs may give you enough relief that you will not need medication.
Keeping the pet outdoors will help, but will not rid the house of pet allergens. Another option is to have pets that do not have fur or feathers. Fish, snakes or turtles are some choices.
What if I want to keep my pet?
If you decide to keep a pet, bar it from the bedroom. You spend from one-third to one-half of your time there. Keep the bedroom door closed, and clean the room aggressively.
- Because animal allergens stick, you must remove the animal’s favorite furniture. Remove wall-to-wall carpet and scrub the walls and woodwork. Keep surfaces throughout the home clean and uncluttered. Bare floors and walls are best.
- If you must have carpet, select styles with low pile and steam clean them frequently. Better yet, use throw rugs that can be washed in hot water.
- Wear dusk masks to vacuum. Vacuum cleaners stir up allergens that have settled on carpet and make allergens worse. Use a vacuum with a HEPA (high energy particulate air) filter if possible.
- Forced-air heating and air-conditioning can spread allergens throughout the house. Cover bedroom vents with dense filtering material like cheesecloth.
- Adding an air cleaner with a HEPA filter to central heating and air-condition can help remove pet allergens from the air. The air cleaner should be used at least four hours per day. Another type of air cleaner has an electrostatic filter that will remove particles the size of small animal allergens from the air. No air cleaner or filter will remove allergens stuck to surfaces.
- Washing a pet every week may reduce airborne allergens, but is of questionable value in reducing a person’s symptoms. Having someone without a pet allergy brush the pet outside to remove dander, as well as clean the litter box or cage may help.
What are food allergies?
Food or drug intolerance or sensitivity is not a drug allergy, but they are often confused. Food and drug allergies are diseases of the immune system, an exaggerated response by your immune system to certain drug or food proteins. Intolerance and sensitivities are reactions of your digestive system, not your immune system, to certain substances.
Lactose intolerance (also called mild or diary intolerance) is one of the most common. It is the inability of your digestive system to digest lactose, a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. It is caused by your body’s deficiency of the enzyme lactase. Lactose intolerance occurs in the small intestine and does not produce enough lactase.
Symptoms often follow ingestion of milk products and are often relieved by withdrawal from milk products. Large doses of milk products may aggravate symptoms. Removing milk products from the diet usually improves the symptoms. Other sources of calcium should be added to the diet if milk products are eliminated. Fermented milk products such as yogurt can usually be tolerated. Buttermilk and cheese has less lactose than milk. Goat’s milk can sometimes be tolerated but should be consumed with meals, not alone.
Other Symptoms Include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Weight loss
- Slow growth
- Abdominal distention
- Abdominal fullness, gaseous
- Floating stools
- Foul-smelling stools