SIMEDHealth

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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Get some relief this Ragweed Season

Get some relief this Ragweed Season

Fall is just around the corner. As the season changes we trade I the sweltering hot days of summer for the cooler, crisp days of autumn. The humidity drops, the days get shorter and the nights longer. Being outdoors becomes much more comfortable. The fall season brings changes to the weather, but other things in the environment change as well.

For people with allergies, the fall season can lead to increased suffering. At SIMED Allergy & Asthma autumn triggers Ragweed Season and a significant increasing allergic reactions. Ragweed Season usually begins in the late summer, peaks in mid-September and lasts into November. For some people ragweed pollen is simply a nuisance creating a little sniffle, but for others it can interfere with daily living and comfort resulting in constant runny nose, sneezing and/or itchy eyes. Some may even develop asthma symptoms.

What could you do if you have ragweed allergy?

The best way to minimize ragweed allergy symptoms is to stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment. When outdoors activities occur try to minimize being outdoors early in the morning and wash off quickly once coming indoors. Over-the-counter, long-acting, non-sedating anti-histamines are good for treating the itchy eyes, nasal drip and sneezing. Taking anti-histamines daily starting just prior to and throughout the season works best at preventing the symptoms from building. The best medications for treating airborne allergies are the nasal steroid sprays.

If medications aren’t controlling symptoms, or you are not a fan of taking pills there are methods to desensitize your allergies. Desensitization uses allergy shots to reduce your response to ragweed exposure.

SIMED’s allergists have specialized training and expertise above and beyond any other medical or surgical specialty to evaluate your allergies and develop a treatment plan for your individual condition. The goal is to enable you to lead a life that is as normal and symptom free as possible.

For more information about our allergy division please visit SIMED Allergy & Asthma, or to schedule an appointment at any of our locations including Gainesville, Ocala, Chiefland and Lake City please click on this link to request an appointment online.

Allergy & Asthma Awareness Month

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.

Suffering from Seasonal Allergies? SIMED Allergy & Asthma can Help!

Suffering from Seasonal Allergies? SIMED Allergy & Asthma can Help!

At SIMED we’re often asked "Why should I see an Allergy – Immunologist? Can't any doctor treat my allergies?"  The reason you should choose a Board Certified Allergy – Immunologist is because they are specialists who are uniquely trained to diagnose and treat allergy and immunology disorders. While other doctors claim they can treat allergies they are not Board Certified allergists and have not had the additional years of training and expertise that comes with Board Certification.

Board Certified Allergists complete an additional 2 (or more) years of training in allergy and immunology with an accredited training program. Most are certified in internal medicine, pediatrics (or both) and have passed the examination given by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.

The Allergist-Immunologist is uniquely trained in the following:

  • Allergy testing (skin test, in vitro studies)
  • Allergy test evaluations
  • Environmental control instructions
  • Immunotherapy
  • Food & drug challenges
  • Drug desensitization
  • Evaluation of immune competence
  • Education (disease, medication, and monitoring)
  • Management of chronic or recurrent conditions in which an allergy is not always identified (rhinosinusitis, conjunctivitis, asthma, cough, urticaria-angioedema, eczema, anaphylaxis)

The allergist-immunologist can also help manage the following cases:

  • Anaphylaxis (systemic allergic reaction)
  • Asthma
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Chronic Cough
  • Dermatitis
  • Food & Drug Allergy
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
  • Insect hypersensitivity
  • Occupational allergic diseases
  • Primary immune deficiency
  • Rhinitis-rhinosinusitis
  • Urticaria-angioedema

SIMED Allergy & Asthma strives to provide exceptional healthcare coverage for our patients. In order to help achieve this goal we provides three Board Certified Allergist-Immunologists on staff covering our Gainesville, Ocala, Chiefland and Lake City locations.

To see if an Allergist-Immunologist is right for you, contact one of our offices to set up an appointment:

  • Gainesville - (352) 331-3502
  • Ocala - (352) 547-1016
  • Lake City - (386) 755 - 1651
  • Chiefland - (352) 493 - 2305

CLICK HERE to request an appointment online.