1. Avoid the “priming” effect. You should start drugs, which were previously effective, early in the season before pollen peaks. This should be before we start seeing pollen in trees throughout the country in February, and possibly January for southern states like Florida. We are mainly referring to antihistamines, ideally not the ones that make you drowsy. We also recommend the frequent use of saline nasal sprays to avoid the accumulation of pollen in the nasal passages.
2. Use goggles or glasses for those suffering from allergic eye symptoms. Similarly, a mask is recommended if you plan to pick up the fallen leaves, mow the lawn, or do any kind of yard work under the trees at the start and during the season.
3. Close the windows, change the air conditioner filter frequently, and it is also recommended to use a high efficiency filter. Drive with your car windows closed and use the ac to recirculate the air you breathe while driving.
4. Consider seeing an allergist for a proper evaluation of your symptoms because not all symptoms are triggered by the spring season. Early treatment helps prevent suffering during this time of year.
5. If you are allergic try to avoid activities or sports outdoors in the spring. If you can’t avoid outdoor activities then try to avoid peak times when the pollen count is higher. This happens between 5am and 10am usually, so try to play sports in the afternoon to avoid discomfort.
6. Hot, dry days will have a greater amount of pollen in the environment than cold, rainy days. Consider this when making outdoor plans.
7. Once you know what you are allergic to, stay informed of the daily pollen report in your area. Pollen and mold reports are often provided by weather centers as well as certain specialists in your area. FCAAC provides this report daily on our website for the convenience of our patients. Note that the type of pollen varies depending on the vegetation in each geographic region.
8. Change clothes once you get home from an outing because pollen sticks to fabric. You can spread pollen spores all throughout your home without even knowing it.
9. Do not dry your clothes outside on the patio because pollen can get stuck to it. Ideally, always use a dryer or let the clothes dry indoors.
*Bonus: Take daily night baths if you spend time outdoors (even if you have already bathed that same morning), as this removes the pollen that has saturated your face or body.
Remember to seek help from an allergist (doctors who specialize in all types of allergies and immune system disorders) if you suspect to be suffering from allergic symptoms.
... more from Dr. Dana Wallace …
Controlling Animal Dander
Contrary to popular belief, people are not allergic to an animal’s hair, but rather, to a protein found in the saliva, dander (dead skin flakes) or urine of an animal with fur. These proteins are carried in the air on very small, invisible particles, which can land on the lining of the eyes or nose, or be inhaled directly into the lungs.
A cat or dog produces a certain amount of allergen per week, and this amount can vary from animal to animal. All breeds are capable of triggering symptoms—there are no “hypoallergenic” breeds of cats or dogs. However, it is now known that non-neutered male cats and dogs may be more allergenic than females.
If you cannot avoid exposure to the animal that causes your allergy symptoms, try to minimize contact. Most importantly, keep the pet out of the bedroom and other rooms in which those with allergies spend a great deal of time. Some studies have demonstrated that bathing dogs or cats on a weekly basis may reduce the amount of allergens that are shed in the home. This issue remains controversial. If you plan to wash your pet regularly, consult with your veterinarian regarding care of the animal’s skin to prevent excessive dryness. Also, have a non-allergic family member brush the pet outside to remove loose hair and allergens. While dander and saliva are the source of cat and dog allergens, urine is the source of allergens from rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs; ask a non-allergic family member to clean the animal’s cage.
Animal allergens can accumulate on all horizontal and even vertical surfaces in the home. Mattresses and cushions should be covered in zippered, plastic casings to prevent the release of allergens. Vacuuming is not effective in decreasing animal allergens, because it does not clean the lower levels of the rug. In fact, it can stir up small allergen particles, which can also move right through the vacuum. Using a HEPA vacuum filter or double bags may help. As with dust mites, the best solution is to have a hardwood floor, tile or linoleum. Replace bedding and carpeting that has animal dander in it. It can take weeks or months for fabrics to come clean of allergens, and animal allergens may persist for a year or more after the animal has been removed. The most recent research shows that making just one or two changes may not be enough. Multiple environmental changes are required before one can see significant improvement.
When the Pet “Says” and Environmental Changes are Not Enough
Allergen immunotherapy (subcutaneous allergy immunotherapy which may be referred to as SCIT), also known as “allergy shots,” are recommended for persons who don’t respond well to treatment with medications, experience side effects from medications, who have allergen exposure that is unavoidable, or desire a more permanent solution to their allergic problem. Immunotherapy can be very effective in controlling allergic symptoms. Allergen immunotherapy may help prevent the development of sensitivity to new allergens and decrease the risk for developing asthma in patients with allergic rhinitis Immunotherapy is not indicated for patients with pure non-allergic rhinitis. Allergy injections can be very effective in helping to control symptoms caused by exposure to cat and dog dander.
From the desk of our own Dr. Dana Wallace….
Kim Kardashian is allergic to cats: by now we all know why she chose to visit Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care. Dr. Dana Wallace will explain below what happens when you are allergic to a furry pet and why allergy shots work. She will guide you through a few tips, misconceptions and reasons why it is always best to follow the advice of an allergist.
Prevalence of Animal Dander Allergy
Animal dander may now be the most common year-round allergen. In the US, 62% of households now have an indoor pet, with 40% having at least one dog and 33% having at least one cat. Furthermore small, suspended, animal allergens may be found in 90% of all homes and in most public indoor areas, e.g., schools and work environments. Patients with severe allergies to animal dander can even experience reactions in public places if dander has been transported on pet owners’ clothing.
Contact with Animals During Infancy
The effects of early life domestic pet exposure and subsequent clinical allergy remain controversial. While some studies suggest that having pets in the home when the child is born reduces the future development of pet allergy, many studies show exactly the opposite. It seems that many factors (e.g. allergies in the parents, number of pets in the community, urban vs. rural setting, number of pets, number of siblings, etc.) may affect this tendency to become allergic. The bottom line is that we just don’t know what will happen, but given an allergic family history we would not recommend getting a pet in hopes that this would prevent future allergies from developing.
Typical signs of animal allergy can include sneezing, an itchy, runny nose, and itchy, swollen eyes and throat. Itching of the skin or a raised, red rash (hives) can also result from touching an animal to which you are allergic. Usually, symptoms will occur quickly, sometimes within minutes after exposure to the animal. For some people, symptoms may build and become most severe 8 to 12 hours after they have had contact with the animal.
How to Fight the Symptoms
The most effective way to combat symptoms of animal allergy is to remove the pet from the home and avoid any contact. Keeping an animal outdoors is only a partial solution, since homes with pets in the yard still have higher concentrations of animal allergens. Before you get a pet, spend time with someone else’s dog or cat to determine if you’re allergic. If you already have an animal to which you or a family member is allergic, try to place it with a caring, non-allergic friend or relative. Although this separation can be difficult, it is best for the health of you or your allergic family member. You may also consider getting a pet such as a turtle, hermit crab, fish, snake, or other animals without fur or feathers.
What if you can’t part ways with your furry friend? Stay tuned for next post and read what Dr. Dana Wallace is suggesting …
On the most recent episode of “Kourtney & Kim Take Miami” on E!, Kim Kardashian comes to seek allergy advice from Dr. Mirmelli, one of our top allergists at our Miami Beach office.
During this visit she finds out she is in fact allergic to cats which saddens her since Mercy, her teacup Persian kitten, was a gift from boyfriend Kanye West. Kim’s friend Jonathan Cheban comes along for her FCAAC visit…watch how he keeps Kim calm through humor.
It hardly seems fair, but if you’re prone to spring or summer allergies, chances are you’re at risk for allergies when the weather turns cooler, too. The reason is simple: Many of those warm-weather irritants like pet dander, dust and mold and mildew are around all year. And in Florida where the winters are mild, outdoor allergens like pollen also can cause year-round allergy woes.
Top Triggers of Winter Allergies
Pets: Most people are not allergic to animal fur, but rather to a protein found in the pet dander, saliva and urine.
Mold and mildew: Mold thrives in damp, humid areas in your home, such as the bathroom. Outside, decaying leaves and other yard waste gives mold and mildew an ideal breeding ground. When mold spores get into the air, they can trigger allergy symptoms.
Dust and dust mites: House dust settles on fabrics, rugs and carpet and on and under furniture. Pesky microscopic dust mites can flourish in mattresses and bedding. When dust and dust mite remains and droppings become airborne, they can cause allergy symptoms.
Holiday décor: Your festive holiday decorations can exacerbate your winter allergies. Live trees, wreathes and garlands can harbor chemicals and mold. Decorations brought out of storage may be dusty and full of allergy-triggering dust mites.
To avoid having these seasonal traditions irritate your allergy symptoms, experts recommend spraying live trees and greenery with water before they are brought inside to remove potential allergens. You should also remove the dust from holiday decorations before hanging them.
For some people with allergies, the best option is to switch to an artificial Christmas tree. During the holidays, poinsettias can also be problematic for people who have latex allergies since this plant is part of the rubber tree family, said Adriana Bonansea-Frances, M.D., PhD.
Common allergy symptoms (not to be confused with common colds)
The symptoms of colds and allergies are similar, so how can you tell if your runny nose and sneezing are signs of a cold or flu or allergies? ‘If your symptoms last longer than a week, it’s probably not a cold’, says Dr. Bonansea Frances. Allergies can linger for weeks or even months. In addition, colds and flu sometimes come with fever and aches and pains — symptoms not usually associated with allergies.
The most common allergy symptoms include:
• Coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath
• Stuffy, runny or itchy nose
• Congestion or sinus pressure
• Itchy or watery eyes
• Dark circles under the eyes
• Itchy, prickly skin or hives
Tips to Reduce Allergens
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology advises taking the following steps to allergy-proof your home:
• Remove carpets, if possible.
• Mop, sweep, vacuum and dust often. Wash showers and sinks to remove mold and mildew.
• Discard shower curtains, wallpaper or carpeting that have mold.
• Turn on exhaust fans when taking a shower or cooking to reduce humidity and odors.
• Use dehumidifiers to keep humidity levels at 30-40 % to help control dust mites and mold.
• Install high-efficiency furnace filters, which eliminate 30 times more allergens.
• Use a HEPA air filter to clean dust from the air and a HEPA vacuum on carpets to reduce pet allergens and remove dust mites.
• Wash bedding and pajamas in hot water twice a month. Use allergy-proof covers on mattresses, pillows and comforters.
• Bathe pets and wash pet bedding each week. Keep pets out of the bedrooms.
• Call a professional when combating mouse and insect infestations.
When allergies flare-up, take care of yourself to keep your allergy symptoms in check:
• Wash your hands often, especially after playing with pets.
• Take a shower or change clothes to remove allergens that may be clinging to you.
• Avoid touching your face.
Dr. Bonansea Frances advises patients to consult their doctor about medication options and dosages.
Treatments for winter allergies include:
• Antihistamines to reduce sneezing, sniffling and itching.
• Decongestants to clear mucus and relieve congestion and swelling.
• Saline solution to irrigate nasal passages and clear congestion.
• Allergy shots to expose the body to gradually increasing doses of the allergen.
Living in South Florida exposes you to allergy triggers all year round. If you suspect having any allergy symptoms, you need to consult an allergist. We’ll be happy to help you.