Bee Sting Allergy – Yellow Jackets on Steroids?

Bee Sting Allergy Alert – Yellow Jackets on Steroids?

Through the warmer months from early Spring through late Autumn, those with bee sting allergy are at risk for sting reactions.  This time of year, though, is particularly troublesome for those with yellow jacket allergies.  Yellow jackets typically nest in the ground under natural and man-made structures.  Common places include roof eves, tree stumps, under bushes and in depressions in the ground.  Yellow jackets tend to be very aggressive this time of year when their populations are high and food supplies are low.  Yellow jacket stings are, therefore, particularly more likely this time of year—particularly if sting allergic individuals are eating outside.

Yellow Jacket Sting Allergy

Yellow jacket sting reactions can range from local to generalized skin swelling to a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) including: blood pressure drop, difficulty breathing and skin swelling. For those with reactions, appropriate evaluation by a board certified allergist with allergy skin test to bee venom is  appropriate to determine bee venom allergies and determine if the risk for severe reactions can be minimized by allergy injections.

Yellow Jacket on Paper Nest

Top Tips to Avoid Yellow Jacket Stings

For those with yellow jacket allergies, the following precautions should be followed:

  1. Minimize time spent outside eating
  2. Avoid wearing bright colored clothing outside which tends to attract yellow jackets
  3. Have your property inspected for yellow jacket paper nests in the ground, under plant growth and under roof eves.
  4. Always carry your epinephrine autoinjector when outside.
  5. Wear shoes outside at all times.
  6. Wear fitted clothing.   Yellow jackets and other insects may become trapped in over-sized or loose, flowing clothes.
  7. Stay still when an insect is approaching.  Never slap at an insect.  Insects will not sting unless frightened or antagonized, so stay as calm and relaxed as possible.
  8. Avoid wearing scents, such as perfumes, hair sprays and suntan lotions, which often attract insects.  Keep foods and/or drinks covered while outside as these aromas may also attract insects.

How Allergists Can Help

The board-certified allergists at The Asthma Center are the Delaware Valley’s leading experts on treating patients with bee sting reactions and allergies. With advanced in-office diagnostics, our asthma specialists are trained to correctly diagnosis and treat symptoms that otherwise limit performance and comfort. Working with each patient individually, our allergists create a personalized Bee Sting treatment plan to prevent and treat bee sting reactions. The board-certified asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley.

Call now to schedule your appointment! 

PA: (215) 569-1111  NJ: (856) 235-8282

Center City Philadelphia • Society Hill Philadelphia • Northeast Philadelphia

Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion PA

Langhorne – Bucks County PA

Mt. Laurel NJ • Woodbury NJ • Hamilton – Princeton NJ • Forked River NJ

For questions regarding bee sting allergy, please email Gaille at gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com. The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.

 




Vitamin D: A New Treatment for Asthma?

A new study published yesterday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal concluded that Vitamin D shows promise as a safe and effective treatment for asthma.

The Asthma Center’s Dr. Marc Goldstein reviews this groundbreaking research and what it means for you.

The “Sunshine Vitamin” – Vitamin D

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin” because the sun stimulates the skin to make vitamin D, has been known for years to be important in bone health. Vitamin D is actually a fat-soluble hormone.  In addition to Vitamin D receptors on cells in bones and in the small bowel which help with calcium absorption, it turns out that most human cells have Vitamin D receptors. This makes many cell types and tissues vulnerable to the effects of Vitamin D.

The potential beneficial effects of Vitamin D on the immune system are so important that thousands of studies have been conducted on more than 100 different medical disorders from asthma, allergic rhinitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, diabetes to multiple sclerosis and depression.

Study Highlights: Promising New Asthma Treatment

The most recent study related to asthma was published October 3, 2017 in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.  The study was a review of 7 randomized controlled studies involving 955 subjects with asthma on standard conventional treatments.  The study looked at the effect of taking Vitamin D supplements on asthma severity.  Three important results were reported from this new research:

  1. People with asthma who took Vitamin D supplements as part of their asthma treatment plan were 50% less likely to go to the emergency room or be admitted to the hospital for asthma flares than those who did not take Vitamin D supplements.
  2. Taking Vitamin D was linked with needing less glucocorticosteroids following an asthma attack (either injection or tablet form).
  3. Patients whose Vitamin D levels were “low” at the beginning of the study experienced the greatest benefit from taking Vitamin D supplements.  For these patients, their use of glucocorticosteroids with asthma flares decreased by more than half (55%).

Vitamin D For Asthma Patients

Previous research has demonstrated that low Vitamin D levels in asthma patients are associated with

  • impaired lung function
  • increased airways hyperreactivity, and
  • reduced response to glucocorticosteroids.

Low Vitamin D levels in utero and/or early on in life has been associated with increased risk of developing asthma.

If these new conclusions are reproduced in larger studies, Vitamin D may be an inexpensive and safe over-the-counter (OTC) supplement that may improve asthma severity, improve treatment responsiveness and reduce asthma exacerbations.

Questions to Ask Your Asthma Specialist

Here are a set of questions that we recommend that you discuss with your asthma specialist: 

  • Could Vitamin D deficiency be playing a role in your symptoms of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and/or flares of asthma?
  • Should you be tested for Vitamin D deficiency?
  • Should you take Vitamin D supplements (are you a candidate to try this new treatment approach)?
  • What are the best choices for treatment with Vitamin D supplements?

The Asthma Center

The board-certified physicians at The Asthma Center are Delaware Valley’s leading experts on treating patients with asthma. With advanced in-office diagnostics, our asthma specialists are trained to correctly diagnosis and treat symptoms that otherwise limit comfort and health. Working with each patient individually, our asthma specialists can create a personalized asthma treatment plan to propel our patients forward.

The board-certified asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley.

Call now to schedule your appointment! 

PA: (215) 569-1111  NJ: (856) 235-8282

Center City Philadelphia • Society Hill Philadelphia • Northeast Philadelphia

Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion PA

Langhorne – Bucks County PA

Mt. Laurel NJ • Woodbury NJ • Hamilton – Princeton NJ • Forked River NJ

For questions or media inquiries, please email Gaille at gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com. The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.

 




How to Avoid the Flu This Year? Get the Flu Shot That’s Right For You

The Asthma Center physicians and staff get flu shots too!  In the above picture taken in The Asthma Center’s Woodbury, NJ office, Clinical Supervisor Sandy Richards, RN administers the quadrivalent flu shot to Medical Secretary Michelle Wood!  (Courtesy: staffer Shannon Cephas, LPN)

Flu Season 2017 is Here

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu shots are recommended for everyone 6 months and older. The flu vaccine is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent getting the flu. With several different flu vaccines available, here’s a guide to which option is best for you.

CDC

 

Flu FAQ: Not All Flu Shots are Created Equal

  •  Four is Better Than Three (for everyone under age 65)

The Asthma Center highly recommends the quadrivalent (4 strain) influenza vaccine for all patients under the age of 65 years.  The quadrivalent vaccine contains the four most common types of the influenza virus versus only three types in the older trivalent (3 strain) vaccine and provides the most complete protection for this age group against the flu this winter. 

  • Three with Extra Power  (for everyone age 65 and older)

The Asthma Center highly recommends the high potency trivalent (3 strain – high potency) influenza vaccine for all patients 65 years and older .  This is the vaccine administered by our practice because it provides the most complete flu protection for this age group. Note that this is superior to the standard trivalent vaccine.

  • Buyer BewareNot All Flu Shots Are The Same

Many local pharmacies and other medical facilities have continued to administer the inferior (less expensive) trivalent influenza vaccine when a patient asks for a “flu shot”. Be sure to ask for the quadrivalent formulation or the high potency trivalent.

  • What Parents Need to Know

Children are a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the flu shot every flu season.

fall-child

  • What about Nasal Spray Flu Vaccines?

Though it is FDA approved,  the CDC is not recommending the FDA approved nasal spray vaccine (FluMist) this year because of concerns about how well it works. For the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC only recommend injectable flu shots! 

  • What if My Child is Afraid of Needles?

The Asthma Center physicians and staff have years of experience in providing the best care including vaccines, allergy shots, and allergy skin testing to children of all ages, including those who are afraid of needles. We know that no two individuals are alike, and we take pride in tailoring and providing personalized care in a safe, comfortable, and compassionate environment.

  • Experience & Customized Care 

At The Asthma Center, we personalize your experience by choosing the form of the influenza vaccine that is right for you –  multiple doses for young children (if necessary), preservative-free for those with preservative sensitivities, high-dose for those over 65 years of age and the quadrivalent vaccine for those not requiring alternative formulations. And, most importantly, we are there for you in the unlikely event you experience an adverse reaction to the vaccine. 

Did you know that you should wait for 30 minutes after administration of any vaccine so that if an immediate severe reaction (anaphylaxis) occurs, you can be immediately treated?

  • Can You Have a Reaction to the Flu Shot?

Unlikely, but yes!

At The Asthma Center, our board-certified allergists and highly trained staff are well equipped to handle adverse reactions.  All of our physicians and staff are trained to recognize and treat reactions to any vaccine, including the flu shot.

  • The Asthma Center Flu Shots are Available for Everyone 

The Asthma Center provides flu shots available for everyone aged 6 months and older, not just current patients. 

 Call now to schedule your flu shot appointment! 

Center City Philadelphia Society Hill PhiladelphiaNortheast Philadelphia

Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion PA

Langhorne – Bucks County PA

Mt. Laurel NJWoodbury NJHamilton – Princeton NJForked River NJ

For questions regarding flu shots, please email Gaille at gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com. The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.




Play with the Pros: Sports Asthma

Do You Have Exercised-Induced Asthma?

symptoms sports asthma

Coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest tightness while exercising or after? These are all typical symptoms of exercise-induced or sports asthma.

Vigorous exercise is one of the most common causes of bronchospasm (difficulty breathing) that can affect individuals of any age and fitness level. Factors contributing to exercise-induced asthma include the intensity of activity, control of underlying chronic asthma, environmental temperature & humidity, and even local air pollution. Though present in adults, sports asthma is most frequently diagnosed in children and young adults, who are more likely to engage in strenuous activity.

Interestingly, the type of exercise directly affects the intensity and duration of an exercised-induced asthma episode. Sustained hyperpnea (deep, rapid breathing during intense, prolonged aerobic activity) – often experienced while running – will be more likely to induce asthma than a sport that produces intermittent bursts of activity, such as baseball or tennis. Activities such as bike-riding and swimming are less likely to induce sports asthma than running. Swimming appears to be the least inducing sport, which may in part be related to the inhalation of humidified air (an exception to this might be exposure to chlorine and other chemicals which may act as a trigger of asthma symptoms). Intense exertion will also produce more severe symptoms when cold air is inhaled – this might occur in outdoor winter sports, like skiing or snowboarding, or in an ice rink.

Do Professional Athletes Have Sports Asthma?

Yes! In fact since 2000, Olympic athletes with asthma have won significantly more medals than athletes without asthma!

According to a 2016 study* published to accompany the Rio Summer Olympics, asthma is the most common chronic condition among Olympic athletes. The rate of asthma has increased in recent decades, especially among endurance sports like athletes who participate in swimming, cycling, rowing, and long-distance running. Olympic athletes have the same risk of developing asthma as the general population.

This recent study found that “…asthma develops in endurance athletes and is believed to be related to daily training sessions and frequent competitions with heavily increased ventilation.”  Interestingly, the study also found that in Olympic games since 2000, asthmatic athletes won substantially more medals than athletes without asthma and quoted speculation that “…the harder an athlete trains, the better the performance, simultaneously increasing asthma risk.” In fact, Mount Holly NJ native and swimmer Kelsi Worrell won a gold medal in the 4 x 100 meter medley relay in the 2016 Olympics!

professional athletes asthma

Tips for Athletes with Sports Asthma

For athletes of all ages and skill-levels:

Know your triggers. If symptoms occur most often during strenuous activity in cold, dry air, one may need to exercise indoors during the winter or wear a scarf or warming face mask when exercising outside. Allergen-sensitive individuals should consider adjusting exercise routines during high-pollution and high-allergen days. Do not exercise when you feel fatigued or have a cold or other illness known to trigger your asthma.

Practice prevention. Improved physical conditioning has been shown to decrease the incidence of asthma attacks. For this reason, those with asthma are encouraged to continue exercising. The following measures can help prevent an exercise-induced asthma attack:

  • Warm up and cool down effectively. Gradually slowing down activity after intense exertion often helps limit post-exercise symptoms of sports asthma.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, not just during exercise.
  • Utilize indoor practice facilities that offer good ventilation and air conditioning. Especially in extremely cold weather, consider exercising indoors.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • If you have seasonal allergies, schedule practices when pollen counts are lowest (evening is best). And consider immunotherapy (allergy shots) to reduce symptoms.
  • Avoid air pollution that might be present in ice rinks, swimming pools, indoor facilities.
  • Regular follow-up examinations with your physician.

Pre-Treatment. The single most important thing to remember is to always keep an inhaler handy. Athletes often use an inhaler 10-20 minutes before exercise. Generally, using an inhaler once before, and once during exercise is no cause for concern. However, using an inhaler more frequently during a session could indicate unstable asthma. Please discuss with your physician. 

Special Tips for Parents

Physical activity is especially important for children. Having a Sports Asthma Action Plan is essential to making sure that students and athletes can safely participate in all athletic activities. To avoid potential misunderstandings and/or delay in treatment, make sure there is clear communication of the Sports Asthma Action Plan between children, parents, coaches, teachers, and school nurses. Understanding and communicating the Sports Asthma Action Plan is crucial in managing sports asthma for kids and can include pre-exercise treatment, maintenance treatment, warm-up or cool-down exercises, conditioning, and access to quick-relief medications. Please contact your asthma specialist with any questions.

sports asthma in kids playing soccer
Asthma is a common problem affecting millions of children. With proper diagnosis and treatment, it’s very manageable!

The Asthma Center Can Help

The board-certified physicians at The Asthma Center are Delaware Valley’s leading experts on treating patients with asthma. We treat many of Philadelphia’s active and retired professional athletes, and we help many of our adult and children patients lead active lifestyles. With advanced in-office diagnostics, our asthma specialists are trained to correctly diagnosis and treat symptoms that otherwise limit performance and comfort. Working with each patient individually, our asthma specialists can create a personalized sports asthma treatment plan to propel our patients forward.

The board-certified asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley.

Center City Philadelphia Society Hill PhiladelphiaNortheast Philadelphia

Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion PA

Langhorne – Bucks County PA

Mt. Laurel NJWoodbury NJHamilton – Princeton NJForked River NJ

The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease. For interviews and tours of the Delaware Valley’s only National Allergy Bureau (NAB) certified pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counting stations in Philadelphia, PA and Mt. Laurel, NJ, please email gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com

*Source: J Allergy Clin Immunol 2016:138:409-10




Can Allergies Make You Drowsy Enough to Impair Driving?

The Asthma Center’s Board Certified Allergists Review New Research On How Allergies Impair Driving: Study Published in the August issue of the American Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

New Study: Allergies Increase the Risk of Driving Accidents

Drowsiness and lack of awareness can affect all drivers with studies revealing that 1 in 5 accidents is related to difficulty staying awake.  Allergies can, and often do, impact an individual’s quality of life including problems with sleeping, daytime drowsiness, and trouble focusing.  A new study published this August looked at how allergies impair driving and impact the risk of driving accidents.  

Allergies Impair Driving

Nearly two-thirds (63.8%) of the patients reported that their allergies affected their driving.

Researchers surveyed more than 3800 people across the United States between the ages of 25 and 53 years old.  Of the 63.8% who reported that allergy symptoms had an impact on their driving skills:

  • Almost 20% reported that allergies had affected their ability to respond to a specific situation (that they did not have the correct reflex)
  • Just under 15% reported allergies had contributed to an unusual driving error
  • 9.5% reported falling asleep while driving (for a fraction of a second)
  • 17.5% reported needing to pull off to the side of a road
  • A little more than 15% reported occasions they felt unable to drive
  • Less than 1% stated they were in a car accident due to allergies

Patients with the most severe allergic symptoms, who were most likely to be taking antihistamines by mouth and as eye drops experienced the most drowsiness and reported the most lack of focus and awareness while driving.

The Asthma Center’s board certified allergists, with more than four decades of experience with treating individuals for allergies, concur with the findings of this new study:

  • Allergies increase the risk of driving accidents independent of medication
  • Patients should be informed regarding this risk, and the need for following their personal Allergy Action Plan to minimize the risk.  Patients should review their Allergy Action Plan with their board certified allergist every three months so that adjustments can be made as necessary.
  • Further research should be pursued to more clearly define the relationship between allergies, drowsiness, and lack of focus and driving accidents 

J Allergy Clin Immunol August 2017, 140 (2): 614-616

If one is driving, or planning in the short term to drive, avoiding sedating medications like over-the-counter Benadryl, chlorpheniramine, and others is essential.

Allergy injections are a non-sedating option and the most effective way to treat allergies and avoid the use of sedating medications.

A Board-Certified Allergist Can Help with Allergies

Board-certified allergists and pediatric allergists help patients minimize allergies, asthma, and sinus problems.  Using minimally invasive in-house diagnostics, like allergy skin testing, needle-free allergy skin testing, and breathing tests, and knowledge of  local allergy triggers like pollen, ragweed and mold, our allergists develop personalized plans that treat not only the symptoms but also the cause of allergies. Several treatment options, including allergy immunotherapy, are effective and non-drowsy solutions.

The allergists, pediatric allergists, and asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley including Philadelphia (Center City PhiladelphiaSociety Hill PhiladelphiaNortheast Philadelphia), The Main Line – Montgomery County (Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion), Bucks County (Langhorne), and South Jersey (Mt. LaurelWoodburyPrinceton – HamiltonForked River).

The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.

For interviews and tours of the Delaware Valley’s only National Allergy Bureau (NAB) certified pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counting stations in Philadelphia, PA and Mt. Laurel, NJ, please email gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com

 

 

 




Red Meat Allergy and the Lone Star Tick in Metro Philly – Southern NJ

Philadelphia, PA – August 8, 2017 – “As the Lone Star tick population continues to grow in metropolitan Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, so will the incidence of red meat allergy rise in our community. Red meat allergy also must be considered for our residents who have severe life-threatening reactions (anaphylaxis) with an unknown cause.”  Dr. George Belecanech, Board-Certified Allergist at The Asthma Center

Watch Dr. Belecanech’s CBS3 Interview

 

Update on Red Meat Allergy and the Lone Star Tick in Metro Philly and Southern NJ

With the last of summer vacations and spending more time outdoors, we are all more susceptible to tick bites. By now, most of us are familiar with Lyme disease from deer ticks. But did you know that another tick variety prevalent in our area, the Lone Star tick, can trigger red meat allergy?

This red meat allergy is also known as alpha-gal allergy.  Alpha-gal is a carbohydrate found in red meat including beef, pork, lamb and venison.  Since 2009, Lone Star tick bites have been linked to the development of delayed allergic symptoms (usually 3-6 hours) following the ingestion of red meat.  Individuals bitten by Lone Star ticks may develop allergy (IgE) antibodies to alpha-gal.  Upon ingesting mammalian meat containing alpha-gal (red meat), delayed allergic symptoms can develop.  

Interestingly, a typical allergic reaction to a food occurs in minutes, yet the red meat allergic reactions may take as long as three to six hours to set in. While the allergic reaction can be triggered by alpha-gal in red meat, it is also important to note that the alpha-gal reaction can be triggered by gelatins, cow’s milk, and Cetuximab, which is a treatment of colon cancer.  However, the Alpha-gal carbohydrate is not found in poultry, such as chicken and turkey, or fish.

It is thought that individuals with blood types A or O are at increased risk of alpha-gal sensitization. However, the alpha-gal allergy has been seen among other blood types, as well. People of all blood types should exercise caution to avoid ticks and prevent this allergy from developing

Red meat allergy is generally considered to be uncommon in the United States, and was only recently recognized in 2009.  However, the increased population of Lone Star ticks in our region increases the threat of red meat allergy.  An essential part of any food allergy treatment program is avoidance, and triggers can be particularly difficult to identify.  This is particularly true with Lone Star tick bites and red meat allergy because the allergic reaction is often delayed, thereby “hiding” the true cause of the allergic reactions.

The Asthma Center Board-Certified Allergists have put together the following guides to help recognize the signs and symptoms of red meat allergy caused by Lone Star tick bites.

Lone Star Tick Bite Facts

  • The Lone Star female adult tick has a distinctive white dot. The Lone Star adult male, on the other hand, has markings similar to those of a “deer tick.” 
  • Lone Star tick bites often cause an extremely itchy rash around the bite within 7 days.  Note: Tick bites related to Lyme Disease and other illness by contrast, may also develop a rash that feel warm to the touch but generally are not itchy.
  • Some individuals may be unaware that they have experienced a tick bite.
  • Lone Star tick bites do not usually cause Lyme Disease; however, Lone Star ticks feed on warm blooded mammals which may have Lyme Disease and other tick-borne illnesses. In rare cases, the Lone Star tick can become a “carrier” of these illnesses.

Red-Meat-Allergy-Lone-star-cdc

Lone-star-tick-map-cdc

Lone Star Tick Bites and Food Allergy Symptoms

After a Lone Star tick bite, the following food allergy symptoms can occur with the ingestion of red meat (including beef, pork, lamb or venison):

  • Hives or skin rash
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Stuffy/runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Asthma
  • Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)

Red Meat Allergy Diagnosis and Treatment

At The Asthma Center, our allergists and pediatric allergists help our patients manage their food allergies by first determining what foods cause symptoms.   Commercially available allergy skin tests for red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) are usually negative, but skin tests to fresh meat may be positive.  When a meat allergy is causing any of the above symptoms, and a Lone Star tick bite is suspected, a blood test can help diagnosis this condition.  Many cases of what has previously been diagnosed as “idiopathic anaphylaxis (where the cause is unknown) may actually be cases of red meat allergy.  The delayed reaction caused by red meat allergy (which can occur 3-6 hours after eating red meat) is often misleading since most allergic food reactions occur within one hour of ingestion of the culprit food.

Avoidance of foods that trigger symptoms is a key part of living with red meat food allergy.  The Asthma Center allergists pair these results and any other testing results which may apply to an individual’s unique history and set of symptoms to identify specific triggers.  The Asthma Center allergists also help our patients find relief of symptoms with antihistamines and corticosteroids, and prepare for anaphylaxis by carrying epinephrine auto-injector to reverse severe reactions to any unforeseen exposure or accidental ingestion of a triggering food.

Tips for Tick Bite Avoidance

No tick bite is a “good” tick bite.  

With a greater than usual tick population predicted for our region, increases in Lyme Disease which is spread by the “deer tick” (black legged tick) are not the only concern.  It has been widely reported that a small percentage of deer ticks may also carry the Powassan virus. 

Avoid Tick bites:

  • Use repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours
  • Walk in the center of trails and avoid wooded and grassy areas
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and thick socks
  • Learn more about preventing tick bites from the Centers for Disease Control

If you are concerned about a tick bite or other rash, please see a medical professional.

The allergists, pediatric allergists, and asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley including Philadelphia (Center City PhiladelphiaSociety Hill PhiladelphiaNortheast Philadelphia), The Main Line – Montgomery County (Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion PA), Bucks County (Langhorne PA), and South Jersey (Mt. Laurel NJWoodbury NJHamilton NJForked River NJ).

The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.

For interviews and tours of the Delaware Valley’s only National Allergy Bureau (NAB) certified pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counting stations in Philadelphia, PA and Mt. Laurel, NJ, please email gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com.

 




Ragweed Pollen Readiness: 3 Keys to Prepare for Fall Allergies

Ragweed Pollen and Fall Allergies:

Ragweed pollen is considered the biggest trigger of fall allergies.  Ragweed pollen will flood the air in metropolitan Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey over the next few weeks, according to Dr. Donald Dvorin, the region’s only official pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counter.  Dr. Dvorin is watching the ragweed plants in the Delaware Valley mature. Based on more than two decades of historical data as well as ideal growing conditions (this summer’s hot and rainy weather conditions) a robust ragweed pollen season is expected.

National Allergy Board Official Pollen Mold Ragweed Count Station

 

August marks the beginning of the end of summer.  For many it is a time for relaxing, “last chances” for summer fun with family, and vacations.  August also brings ragweed pollen and the onset of fall allergies.  The Asthma Center Board-Certified Allergists recommend taking 3 Key Steps now to prevent suffering (and sneezing) through fall allergy season!

3 Key Steps to Prevent Fall Allergies

  1. Implement your personal Allergy Action Plan now.

Be sure to begin your allergy and asthma medications before your symptoms start (including the use of intranasal corticosteroid sprays).  This is one of the most important measures you can take to minimize seasonal allergy symptoms.

Advisory for current patients of The Asthma Center: We recommend reviewing and updating your Allergy Action Plan with your board-certified allergist every three months.

2. Know your level of pollen sensitivity and monitor pollen levels.

To find out if you are allergic to ragweed, Allergy Skin Testing is one of the most reliable methods to determine allergy sensitivity, particularly when correlated with your personal history. Free subscribers of The Asthma Center’s daily email receive pollen, mold, and ragweed counts direct to their inbox.

Advisory for current patients of The Asthma Center: Sensitivity to pollen and molds (including ragweed) can change over time. We recommend reviewing your allergic sensitivity with your board-certified allergist every three months and testing for allergies every two years.

3. Keep pollen and mold spores out of your nose, eyes, ears, lungs and home.

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants when mowing the grass or raking leaves. Be sure to shower & wash your hair afterwards.
  • Limit time outdoors during the early morning hours when the most pollen is released.  Be mindful that molds release mold spores throughout the day.  Learn more
  • Sleep with windows closed and drive with windows up.
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses or glasses outdoors to limit exposure of pollen to your eyes.
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses, or switch to daily disposable contacts to avoid allergens building up on the lenses.
  • Beware of tracking pollen and mold spores into your home from overlooked sources that may “sneak” in on kids’ shoes and clothing, pets especially after playing outside in the grass and leaves, and on morning newspaper sleeves.
  • Shower and wash your hair after extended outdoor exposure.  Wash your hands and face frequently, including eyebrows.
  • Change your pillowcase often.

A Board-Certified Allergist Can Help with Ragweed and Fall Allergies & Allergic Asthma

At The Asthma Center, our allergists and pediatric allergists help our patients manage their ragweed pollen and fall allergies and allergic asthma by determining what weed pollen and molds cause symptoms.  For example, we identify whether ragweed pollen and or which local molds (including CladosporiumAscosopresAlternariaBasidiospores, and Epicoccum) trigger allergy and asthma symptoms by using minimally invasive in-house diagnostics, like allergy skin testing, needle free allergy skin testing and breathing tests. Pairing these results with local knowledge of allergy triggers like pollen, ragweed and mold, our allergists develop personalized plans that treat not only the symptoms but also the cause of allergies. And because allergy  and asthma symptoms often spike with pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counts, we know exactly when to adjust medications – providing more relief when conditions are bad and less medication every time else. 

The allergists, pediatric allergists, and asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley including Philadelphia (Center City PhiladelphiaSociety Hill PhiladelphiaNortheast Philadelphia), The Main Line – Montgomery County (Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion), Bucks County (Langhorne), and South Jersey (Mt. LaurelWoodburyPrinceton – HamiltonForked River).

The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.

For interviews and tours of the Delaware Valley’s only National Allergy Bureau (NAB) certified pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counting stations in Philadelphia, PA and Mt. Laurel, NJ, please email gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com

 




Thunderstorm Asthma – Allergies: More Pollen, More Mold, More Symptoms

Thunderstorm Asthma – Allergies

Over the past thirty years, numerous researchers have confirmed that “thunderstorm asthma – allergies” (increases in asthma and allergy symptoms following thunderstorms) are real.

The “dog days of summer,” those hot and humid days in late July and August present the perfect conditions for unsettled weather which can “break” the humidity with rain and cooler temperatures.    Many individuals who have asthma and allergies expect these weather changes to also usher in a break from symptoms. The Asthma Center’s board certified allergists and pediatric allergists also confirm that thunderstorms can have the opposite effect by triggering more allergic asthma and respiratory allergy symptoms.

What Is Thunderstorm Asthma – Allergies?

Most people think of a “thunderstorm” as any storm with rain, thunder and lightning.  Thunderstorms are very common, and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), at any given moment, somewhere around the world, approximately 2,000 thunderstorms are in progress. While thunderstorms may seem simple, each event is a complicated interaction of air, water, and electricity.

Thunderstorm Asthma – Allergies occurs when thunderstorm activity triggers flares in asthma  (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or chest congestion) and/or allergies.

The connection between thunderstorms and increased asthma and allergy symptoms was first recognized in the 1980s.  Over the ensuing years, a number of researchers have confirmed this phenomenon including increased emergency room visits for asthma following thunderstorms.  In fact, deaths due to increased asthma after thunderstorm activity occurred in Melbourne, Australia (9 deaths in November 2016) and in Kuwait (5 deaths in December 2016.)

Most recently, findings published in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology explored the complicated relationship of thunderstorm activity with increased pollen, thunderstorm asthma and respiratory allergy. 

Thunderstorms Bring More Pollen, More Mold Spores & More Symptoms

For more than two decades, The Asthma Center’s official pollen, ragweed and mold spore counter, Dr. Donald Dvorin has observed first hand the increase of pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counts following thunderstorm activity in metropolitan Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.  As Dr. Dvorin has stated on many occasions,  weather conditions play an important and complex role in the volume of pollen, ragweed, and mold spores that fill the air each day.  Rain and falling temperatures can clear the air and can even disturb the pollen process.  Thunderstorms on the other hand, which are accompanied by lightning, winds and heavy rains–affect the process differently.  First, winds lift, carry, and toss pollen about, sometimes violently.  Lightning indicates a change in the movement of atmospheric electrical charges which may cause further anomalies in pollen release; when combined with winds, this can result in more pollen in the air with all of it traveling further.  

The most recent published findings suggest that pollen molecules may actually absorb water in the atmosphere before “exploding” and releasing pollen particles with great force and density.   

Molds thrive with increased moisture.  It is no surprise, then, that there is a connection between increased mold allergy symptoms and storms, which include thunderstorms, rain, tropical storms, and hurricanes.  

In fact, in April, 2017, a study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health reported findings from two researchers on the connections between Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and positive reactions to allergy skin testing to molds.  The researchers reviewed the medical records of several hundred individuals living in New Jersey, and found that post-hurricane allergy skin tests revealed an increased allergic reaction to molds.

Three Ways To Reduce Thunderstorm Asthma – Allergies

  1. Minimize Time Outdoors Before and After Thunderstorms

While thunderstorms can “pop up” at any time without warning, cloud formations, darkening sky, lightning, and abrupt changes in wind gusts are all clues that a thunderstorm may be forming.  The rhyme “Red sky at night, sailors’ delight; Red sky in morning, sailors’ warning” is another clue.  As seen in this photo (courtesy The Asthma Center’s friend, Bill Fluehr) which captures the morning sun along the Delaware River, a “red sky at morning” is caused when the sun hits clouds in our region.

Thunderstorm Asthma - Allergies Red Sky

2.  Monitor Pollen, Ragweed, and Mold Spore Counts

Knowing the pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counts before and after thunderstorms can be invaluable in planning daily activities and reducing the impact of exposure to your specific allergy triggers.  In the Delaware Valley, The Asthma Center’s official pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counts are available via free subscription email, on our website, and social media.

3.  Activate your Asthma & Allergy Action Plan

A personalized Asthma & Allergy Action Plan will include both a routine, day-to-day plan for individuals with asthma and allergies as well as a written plan to follow in the case an asthma attack or flare up in allergy symptoms.  The Asthma Center allergists work with each patient to customize each individual’s Asthma & Allergy Action plan so that patients know when to adjust medications – providing more relief when conditions are bad (after thunderstorm activity when pollen, ragweed, and mold spores may dramatically increase) and less medications when environmental triggers are absent.

Special Note for Individuals with Thunderstorm Asthma: Carry Your Rescue Inhaler At All Times

A Board-Certified Allergist Can Help with Thunderstorm Asthma – Allergies

At The Asthma Center, our allergists and pediatric allergists help our patients manage increases in symptoms after thunderstorms by first determining what causes an individuals asthma and allergy symptoms.  For example, we identify which local pollen, ragweed, and molds trigger allergy and asthma symptoms by using minimally invasive in-house diagnostics, like allergy skin testing including needle free allergy skin testing and breathing tests. Pairing these results with local knowledge of allergy triggers like pollen, ragweed and mold, our allergists develop personalized plans that treat not only the symptoms but also the cause of allergies. And because allergy  and asthma symptoms often spike after thunderstorms, we know exactly when to adjust medications – providing more relief when conditions are bad and less medication every time else. 

The allergists, pediatric allergists, and asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley including Philadelphia (Center City PhiladelphiaSociety Hill PhiladelphiaNortheast Philadelphia), The Main Line – Montgomery County (Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion PA), Bucks County (Langhorne PA), and South Jersey (Mt. Laurel NJWoodbury NJHamilton NJForked River NJ).

The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.

For interviews and tours of the Delaware Valley’s only National Allergy Bureau (NAB) certified pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counting stations in Philadelphia, PA and Mt. Laurel, NJ, please email gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com




Travel with Allergies & Asthma: Tips to Avoid Symptom Detours

Travel with Allergies & Asthma: Tips to Avoid Symptom Detours

Summer is a special time for making memories including travel and vacations.  It might be a daytrip, a weekend getaway, a family vacation or reunion, a road trip across the United States (or to a particular landmark or region), a longer trip abroad, or a “bucket list” cruise or adventure.  While some diversions can add to the fun of traveling, detours caused by flare ups in allergies, asthma, and sinus problems can cause misery for everyone.  The Asthma Center’s board certified Allergists have created the following Travel with Allergies & Asthma checklist to help you and your family enjoy healthy and safe outings, travel and vacations!

Before Travel: Allergies & Asthma Checklist

  • Visit your specialist. The board certified Allergists & staff of The Asthma Center can help you get ready by reviewing your personal Action Plan & special travel needs. For example, individuals with asthma may be unaware that nebulizers are available in extremely small, lightweight, battery-operated, & tubeless units, which can fit into a purse or small travel bag, such as the Omron MicroAir nebulizer. We can help you find the unit that’s right for you.

Omron MicroAir nebulizer

  • Prepare a list of current medical conditions (including food & medication allergies) & medications.
  • Prepare & pack sufficient quantities of prescription & over-the-counter medications including all back up medications. Check expiration dates.
  • Research accommodations. AllerPassMD (edited & analyzed by a board certified allergist provides listings and ratings for hotel rooms & staterooms) is one resource providing hotel ratings on Indoor & Outdoor Allergens as well as Contactants (hair & body products.) Request smoke free rooms with air filters & dust mite proof bedding when booking your lodging.
  • Research restaurants. Find food allergy aware restaurants using SafeFare (created by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE))
  • Research your vacation location regarding, air quality & environment, language, nearest medical facility, and pharmacy locations.
  • Check your insurance policy regarding coverage and, if applicable, purchase and review extra travel medical benefits.
  • For those with severe allergy/anaphylaxis, consider purchasing an Allergy Medic Alert Bracelet. When engraving, be as specific as possible in identifying your allergies.

Travel Allergies Medic Alert BraceletTravel Allergy Medic Alert Bracelet

  • Review pre flight instructions to prevent or lessen Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (problems related to ear pressure such as pain, fullness, hearing difficulties) – An example of The Asthma Center Allergists’ Pre Flight Instructions for Eustachian Tube Dysfunction might include:
    1. Afrin drops when seated – repeat on descent if flight is greater than 4 hours.
    2. Mucinex D the morning of the Flight.
    3. “Ear Planes.”Ear Planes
    4. Swallow water or chew gum on ascent and descent.
    5. Prednisone.

The above instructions are only an example.  The use of Afrin, decongestants, and/or prednisone must be discussed with a board certified Allergist.  Schedule an Appointment

Dodge Detours: Avoiding Allergies & Asthma With Travel

  • Carry your list of conditions, medications, and emergency medications everywhere you go.
  • Avoid tobacco smoke exposure and always ask for smoke-free hotel room with air filter and dust mite proof bedding
  • Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands frequently
  • Know the closest emergency services or hospital locations

No Place Like Home: Allergies & Asthma De-Briefing Guide

  • Visit your specialist for follow-up care if you experienced any allergic reactions, asthma flares, and/or anaphylaxis while traveling and if necessary make adjustments to your Action Plan.
  • When unpacking, ensure you returned home with all your medications and refill medications as needed.
  • Note what was successful and/or unsuccessful on this trip regarding your asthma, allergies and/or sinus problems. If applicable, write online review of restaurants and/or hotel accommodations to share your experiences with others who have allergies and asthma.

Travel with Epinephrine (EpiPen or AuviQ)

Travel With Epi Pen

  • Visit your specialist if you require special documentation and to review your personal Action Plan
  • When flying, request that your epinephrine be visually inspected, not scanned
  • Always carry your epinephrine (do not pack in luggage which will be checked because it will be handled by others and may be lost, delayed or damaged )
  • Check the effective date of your epinephrine.
  • Know the closest emergency services or hospital locations

A Board-Certified Allergist Can Help Travel and Allergies, Asthma and Sinus Problems

At The Asthma Center, our allergists and pediatric allergists help our patients plan for travel to minimize allergies, asthma, and sinus problems.  For example, we identify which local pollen and molds trigger allergies, asthma, and sinus symptoms by using minimally invasive in-house diagnostics, like allergy skin testing and breathing tests. Pairing these results with local knowledge of allergy triggers like pollen, ragweed and mold, our allergists develop personalized plans that treat not only the symptoms but also the cause of allergies. And because allergy  and asthma symptoms often spike with mold spore counts, we know exactly when to adjust medications – providing more relief when conditions are bad and less medication every time else. 

The allergists, pediatric allergists, and asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley including Philadelphia (Center City PhiladelphiaSociety Hill PhiladelphiaNortheast Philadelphia), The Main Line – Montgomery County (Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion PA), Bucks County (Langhorne PA), and South Jersey (Mt. Laurel NJWoodbury NJHamilton NJForked River NJ).

The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.

For interviews and tours of the Delaware Valley’s only National Allergy Bureau (NAB) certified pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counting stations in Philadelphia, PA and Mt. Laurel, NJ, please email gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com

 




Mold Spores Galore: Extreme Mold Allergies in Delaware Valley

Mold Spores Galore: Extreme Mold Allergies in Delaware Valley

Mold allergy, allergic reactions to mold spores, are on the rise in the United States causing misery for perhaps one in three individuals with allergies and/or allergic asthma. Last week in the Delaware Valley alone, Dr. Dvorin reported extreme outdoor mold counts for several consecutive days, with nearly 9000 mold spores per cubic meters of air / 24 hours.  The reported high mold counts may provoke severe allergic and asthma symptoms for people in Philadelphia and South Jersey.

Drawing on decades of expertise in identifying, evaluating and treating the common and uncommon manifestations of mold allergy, The Asthma Center’s board-certified allergists present Mold Spores Galore: Extreme Mold Allergies in Delaware Valley.

Mold Allergy Symptoms

Virtually no environment is without molds which release mold spores.  Too small to be seen by the naked eye, mold spores are found in every breath we inhale, and may also enter the body through the eyes, ears, mouth, and skin.

Adults and children with mold allergies may experience the typical symptoms of allergy such as sneezing, nasal congestion, and/or itching of the nose, itchy and watery eyes, itchy ears and/or hives (skin rash.)  Exposure to mold spores can also provoke flares of asthma, chronic sinusitis, and headaches, including migraines.  Less common, severe allergies to mold spores include allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) and allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS.)

Mold Allergy and Outdoor Mold Counts

Molds, also known as fungi, produce spores and other fungal particles.  Outdoor mold spores play a major role in causing most mold allergy symptoms.  Like pollen, mold spores are airborne and become abundant in the warmer weather months.  Unlike pollen, which typically is released in the greatest numbers early in the day, mold spore release depends three factors: 1) type of mold present, 2) heat and 3) humidity.  “Dry air” spores (xenophilic) such as Cladosporium or Alternaria release the most spores during the afternoon hours when the weather conditions are hot and dry.  “Wet air” spores (hydrophilic), such as Ascospores and Basidiospores release the largest numbers of spores during pre-dawn hours when there is high humidity.

Delaware Valley’s Outdoor Mold Spore Counts

National Allergy Board Official Pollen Mold Ragweed Count Station

Pollen and mold spore particles have distinct shapes and are easy to distinguish from each other under the microscope.  However, mold spores and other fungal particles are very small and can be challenging to differentiate between the species.  The Asthma Center’s Dr. Donald Dvorin’s training, experience and certification by the National Allergy Bureau (NAB) combine to bring the Delaware Valley the only official mold spore count for metropolitan Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey.

For those with mold allergies, knowing the daily mold count is essential in order to reduce the impact of exposure to outdoor mold spores, for planning daily activities and following Allergy & Asthma Action Plans (increasing or decreasing medications.) In the Delaware Valley, The Asthma Center’s official pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counts are available via email, on our website, and social media.

In metropolitan Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey, molds appear in the early spring and persist throughout the summer and fall seasons.  There is no “peak season” for mold spores.  Dr. Dvorin has observed that the highest levels of mold spores, which may provoke extreme symptoms, occur from midsummer through the late fall.  During winter months, outdoor mold spores reduce significantly – especially if snow covers the ground.

Mold Allergy and Cladosporium

Dr. Dvorin’s historical mold data reveals that Cladosporium is the predominant mold spore in our region’s air.  Other common molds for our region include Ascospores, Alternaria, Basidiospores, and Epicoccum.   

Dr. Dvorin also notes that the unusual mold spores of Aspergillus and Penicillium  are frequently present in the air of the Delaware Valley.  These mold spores can cause severe allergic reactions in the lungs (allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis [ABPA] ) and  sinuses (allergic fungal sinusitis [AFS.] ). When Aspergillus and Penicillium mold spores are elevated, The Asthma Center issues an Unusual Mold Alert for metropolitan Philadelphia and South Jersey.   Subscribe to receive these alerts with daily mold spore counts direct to your inbox!

Other molds species observed in our region by Dr. Dvorin include Botrytis, Cercospora, Curvularia, Drechslera,  Fusarium, Nigrospora, Oidium, Periconia, Pithomyces, Polythrincium, Rusts, Smuts, Stemphylium, and Torula.

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Mold Spore Exposure & Mold Allergies

  1. Avoid uncut fields and piles of damp leaves if possible. 
  2. Make sure water drains away from your home (not toward the basement or foundation). Vent dryers to the outside-not  indoors!
  3. Monitor indoor humidity levels and make your home less mold-friendly by using dehumidifiers and air conditioners.  Keep indoor humidity between 35% and 50%.  (Inexpensive meters for measuring humidity in a home can be purchased at a hardware store.)
  4. Identify the source of mold and remove it before it spreads.  If you spot mold in your home on a hard surface –such as glass, plastic or tile—clean it with a bleach solution, soap and water, or a commercial product. For mold on drywall, seek professional advice.
  5. Do not procrastinate! Acting promptly is a critical component of mold prevention. If a spill or leak leaves a rug wet, dry it within 48 hours to keep mold from growing. Be sure to not delay from cleaning gutters, because the damp leaves serve as a breeding ground for mold.

Lawn Allergy: Mold & Cut Grass

Mowing your lawn to reduce grass pollination and limiting your exposure to grass pollen are both important steps in avoiding the misery of allergies. In addition to grass pollen triggering allergy symptoms, many individuals experience typical allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchy watery eyes, nasal congestion, and even wheezing when exposed to the smell of freshly cut grass.  Allergic reactions triggered by the smell of freshly cut grass are likely from the non-pollen parts of the grass, which also contain allergenic proteins or outdoor molds, which have been stirred up by the mowing process.  Concentrations of these allergy triggers dramatically escalate for a short period of time during and immediately after mowing.  For more tips on reducing exposure to outdoor molds when mowing the lawn, read The Asthma Center’s Allergy-Friendly Lawn & Grass Guide.

Mulch and Mold Allergy

Outdoor Mold Prevention Tip:  If you are seeing mold growing on your mulch, be sure to check the thickness of the layer of mulch.  Mulch layered thicker than 3 cm allows for molds to grow, repelling water from reaching the roots under the mulch.

 

Storms Kick Up Mold Allergies

hurricane sandy and mold allergy

Molds thrive with increased moisture.  It is no surprise, then, that there is a connection between increased mold allergy symptoms and storms, which include thunderstorms, rain, tropical storms, and hurricanes.  

In fact, in April, 2017, a study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health reported findings from two researchers on the connections between Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and positive reactions to allergy skin testing to molds.  The researchers reviewed the medical records of several hundred individuals living in New Jersey, and found that post-hurricane allergy skin tests revealed an increased allergic reaction to molds.

Mold Triggers Allergic Asthma

Mold allergy is recognized as an important trigger for Allergic Asthma.  A board-certified Allergist plays a crucial role in identifying which molds provoke asthma symptoms in order to develop a personalized Asthma Action Plan.  A comprehensive evaluation for mold allergy and allergic asthma includes, but is not limited to, allergy skin testing, review of environmental exposures, specialized pulmonary function testing, and a physical examination.

 

mold allergy and aspergillus - penicillium
Aspergillus & Penicillium

 

What is ABPA (Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis)?

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) is an allergic reaction in the lung to Aspergillus fumigatus. Reactions to this fungus are rare in individuals with normal immune systems. Individuals with asthma or cystic fibrosis are among those commonly affected by ABPA. If you have asthma, one of the first noticeable symptoms may be a progressive worsening of your asthma symptoms including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Other allergic conditions which may be present include nasal allergies (allergic rhinitis), sinusitis, and skin allergies (atopic dermatitis/eczema and urticaria/hives). Treatment usually includes oral corticosteroids and sometimes oral anti-fungal treatments. Individuals with ABPA are usually followed closely by their physician.

What is AFS (Allergic fungal sinusitis)?

Allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS) is the most common fungal infection associated with chronic sinusitis.  This condition often occurs in people with nasal polyps and sinus disease.  It is usually resistant to conventional medical and surgical treatments.  Tissue within the sinuses is often covered with characteristic thick gel-like discolored mucus filled with allergy cells (eosinophils).  This gel is often described as “allergic mucin” and often contains fungal elements when properly stained and examined microscopically.  Treatment of allergic fungal sinusitis includes surgery, oral and nasal corticosteroids, allergy injection therapy, leukotriene modifiers, antihistamines and oral decongestants.  Unfortunately, oral antifungal treatment is usually not effective.

Indoor Mold Allergens

Mold allergens associated with mold spores and other fungal elements can be a major source of indoor allergens, particularly in home where damp or wet areas exist. Areas of mold growth are often difficult to detect, hiding under floors or behind walls.

The mixture of mold spores seen indoors includes Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Cladosporium. Unique molds like Stachybotrys may be found in some indoor settings where extensive water damage has occurred. If molds are suspected, special culture techniques and air sampling specimens may be done. A thorough inspection may be required by experts in environmental contamination and mold remediation.

There have been many claims made regarding connections between damp environments and health effects. Possible reasons for these connections include: allergic reactions, direct irritation by fungal mold elements, toxins released from molds (Aspergillus, Fusarium, Penicillium, Stachybotrys): volatile organic compounds (VOCs), or other immune responses stimulated by mold. Individuals with exposure to damp environments often present with symptoms of congestion, coughing, mucous discharge, headache, shortness of breath, eye itching, dizziness, restless legs, fatigue and abdominal pain. Most individuals with exposure to mold contaminates do not have typical allergic symptoms. Whether all indoor molds produce health problems beyond allergic reactions is still widely debated. Therefore, the presence of mold or mold derived toxins in an indoor environment does not necessarily mean there are associated effects on health.

 

A Board-Certified Allergist Can Help with Mold Allergy & Allergic Asthma

At The Asthma Center, our allergists and pediatric allergists help our patients manage their mold allergies and allergic asthma by determining what molds cause symptoms.  For example, we identify which local molds (including Cladosporium, Ascosopres, Alternaria, Basidiospores, and Epicoccum) trigger allergy and asthma symptoms by using minimally invasive in-house diagnostics, like allergy skin testing and breathing tests. Pairing these results with local knowledge of allergy triggers like pollen, ragweed and mold, our allergists develop personalized plans that treat not only the symptoms but also the cause of allergies. And because allergy  and asthma symptoms often spike with mold spore counts, we know exactly when to adjust medications – providing more relief when conditions are bad and less medication every time else. 

The allergists, pediatric allergists, and asthma specialists at The Asthma Center treat patients in 9 convenient locations throughout the Delaware Valley including Philadelphia (Center City PhiladelphiaSociety Hill PhiladelphiaNortheast Philadelphia), The Main Line – Montgomery County (Bala Cynwyd – Lower Merion PA), Bucks County (Langhorne PA), and South Jersey (Mt. Laurel NJWoodbury NJHamilton NJForked River NJ).

The health information contained in this article is meant for basic informational purposes only.  It is not intended to serve as medical advice, substitute for a doctor’s appointment or to be used for diagnosing or treating a disease.

For interviews and tours of the Delaware Valley’s only National Allergy Bureau (NAB) certified pollen, ragweed, and mold spore counting stations in Philadelphia, PA and Mt. Laurel, NJ, please email gwoodlyn@asthmacenter.com