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Are Asthma and Allergies Connected? Dr. Pernice Explains

Springtime is peak allergy season. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. Those same people may also suffer from asthma as well, said Dr. Mercedes Pernice of SIMEDHealth Allergy and Asthma

“Around this time of year, anyone with grass or pollen allergies is prone to have more symptoms such as coughing or wheezing. Also, if you have insect allergies such as fire ants, wasps or bees, that can sometimes cause anaphylaxis, which may affect your airways,” said Dr. Pernice said.

In some cases, skin and food allergy sufferers may also experience asthma symptoms. This is what’s known as allergic-asthma, she added.

 “It’s easy to see why your asthma may be connected to your allergies,” Dr. Pernice said, “Both your upper and lower airways are connected and allergies and asthma often have the same triggers. I think it is very important to recognize and manage your symptoms, especially with asthma, because if left untreated it can be fatal."

 Here are a few seasonal tips Dr. Pernice recommends for those suffering from allergies or asthma:

Check the Pollen Count

“During certain times of the day, the pollen count is at its highest. During those times, you’ll want to stay indoors,” she said.

High pollen counts vary based on location, plant types, and temperature. You can check the pollen count in your area by using your favorite online weather resource.

Take Regular Medications

If you suffer from severe seasonal allergies, you’ll want to make sure to take your regular medications such as antihistamines, nasal sprays, and nasal steroids. (It’s important to know that not all allergy medications will cover the allergens or triggers in your area.) Asthma sufferers will need a controller medicine.

You should at least have these medicines on hand, should your symptoms worsen, Dr. Pernice said.

Eliminate Pollen from Unexpected Areas

Not only can pollen get in your airways, it can get on your car, hair, and clothes. Make sure you change or shower after coming inside. You should also remember that pets can bring in pollen and other allergens when they go between the outdoors and indoors.

“Remember to the windows closed, even if it’s nice outside,” Dr. Pernice said.

Vacuuming

If you suffer from indoor allergies as well, you should be thinking about where your triggers will most likely be hiding. Allergens such as dust mites can live on curtains and carpets.

Although vacuuming can help reduce those home allergens, it can also make those allergens airborne and trigger asthma. Dr. Pernice recommends limiting vacuuming to once a week or having someone who is not as sensitive to those allergens vacuum.

 

If your symptoms are prolonged, recurrent, causing sinus infections or severely impacting your quality of life, it’s important for you to be evaluated by a specialist, such as one here at SIMEDHealth Allergy and Asthma, Dr. Pernice said.

“Here we offer advanced biological and immune therapy which are shown to improve a patient’s quality of life and alleviate symptoms of asthma and allergies,” she added.

Click here to request an appointment with a SIMEDHealth board-certified allergist or immunologist. 

Food Allergies: Why You Should Get Tested

A young girl stares at a bowl that includes a statistic about food allergies.

Should You Get Tested For Food Allergies?

Every three minutes, someone is sent to the emergency room because of a food allergy reaction, but what about less severe food allergy reactions?

Some symptoms of food allergies take place hours after the food is consumed, and many symptoms might not be easily recognized. We spoke with Dr. Mercedes Pernice, a practicing allergist and immunologist at SIMED in Lake City and Gainesville, to find out the details on food allergies.

Who gets food allergies?

While food allergies can occur in both children and adults, symptoms are more common in children.

According to Food Allergy Research and Education, about 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 1 to 3 percent of adults and 7 to 8 percent of children.

Sometimes children can outgrow food allergies like those to milk and eggs.

 

Infographic about food allergies including types of food and statistics about food allergies

What are some of the symptoms of food allergies?

Food allergy symptoms range from mild to severe. While food allergies can sometimes cause fainting episodes, reduced consciousness and even death, more common symptoms include:

  • Tingling
  • Mouth Itching
  • Mouth Swelling
  • Tongue Swelling
  • Generalized Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms

In children, allergies can also manifest as eczema when food is eaten. Eczema is a condition resulting in red and itchy patches of skin.

What common foods trigger food allergies? 

Specific foods more commonly trigger allergy symptoms.

These include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts (cashews, chestnuts, almonds, etc.)
  • Shellfish
  • Fish
  • Soy
  • Wheats

In children, eggs, milk and peanuts are the more common allergens. For adults, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish and fish are the most common.

When should you or your child get evaluated for possible allergies?

You should see a doctor if you:

  1. Have symptoms or suspect you might have allergies, but you’re not sure what the trigger is.
  2. Can identify the trigger, but don’t know the severity or type of allergy.
  3. Have gastrointestinal symptoms or any concerns about food allergies.

It’s important for a specialist trained in the field, specifically an allergist, to evaluate you. A specialist can determine the cause and often limit or narrow down the possible triggers.

Allergy symptoms can sometimes be delayed for about two hours so it can be difficult to figure out what food you’re allergic to and if it’s even an allergy at all. In fact, a newly discovered meat allergy’s symptoms can be delayed up to four to six hours after the food is consumed.

Why should you or your child get tested?

It’s important to document the type of reaction because sometimes the reaction can be an allergy tolerance. An allergist will figure out if the symptoms are of true immune-related allergies or not because the symptoms are sometimes similar, and it’s important to differentiate. There are various types of allergies including those involving production of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, gastrointestinal symptoms, delayed dehydration and protein intolerance.

Determining the type of allergy can help with treatment, determining the severity and preventing further episodes. If you get tested, you can also determine the source of the allergy.

Certain allergies can cross-react. For example, if you’re very allergic to pollen, you can react when eating a banana or watermelon, but if you cooked the banana, you wouldn’t have a reaction. Because different materials have similar protein components, your body and brain might think they are the same and react to a food even if you’re not allergic to it. When it’s cooked the protein is altered and your body won’t react. An allergist can identify potential cross-reactive situations.

How can I treat food allergy symptoms?

If the symptoms are mild like mouth itching or minor swelling, but you are still able to talk and swallow, you can treat your symptoms simply by taking Benadryl (Diphenhydramine). If symptoms are more severe like generalized hives, rashes breathing or swallowing difficulties, you would need an epinephrine injector that can prevent serious reactions.

If an episode is severe, call 9-1-1 for help and take the person to the closest urgent care center or emergency room.

Is there a way to avoid the symptoms of food allergies?

The best practice to preventing food allergies is to avoid consuming foods that trigger the allergies.

After you’ve been tested and know the cause of your allergies, you should read the labels in anything you eat and ask at restaurants if foods contain the allergen.

When you’re cooking in an enclosed space, sometimes you can inhale the vapors of the food you’re allergic to, so be cognizant about allergies and avoid going into busy kitchens where your potential allergen could be cooking. Your allergist at SIMED will provide you with education on how to deal with your allergies.

 

Think you might have allergies? Get tested and treated today at SIMED Allergy and Asthma. We have offices in Gainesville, Ocala, Chiefland and Lake City. You can schedule an appointment online or call:

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Pernice in Gainesville or Lake City, call (352) 331-3502 or request an appointment online.

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