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SIMED Celebrates Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month

Asthma has many causes, one of which is allergies. SIMED Allergy and Asthma Board Certified Allergist-Immunologist, Mercedes Pernice, MD, talks about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of these two very prevalent issues in North Central Florida.

Allergies

Every individual has unique allergic triggers.

"When the body comes into contact with an allergen, a chemical immune reaction occurs. This reaction inflames the nasal passages or bronchial tubes. Some reactions may cause skin reactions, as well," says Dr. Pernice.

People who have allergies in the fall tend to be reacting to ragweed. Summer allergies are likely due to grass pollens, ragweed and molds. Spring seasonal allergies peak in North Central Florida from February to May, when trees begin to pollinate.

The allergic reaction for many individuals, causes them to experience frustrating symptoms of itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, congestion, throat irritation and more.

According to Dr. Pernice environmental and lifestyle changes can reduce your exposure to seasonal allergens.

"During the spring, keep windows closed and keep your air conditioning on to filtered and circulate the air. Stay indoors as much as possible, if practical."

Allergic reactions to animals or dust are also common.

"For indoor allergies, avoid dust mites and dander's, ideally do not own animals, and consider purchasing a HEPA filter," says Dr. Pernice

If you don’t see significant improvement to environmental or over-the-counter allergy remedies, a board certified allergist-immunologist physician can help you identify the source of your allergies and suggest more effective treatment based on your allergies.

Additionally, always tell your physician about your allergies if symptoms are prolonged and affect daily life.

"If you are missing school or work, experiencing headaches, having trouble sleeping, or frequently experience infections or asthma, consider having your allergies evaluated," says Dr. Pernice.

Asthma

Allergies are the most common trigger of asthma, however asthma can be caused by a variety of triggers.

Dr. Pernice says there are two general categories of asthma: 1) Extrinsic asthma, which is triggered by the outdoors, and 2) Intrinsic asthma triggered by chronic inflammation within the body.

"When someone has asthma, there is a degree of inflammation in the bronchial tubes, which narrows the airways causing coughing, chest tightness, or wheezing. Often times, patients report prolonged and recurrent coughing or wheezing," says Dr. Pernice.

There are many specific kinds of asthma, which can be determined by a board certified allergist-immunologist. It is important to understand the cause of ones asthma in order to treat it effectively.

Treating asthma is based on general guidelines, based on the severity of symptoms.

"First you start with a rescue inhaler, many of which contain the medicine Albuterol. Rescue inhalers relax the muscles in the bronchial tubes to open them up, and ease breathing. These are used on an as needed basis," said Dr. Pernice.

If a patient needs to use their rescue inhaler more than twice per week during the day-time or twice per month at night, other treatment options should be considered.

Depending on the severity of a patients symptoms they might find relief using inhaled corticosteroids, which decreased bronchial inflammation.

Non-allergic asthma triggers, like infections or underlying conditions such as chronic sinus disease or acid reflux, can cause asthma.

"One cause of asthma is upper respiratory infections. Patients may report having recurrent cold symptoms, and whenever they have these symptoms they 'go into my chest.' An average patient may get rid of a cold in about 7-10 days. However patients with asthma will have prolonged illness, lasting weeks to months." says Dr. Pernice.

Board certified allergist-immunologists have specialized training to evaluate and treat a broad range of allergy and immunology issues.

"We are trained to manage immunologic problems, for instance immune deficiency and recurrent infections, in addition to allergy problems," says Dr. Pernice.

If you are trying to decide whether or not to see board certified allergist-immunologist, ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Do you want to know what your allergic triggers are?
  2. Do you want a variety of treatment options for your allergies, beyond medication?
  3. Do you want to avoid allergic triggers, rather than take medications to treat the symptoms throughout your lifetime?
  4. Do you need a diagnosis that looks at a broad range of diseases, that may require special treatment?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," Dr. Pernice recommends scheduling an appointment. SIMED Allergy and Asthma offers treatment for allergies, asthma, and immunological conditions throughout North Central Florida. Our physicians are board certified Allergist-Immunologists, ready to help you breathe easier. Click here to request an appointment online.