Allergies Archives - Active Healthcare

Got Asthma or Allergies? There’s an App for That!


AllergyManager Geared towards helping those suffering with nasal allergies by Read more

The Double Threat of Vaping


Food industry workers at a microwave popcorn factory were Read more

EpiPen® Recall Announced by Mylan N.V.


Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company and Mylan’s manufacturing Read more

Got Asthma or Allergies? There’s an App for That!

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Smartphone apps for both Android and iPhone are not just for shopping and social media. Most are free to download. We’ve blogged about asthma apps before. Here are a few new technology tools to better manage your asthma and allergy symptoms.

Five Free Apps for Asthmatics and Allergy sufferers to Download Now

Pick An App to Manage Your Asthma

AllergyManager

Geared towards helping those suffering with nasal allergies by allowing you to look up daily pollen counts. The app also provides 4-day allergy forecasts and coping tips. You can also use the symptom and severity tracker to report back to your doctor.

Asthma Ally

Pinpoints asthma and allergy triggers by tracking airborne irritants near you including pollen, dust, and the ozone. Allows you to log your daily symptoms before your next doctor’s appointment.

First Aid by American Red Cross

Offers step-by-step instructions on how to best handle an asthma or allergy attack in the form of safety tips and video demonstrations. It’s a good way to stay informed even when symptoms aren’t as bad so you can be prepared ahead of time for when an attack occurs.

WebMD Allergy

A lot of people turn to WebMD when they have symptoms they are unsure about, and now allergy sufferers can carry personalized allergy and weather forecasts with them, as well as tips. With this app, you can track how you feel on a particular day, as well as access an extensive library of articles and videos.

Zyrtec Allergycast

Yes, you may see some advertising for Zyrtec here, but the app also provides your local pollen index for the day and reports on how it might affect you. In addition, you are provided with alerts when the pollen level is high in your specific area, as well as a 10-day forecast so you can plan ahead.

Asthma can flare in any season. More flowers and plants are in bloom in the summer months; which worsen allergy symptoms. We hope that these apps along with your regular treatment regimen will have you enjoying your summer and worrying less about your asthma or allergies.


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: How Houseplants Affect Asthma and Air Quality

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are all familiar with the usual suspects that trigger asthma including secondhand smoke, dust mites, mold, pests like cockroaches, and pets. Did you know that your houseplants can affect the air quality in your home and your asthma?

The Good: Many Common Houseplants Improve Indoor Air Quality

houseplants and air qualityPlants are frequently used to mediate the effects of pollution and toxins in our external environment. Our indoor environments can contain toxins such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Two common indoor VOC pollutants are benzene and formaldehyde. Benzene can be found in plastics, fabrics, pesticides, and cigarette smoke. Common household items such as dish detergent, fabric softener, and carpet cleaners all may contain formaldehyde.

VOCs have been linked to asthma and more serious conditions including respiratory illnesses and cancer. Plants act as filters to remove these harmful pollutants via their leaves and roots. In addition, the microorganisms living in the plant’s soil are a big help in neutralizing the air. Air-quality friendly plants include the Peace Lily, Golden Pothos, Red-Edged Dracaena, Snake Plant, and Asparagus Fern.

The Bad: These Houseplants are Indoor Irritants

Your friendly ficus that fills an empty corner has allergens in its sap. Palms, of the male variety, produce excess pollen. Check in with your local nursery to find a ‘female’ palm which is not a pollen offender. English ivy can cause skin irritations. African violets have beautiful flowers, but their leaves are dust catchers.

Don’t forget about cut flowers! If you home includes allergy sufferers, you may want to select flowers that generate less pollen like lilies, iris, roses and zinnias. Try to avoid daisies, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers in your table top bouquets.

Healthy Plants Mean Healthier Air: Avoid the Ugly Reality of Mold and Fungi

Over-watering your plants can lead to the development of a fungus and mold which are known asthma triggers. Remember that plants like ferns can be kept in rooms with higher humidity levels, such as your bathroom to keep them healthy and minimize over-watering.

Additional Resources

NASA Guide to Air-Filtering Houseplants
Houseplant Watering Guide


EpiPen® Recall Announced by Mylan N.V.

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , ,

EpiPen Recall - 2017Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company and Mylan’s manufacturing partner, has expanded a voluntary recall of select lots of EpiPen (epinephrine injection, USP) and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors to now include additional lots distributed in the U.S. and other markets in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Lots Effected by Recall

The recall impacts certain lots of the 0.3 mg and 0.15 mg strengths of EpiPen Auto-Injector. None of the recalled lots include the authorized generic for EpiPen Auto-Injector, which is also manufactured by Meridian Medical Technologies.

The manufacturer will be replacing the recalled devices at no cost.

Please visit Mylan’s website to read the Press Release with a list of the impacted lots that were sold in the United States and additional information on how to return effected devices.


Are You Asthma Aware?

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,

Did you know that May is Asthma Awareness Month?

Asthma Awareness MonthSpring is in the air, and as temperatures rise, an asthmatic’s symptoms reach their peak.

This is a perfect time to review some key points about asthma. With May quickly approaching, let’s have a refresher of some Frequently Asked Questions asked by asthmatics and their loved ones.

Question: Should I only take my controller medication if I’m having an attack?

Answer: No, controller medications are used to treat the underlying issue and not an attack. They do not immediately relieve symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, or chest tightness.

Question: Can I exercise and play sports even if I have asthma?

Answer: Yes, exercise is possible with asthma, but consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program or sport.

Question: Can I become addicted to my controller medication?

Answer: No, asthma medications are not considered addictive. With that said, it is important to understand them and to use them properly.

Question: Is it okay if I’m around smoke as long as I am outdoors?

Answer: No, secondhand smoke should always be avoided if you are an asthma sufferer because tobacco smoke is among the most common of asthma triggers.

Question: Does my controller medication stop working the longer I use it?

Answer: No, these medications are designed to work for the long haul and should be taken daily until your doctor suggests otherwise.

Question: Is it normal to use my rescue inhaler at least once per day?

Answer: No, this inhaler is not meant to be used every day, only in the instance of an asthma attack.

Question: Will using inhaled steroids/controller medication stunt my growth?

Answer: No, asthma drugs do not stunt growth, although one recent study did report a temporary stunt in childhood that disappears by adulthood.

To celebrate Asthma Awareness Month, the Triangle Asthma Coalition would like to make you aware of two upcoming events:

  1. 2017 Asthma Fair, May 6th, 9 AM to 12:30 PM, Raleigh, NC – Held at the Andrews Center at Wake Med and hosted by the Triangle Asthma Coalition, this educational event provides patients and their families with information about taking control of their asthma.
  2. 2017 Asthma Summit, May 24th, 8 AM to 4:15 PM, Burlington, NC – Held at St. Mark’s Church and hosted by the Asthma Alliance of North Carolina, the summit’s target audience includes nurses, respiratory therapists, registered environmental health specialists, and health educators.

For more information about the events, please visit the events page of the Triangle Asthma Coalition website.

Happy Asthma Awareness Month to all!

 


Vaping is Smoking, Too

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , ,

It’s no secret that tobacco is one of the most common asthma triggers. Tobacco smoke irritates the airways and causes your lungs to produce more mucus. In addition, it weakens the tiny hairs called cilia that sweep away mucus and other irritants that settle in your airways.

Quitting smoking is an excellent method of combating asthma, but you aren’t out of the woods yet. Another important risk factor to consider is secondhand smoke. It is especially harmful for children. If you are an asthmatic, tell your family and friends how tobacco smoke affects you. Have them smoke outside and far away from the doorway, if possible. Encourage them to quit for their own health, not just yours.

Vaping is Not Risk Free

Since it is common knowledge that tobacco smoke is very bad for one’s health, many nicotine addicts turn to electronic cigarettes and “vaping.” It gives many a false sense of security and the mindset of “at least I’m not smoking actual cigarettes.” Vaping is harmful, too, but in a different way. The vapor released by e-cigarettes contains formaldehyde, another asthma trigger. So, while people are on the right track with quitting tobacco, they need to know that vaping is not risk-free and may worsen their asthma symptoms. Vaping is a developing trend among teens because there are a number of flavors offered, some even tasting like candy and adult beverages.

Another thing to avoid is secondhand vapor. Since electronic cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon, many businesses and workplaces do not have policies in place to keep employees and patrons from “vaping” indoors. In the same way you would tell your family and friends not to smoke around you, you should also ask them to vape elsewhere.

E-Cigarettes Pose Similar Risks

A recent National Jewish Health study links the liquid in e-cigarettes to an increase in respiratory infections. During the study, a test was performed on young, healthy non-smokers and it discovered that e-cigarette use damaged the cells in the airways that defend against harmful inhalants, such as viruses. “The cells showed a strong pro-inflammatory response within minutes and the risk of viral infection in those cells rose significantly,” said Hong Wei Chu, MD, who led the study.

If you are an asthmatic or have one in your life, remember to avoid both smoking and vaping for a healthier future.


Puppies Reduce a Child’s Risk for Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health 1 , ,

puppies

The benefits of having a canine companion to come home to are numerous. New research states that lowering a child’s asthma risk is yet another reason to add to that list. Having a dog has been shown to reduce a child’s risk for asthma. It can also reduce levels of stress and depression, increase one’s physical shape, and enhance social skills.

A recent Swedish asthma study included more than one million children. Those with dogs in the home within the infant’s first year of life had a 15% lower rate of asthma.

Researchers say that their findings indicate that having a dog in the house may affect their child’s microbiome. Each individual’s inner bacterial environment of the gut is influenced by the food we consume and the air we breathe. Examinations are being made into whether there is a specific strain of bacteria that lessens the likelihood of asthma that is transmitted from dog to child.

Pets like Puppies = More time Outdoors

It is also worth noting that children living in households with dogs almost certainly spend more time outdoors and exercising more frequently. Both of these factors lower a child’s probability of developing asthma.

Interestingly enough, researchers have also explored data relating to children who grew up on farms. These children were exposed to farm animals such as cows, sheep, or horses. Findings show that these farm children had a 25% lower risk for an asthma diagnosis than those who did not grow up on a farm.

While these discoveries are not enough to definitively prove that puppies prevent asthma, they absolutely suggest that it isn’t necessary to rehome family pets for fear of their children developing respiratory problems by being around dogs.

Tove Fall, a coordinator of the study and assistant professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, stated, “It might be due to a single factor or more likely, a combination of several factors related to dog ownership lifestyle or dog owner’s attitudes, such as kids’ exposure to household dirt and pet dust, time spent outdoors or being physically active.”

All I’m hearing is a scientific reason for parents to give in and give their children a puppy!


How to Plan for Camping with Asthma and Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ 1 , , ,
Camping: Photo by Ben Duchac, Unsplash.

Photo by Ben Duchac, Unsplash.

Camping isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s one of those time-honored American traditions that everyone should try at least once. It’s an opportunity to enjoy fresh air, hike in beautiful surroundings, and take a refreshing break from pervasive technology. Experienced campers understand the importance of packing proper gear, plenty of food and water, and making plans in case of an emergency. For individuals with asthma and allergies, it’s especially important to be well prepared before embarking on a camping trip.

If you have asthma and/or allergies, here are some tips on how to prepare for a camping trip that’s both fun and safe:

  • Update Your Asthma Management Plan: Your asthma management/action plan should be updated annually with your doctor, or more frequently if you have severe asthma. This plan will outline how to handle emergencies like an asthma attack or allergic reaction. As you pack for your camping trip, double check that you have all your medication with you.
  • Make an Emergency Plan with Travel Partners: Talk to those joining you on your camping trip about what to do in the event of an emergency—whether it is an injury, allergic reaction, or asthma attack. Share emergency contact information, familiarize yourselves with the location of the nearest hospital, and pack a first aid kit. If you have an epinephrine auto-injector to treat anaphylaxis, make sure your travel companions are familiar with how to administer the medicine in the event you should need their assistance. Epiniephrine should be kept at room temperature, so if you carry one, try to take frequent breaks in shaded areas or indoors if possible.
  • Make a Meal Plan: If you have food allergies, carry a list of foods that you’re allergic to and share that with your travel partners. Talk to your companions about how to plan for meals that don’t conflict with your list. Pack plenty of healthy, non-allergenic snacks to keep your energy up during long hikes.
  • Steer Clear of the Campfire: If you have asthma, smoke from campfires can be irritating to your airways and can even trigger an asthma attack. Sit a safe distance away from the campfire; you may have to swap seats if the wind changes and smoke blows in your direction.

A little planning will go a long way in making your camping trip not only safe but also fun and memorable.

Sources:

Camping Safe with Allergies & Asthma, by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, by Food Allergy Research & Education


Local Honey Won’t Provide Sweet Relief from Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about home remedies. I’ve read about eating coconut for stomach troubles, using milk of magnesia as deodorant, and I’ve noticed a movement growing surrounding the purported benefits of essential oils. One home remedy I hear about the most is the potential benefit of eating local honey to treat seasonal allergies caused by plant pollen.

The theory behind using local honey as an allergy treatment is that bees collect local pollen to make honey, so by eating local honey, you expose yourself to a little bit of what you’re allergic to desensitize yourself to it—this is called “immunotherapy.” Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy—patients are exposed to larger and larger doses of an allergen to build up immunity to it.

Immunotherapy: Local Honey contains Local Pollen

On the surface, the theory behind using honey as immunotherapy seems like a sound one, but there’s no way to determine exactly which plants the bees are collecting pollen from to make the honey. Allergy shots target specific allergens, but eating local honey is a bit like rolling the dice. Bees also prefer collecting pollen from flowers but most allergies generate from the pollen of grasses, trees and weeds, not flowering plants. The honey that bees produce is from local pollen, but not necessarily from sources that cause common allergies and not in any targeted way like an allergy shot. A 2002 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology showed that eating local honey didn’t improve allergy symptoms. Study participants that ate local honey didn’t fare any better than participants eating processed honey or taking a placebo.

There’s also a slight risk in consuming local honey that’s unprocessed—it can contain bacteria, mold, pollen and even bee parts that in rare cases, can cause an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, this home remedy doesn’t hold up, but the good news is that honey is still a great way to add a touch of sweetness to my afternoon cup of tea!

Additional Resources on Spring Allergies

Want to test your knowledge on other spring allergy myths? Check out this post, “Fact or Fiction? Spring Allergy Myths Debunked.”


What Climate Change Means for Allergy Season

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

One unique and popular way to usher in spring in the Triangle area is by attending a movie on the lawn at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Thousands turn out with picnic baskets in tow to enjoy a favorite snack while watching a film under the stars. That’s one of the best parts about spring—the ability to enjoy the outdoors in the deliciously warm weather. Whether it’s at a movie on the lawn, a walk on the greenway, or a game of Frisbee in the park, outdoor activities rule. One aspect of spring that I could do without though is the sneezing and the itchy, watery eyes caused by seasonal allergies.

Climate Change Can Effect Vegetation and Pollution

If you feel like your allergies have gotten worse in recent years, you’re not alone. Many scientists believe that there’s a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies since plants have started blooming earlier in the season and continue releasing pollen longer. Scientific research suggests that one very common allergen—ragweed—has increased due to higher temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide. A warmer climate also means higher ozone levels. Ground-level ozone caused by pollution can exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially during the ozone forecast season that runs from April through October.

Yet many scientists are also hopeful that the pendulum may soon start to swing the other way on climate change. There’s been a lot of buzz in the media recently about the Paris climate change agreement. Many are hopeful that stronger environmental goals will combat global warming. This climate change deal in combination with the Clean Power Plan, which President Barack Obama announced in August 2015, could also be beneficial in reducing the impact of seasonal allergies on asthma sufferers. The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to reduce power plant emissions by 32% by 2030 which could reduce as many as 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.

Allergy Season Tips

It’s of course going to take some time for these climate change plans to go into effect, but asthmatics can take some immediate steps to lessen the blow of seasonal allergies. If you have asthma, make sure you have an up-to-date asthma management plan that you’ve developed with your doctor. This plan should outline which medications to take on a regular basis and what to do in the event of an asthma attack. You can also use one of these five free apps, like EPA’s AIRNOW and Allery Alert, to track air quality and allergy forecasts so you can better prepare for days with high ozone levels and peak pollen counts.


5 Healthy New Years Resolutions for Asthma Sufferers

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , ,

New Years ResolutionsIf you’re getting ready to write your New Year’s resolutions, you’re in good company—45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The coming New Year is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and identify areas for improvement. Most resolutions, 47% to be exact, are related to self-improvement or education—we’d all like to be a little healthier physically, relationally, and mentally. If you have asthma and are hoping for a healthier New Year, here are 5 resolutions to help guide you on your journey to better manage your asthma:

  1. Update Your Asthma Action Plan – An asthma action (or management) plan is an important first step in guiding the treatment of your asthma. Your doctor can work with you to identify what to do in situations like an asthma attack or allergy flare-up. An action plan should be updated annually with a doctor, and more frequently for individuals with severe asthma.
  2. Keep Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits – Getting plenty of rest and eating a balanced diet will help keep your immune system healthy. Being overweight can make asthma symptoms worse, but eating plenty of fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins C and E can help control inflammation in the lungs.
  3. Quit Smoking – Smoking is one of the most common asthma triggers and can result in major health conditions like emphysema and lung cancer. Having the right support can make quitting easier, so the American Lung Association provides The Freedom From Smoking® group clinic, an eight-session, step-by-step plan to quit smoking.
  4. Exercise Regularly – There’s a long-standing myth that exercise can make asthma symptoms worse, but regular, moderate exercise can actually improve asthma symptoms. Thirty minutes of exercise a day—like walking, biking and yoga—can significantly reduce asthma symptoms. Check with your doctor to identify which medications you may need to take before and after exercising.
  5. Avoid Asthma Triggers – Common asthma triggers are tobacco smoke, mold, pet dander, pollen, and colds/upper respiratory infections. Talk to your doctor about identifying your asthma triggers and how to actively avoid them. For example, you may need special bedding if dust mites are an asthma trigger for you.

Sources:

13 New Year’s Resolutions for People with Allergies and Asthma, by Carol Proctor, Allergy & Asthma Health

Join Freedom From Smoking, American Lung Association

Can foods I eat affect my asthma symptoms? By James T.C.Li, Mayo Clinic


Proposed Legislation Will Make Public Housing Smoke-free

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,

Smoking_CCO_Pixabay_2016_02_04It wasn’t that long ago that restaurants asked patrons, “Would you like to be seated in the smoking or non-smoking section?” In 2010, North Carolina’s legislature passed North Carolina’s Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law that gradually made that question obsolete. Smoke-free legislation is growing traction on a national level with the proposed rule to make public housing properties smoke-free.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro joined Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in Alexandria, VA to announce the proposed federal rule for smoke-free public housing in November. Secretary Castro says the proposed rule will protect residents—especially the elderly and children with asthma—from harmful secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a common asthma trigger that can result in wheezing, coughing, or even an asthma attack.

“Everyone – no matter where they live – deserves a chance to grow up in a healthy, smoke-free home,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. “There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. So, when 58 million Americans – including 15 million children – are exposed to secondhand smoke, we have an obligation to act. That is what Secretary Castro is doing with this proposal.”

Residents in HUD-assisted housing use emergency rooms more frequently and are at a higher risk of health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, in comparison to the general population and other low-income households. The proposed smoke-free rule could reduce the impact of smoke-related illnesses and improve the overall health of these residents; smoke-free buildings also cost less to clean and maintain a higher property value. If passed, the regulation would affect about one million households in the U.S., and would have the greatest impact on the New York City Housing Authority, which provides 178,000 public housing apartments to over 400,000 individuals.


How to Manage Food Allergies During the Holidays

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
The holidays are the perfect time to make traditional dishes.

The holidays are the perfect time to make traditional dishes.

I read a funny story the other day by NPR’s Marc Silver about his quest to decipher a dog-eared, stained cookbook from his late mother-in-law. He wanted to keep her memory present at holiday meals, but struggled with missing information (and sometimes misinformation) from his mother-in-law’s handwritten notes. Through trial and error, he managed to nearly re-create her popular recipes but admits, “I guess there are some ingredients only a grandmother can bring into the mix.”

The holidays are the perfect time of year to make these time-honored traditional foods that have been passed down to each generation. However, with so many different foods available at holiday parties, individuals with food allergies can feel like their work is cut out for them. Food allergies can cause life-threatening reactions and in some cases can trigger asthma symptoms. Common symptoms of food allergies can be nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and rash. If your food allergies trigger asthma symptoms, you may start coughing and wheezing, which can lead to anaphylaxis if not treated promptly. If you have a food allergy, here are some steps to take to stay safe during the holiday season:

Update Your Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan

This plan outlines symptoms and warning signs of allergic reactions. It also provides steps and visuals that explain how to help someone experiencing anaphylaxis and how to administer an epinephrine auto-injector.

Keep Medication on Hand

Make sure your epinephrine auto-injector isn’t expired, and keep one with you– especially when you’re attending a meal at a friend or family member’s home. Make sure family members are familiar with your emergency care plan so they can help you quickly in the event of an emergency.

Ask About the Menu

If possible, ask the party’s host ahead of time about the menu and let them know about your food allergies. You can also offer to bring a dish that you know is safe, or host a gathering at your home where you can more closely monitor the menu.

Prep for Travel

The Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) group has a handy checklist of how to prepare for a flight, and what to keep in mind while traveling. You’ll want to notify the airline of your food allergies, and pack your own safe snacks for traveling. Wipe down the tray table in case there’s leftover snack residue from a previous traveler, and keep your EpiPen® with you instead of in the overhead bin.

The holidays can be a challenging time for individuals with food allergies, but it’s also a time to create family traditions with new food allergy-friendly recipes. Allergic Living has an “Allergy Safe Recipes Search” where you can search for tasty meals that are food allergy-friendly. This gluten-free “Hungarian Goulash with ‘Buttery’ No Egg Noodles” recipe caught my eye! What new food allergy-friendly holiday dish will you try this year?


Wildfires in California Affect Asthma Sufferers in Colorado

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,

The photos and videos of the Northern California wildfires are both stunning and disheartening; as of Sept. 15, 13,000 people have had to leave their homes and 67,000 acres have burned in the valley fire. The fire isn’t just affecting California. Surprisingly enough, the smoke from the California fires is affecting the air quality hundreds of miles away in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Air pollution from the fires “can cause inflammation of the airways, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath,” according to an article by Christina Dawldowicz, Fox21News. The additional air pollution Colorado Springs residents are exposed to can be especially problematic for individuals with allergies and/or asthma. Even those without respiratory problems can experience eye and nose irritation from the smoke.

Asthma and allergy sufferers can experience some relief from the smoke pollution, also known as “particle pollution,” by limiting time spent outdoors. Those with respiratory problems can switch to indoor exercises, or shorten their outdoor exercises, and should pay close attention to symptoms to determine how much time they can handle being outdoors.

Additional Resources:

Asthma and Outdoor Air Pollution by the Environmental Protection Agency

 


Asthma Sufferers Could Find Relief in Obama’s Energy Plan

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,

President Barack Obama announced a plan earlier this month to reduce power plant emissions, a move that could improve air quality and greatly benefit asthma sufferers. The energy plan requires a reduction of power plant emissions in the U.S. by 32% by 2030. Obama said that these changes would help reduce 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030. The effect of air quality on asthma sufferers hits close to home for Obama—earlier this year he spoke about the fear he felt when his daughter Malia had an asthma attack when she was 4 years old.

Older coal-fired power plants that lack pollution control can emit sulfur dioxide, a known asthma trigger. Ground level ozone, considered “bad ozone,” is caused when pollutants from sources like cars and power plants chemically react with sunlight. High ground level zone levels can trigger asthma symptoms and are usually more of an issue in the summer because of high temperatures, high humidity and lighter winds. Urban areas can be even more problematic for asthma sufferers because of higher pollution levels.

In North Carolina, the ozone forecast season extends from April 1 to October 31. Asthma sufferers can monitor ozone levels by signing up for the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroFlash daily air quality forecasts. The forecast rates ozone and particle pollution levels on a scale from Code Green (Good) to Code Purple (Hazardous) as a way to help individuals sensitive to air quality, like asthma sufferers, decide if it’s safe to participate in outdoor activities.


Taking Vitamin C Reduces Symptoms of Exercise-Induced Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma Leave a comment   ,
Photo from Shutterstock.

Photo from Shutterstock.

Starting a new exercise routine can be so challenging. Sometimes I put on workout clothes in the hopes that at some point during the day, I’ll build up the motivation to hit the gym and will already be dressed and ready to go. Finding the will to workout can be an even greater struggle for those with exercise-induced asthma. Individuals with exercise-induced asthma experience chest pain, fatigue, wheezing, coughing, and other breathing problems while exercising. About 70 to 90% of asthmatics are also affected by exercise-induced asthma, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Researchers recently discovered that something as simple as taking a daily vitamin could greatly reduce symptoms of exercise-induced asthma. A new study in the British Medical Journal explained that those with exercise-induced asthma could benefit from taking vitamin C.

Researchers compared the results of 40 study participants that took 500 mg to 2 grams of vitamin C each day versus participants who took a placebo. Scientists looked at changes in FEV1 or “forced expiratory volume,” an indicator of the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled in one second. Individuals that took vitamin C showed a 50% reduction in the drop of post-exercise FEV1 when compared to those that took the placebo. This result represents a vast improvement in lung function. Lead study author Dr. Harri Hemila suggests trying vitamin C if you have exercise-induced asthma since it could be an inexpensive way to help treat symptoms.

If you have exercise-induced asthma, talk to your doctor about how to develop an asthma treatment plan that will reduce your symptoms. Asthma inhalers, bronchodilators, and medication like albuterol have been known to help when taken about 10 minutes before exercising. Cold air and allergies can worsen symptoms, so you may benefit from moving your exercises indoors during the winter and peak allergy seasons. Take time to warm up and cool down so your lungs have time to adjust before and after you exercise. Exercises requiring short bursts of energy are often easier for those with exercise-induced asthma, so volleyball or walking are preferable to sports like running, soccer and basketball, which require more endurance. Swimming, another endurance sport, is an exception since the warm, damp air can make it easier to breathe.

Additional Resource:


Allergy and Asthma Safety at Summer Camp

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health 1 ,
Photo from Shutterstock.

Photo from Shutterstock.

Camp memories last a lifetime – swimming in the lake, making crafts, having S’mores by the campfire, and making new friends. In order to keep these memories positive ones, parents should make sure children with insect or food allergies have an EpiPen (epinephrine auto-injector) available at camp. Anyone with a food allergy is at risk for anaphylaxis, and those with food allergies and asthma are at an even higher risk, which is why it’s so important to have epinephrine on hand.

Children should pack at least one EpiPen in case of an emergency, preferably two – one to keep with them at all times and one to leave with the camp nurse or a trained counselor. Campers that plan on canoeing or kayaking should pack their EpiPen in a Ziploc bag or a “dry bag” to keep it dry and secure since the epinephrine carrier tube isn’t waterproof.

Hot temperatures can reduce the effectiveness of EpiPens, but it can be hard to avoid the heat while at summer camp. Ideally, EpiPens are stored at room temperature (68-77 degrees), but they can be exposed to up to 86 degrees for short periods of time. On especially hot days, campers with EpiPens should try to find shade periodically and take breaks indoors. It’s not a good idea to use an ice pack in an attempt to keep an EpiPen cooler because extreme cold can also reduce the medicine’s effectiveness.

Campers with food or insect allergies that are exposed to these allergens should use an EpiPen immediately and go to the hospital for monitoring. It’s important to use an EpiPen right away, even if the affected individual doesn’t immediately exhibit symptoms.

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Top 5 Worst Cities for Spring Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  

During the spring and fall, many of us (over 45 million!) are no stranger to the struggle with seasonal allergies. This biannual battle is even harder for those of us in southern states. The following cities are the top five most challenging places to live with spring allergies, according to a 2015 report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA):

  1. Jackson, MS
  2. Louisville, KY
  3. Oklahoma City, OK
  4. Memphis, TN
  5. Knoxville, TN

Each year, the AAFA analyzes data on pollen scores and allergy medication use for the annual Allergy Capitals report. This report identifies the 100 most challenging places to live with spring allergies in the U.S., and is designed as an educational resource to help allergy sufferers better understand their symptoms and make more informed decisions about allergy treatments.

“Even though it seems like you can get all the answers at the drug store, you really can’t manage allergies alone, you need to work with a doctor. Allergy sufferers who wish to avoid allergy misery need to know their allergic triggers by visiting an allergist and having the proper testing done,” says Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, Medical Director of Allergy and Asthma Care of NY and an Ambassador for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). “This will enable patients to have a specific, proactive treatment plan in place before symptoms hit,” says Bassett.

An allergist can help you determine whether combination therapies, mono-therapies or long-term therapies are best to treat your allergy symptoms. Once you and your allergist determine the best treatment plan, you’re on your way to a more enjoyable spring with less sneezing.


Marijuana Allergies on the Rise

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,

Allergists have noticed a rise in the number of people reacting to an allergy to marijuana as the use of marijuana becomes legal in more states. Marijuana smoke can agitate asthma symptoms, and cause conjunctivitis and allergic rhinitis. Symptoms from a reaction to smoke inhalation can include inflammation of the eyes, coughing and wheezing, sneezing, nasal congestion, and even anaphylaxis. Pollen from cannabis can also trigger allergies; the pollen usually spreads later in the summer into the fall and can travel miles from the plant.

Not many cases of allergies to marijuana have historically been reported, probably since its use was largely illegal. Cases of patients with marijuana allergies are still rare, but allergists have noticed an increase in the number of patients exhibiting marijuana allergies. However, testing for the allergy can be difficult, depending on where you live. In Texas, for example, where marijuana is illegal, allergist Dr. David Engler was denied a request for a small sample of cannabis extract he needed for an allergy test for a patient with a potential marijuana allergy. In this case, Dr. Engler investigated the patient’s historical reaction to marijuana exposure to determine that she did have a marijuana allergy. Getting treatment coverage is also problematic since insurance companies don’t recognize marijuana allergies. If legalization of marijuana spreads to more states, we may see an even greater increase in cases of patients having marijuana allergies, but that will hopefully make it easier for allergists to test for it.

 

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Popular Nasal Sprays Now Available Over-the-Counter

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma 1

Many asthma and allergy sufferers, especially those with hay fever, have been happy to learn that Flonase® Allergy Relief, a corticosteroid nasal spray, is now available over-the-counter (OTC). Nasal sprays maximize allergy relief since the medicine is delivered directly to the nasal passage instead of through the blood stream, which is how allergy pills deliver medicine. They also won’t make you sleepy, which can be a common setback to taking allergy pills.

With any medication, nasal sprays do have side effects, so talk to your doctor or pharmacist about which allergy medication will work best for you. If you use a nasal spray, talk to your pharmacist about proper care – you may need to periodically clean the applicator, for example. When using a nasal spray, spray away from your septum (the tissue at the center of your nose) to avoid irritation or damage to the sensitive nasal tissue.

Saline nasal sprays can also offer allergy relief by moisturizing dry nasal passages and reducing inflammation of mucous membranes. This natural nasal spray option can clear mucus obstructing your nasal passage, and if used long-term, can decrease postnasal drip and reduce bacteria in your nose. Saline nasal sprays come in a variety of forms, from the Neti pot to squirt bottles to battery-powered sprays. Talk to your doctor about whether or not a saline nasal spray will sufficiently provide you with allergy relief, or if you should consider a corticosteroid nasal spray like Flonase or Nasacort® Allergy 24 HR.

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The Striking Truth about Thunderstorm Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  

Thunder doesn’t just signal that lightning is coming—it can also trigger asthma attacks. We usually think the rain will help our allergies by washing away pollen, but on rare occasions, thunderstorms can actually make allergies worse. During thunderstorms, the low barometric pressure can stir up mold and pollen that can be an irritant to individuals with allergies and asthma. Some researchers believe the thunderstorm’s electrical charge can make mold and pollen particles more likely to stick to the lungs, and asthma-related emergency room visits actually increase during and after some thunderstorms.

Researchers have had a difficult time fully understanding thunderstorm asthma since it is a rare, localized occurrence. Thunderstorms generally don’t last very long, so it can be hard to determine if an asthma attack was caused by the thunderstorm or something else. Plus, different asthma sufferers have different sensitivities, so not everyone with asthma is at risk of experiencing a thunderstorm-related asthma attack. However, researchers believe the increase in ER visits due to thunderstorm asthma could be because individuals with mild asthma might not have a rescue inhaler on hand. Scientists are concerned that cases of thunderstorm asthma could increase due to climate change that would increase the amount of pollen in the air and lead to stronger thunderstorms. If you have asthma, make sure you have rescue inhalers on hand in case you are susceptible to thunderstorm asthma.

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