Pollen Archives - Active Healthcare

Music to Our Lungs: How Making Music Can Help Asthma


Music is a wonderful stress release for many people. Read more

Albuterol to the Rescue


Rescue inhalers are a great comfort to anyone with Read more

Does Back to School Mean Back to Allergies?


Summer is coming to a close for students in Read more

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


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

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


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.”


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


Why Outdoor Air Pollution is Hard on Your Heart

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,
Photo from Shutterstock.

Photo from Shutterstock.

I’m fortunate to live in an area where it’s easy to hop on a greenway and go for a relaxing walk in the woods. The air seems just a little bit crisper and cleaner when I’m surrounded by trees and an umbrella of beautiful blue sky overhead. The air probably is a little cleaner–certainly more so than if I was walking next to a busy road–but I know that I can’t completely escape outdoor air pollution.

My initial thoughts about air pollution are usually on the impact that air quality has on our ability to breathe and how it affects asthma sufferers. These thoughts come to mind first because I can immediately feel the affect of poor air quality on my ability to breathe. Outdoor air pollution and allergens like pollen can cause coughing, sneezing, throat irritation, and trigger asthma symptoms. But air pollution also affects our health in ways we may not immediately notice.

Air pollution is “caused by small particles and ground level ozone that comes from car exhaust, smoke, road dust and factory emissions,” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Not only does outdoor air pollution make it harder to breathe, it can also be hard on your heart and is the ninth most important cardiovascular risk factor for heart disease. The small particles in air pollution can cause inflammation in the lungs and blood vessels that in turn can increase the risk for clots and atherosclerosis, a disease where plaque deposits build up in the arteries. As plaque hardens, it narrows the arteries and limits blood flow. Even short periods of exposure to these particles, like driving with the windows down, can increase the risk of heart disease.

Dr. Neil Schachter, Mount Sinai Hospital, suggests checking the Air Quality Index (AQI) to monitor local air pollution levels. He recommends avoiding outdoor activities when the AQI is above 100. Running air conditioning instead of leaving the windows down in your home and car is another way to reduce your exposure to air pollution since your home’s filters will capture large particles. In the car, use the “recirculate” setting to keep 80 percent of outdoor air pollution out of the vehicle. Also, try to exercise away from roads to avoid breathing in exhaust from vehicles. See you out on the greenway!

Sources:

Surprising Dangers of Air Pollution by Dr. Neil Schachter, Bottom Line Health

Asthma Triggers: Gain Control, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

 


Asthma Management: There’s an App for That!

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,

Diabetes Apps AboundI’m convinced there’s a smartphone app for just about anything you could imagine. One unusual but clever app is called “Fake me out of here.” If you’re stuck in an awkward situation, simply shake your phone and it will ring so you can pretend you just got an important phone call that requires your immediate attention. Apps aren’t just for playing pranks or games anymore, and I’ve noticed a growing number of apps that monitor a variety of health conditions. Asthma sufferers now have a lot of apps available to them–from tracking daily asthma management to monitoring pollen counts, there’s an app for that!

5 Free Asthma Apps:

  1. Asthma Health–The Asthma Health app was developed in collaboration with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. App users can utilize the technology to get a better understanding of their asthma, but by using the app, they can also participate in what the developers say “may become the largest study of asthma management ever performed.” The app helps patients stick to treatment plans by tracking symptoms and medication usage, avoiding triggers, and viewing reminders to take their medication.
  2. Asthma 360–Asthmatics can setup a dashboard with the Asthma 360 app and track personal statistics like their last peak flow reading. They can also add an asthma action plan for emergencies, setup medication and doctor’s appointment reminders, and create a personalized quick add menu to log their symptoms and triggers.
  3. AsthmaCheck–In addition to keeping track of peak flow meter readings, medication use and symptoms, asthma sufferers can also export their data to share it with their doctor.
  4. EPA’s AIRNOW–This app provides useful information like the Air Quality Index for the user’s location, pollution levels, and explanations about what level of outdoor activity is safe for that day.
  5. Allergy Alert–This is another air quality app, but it focuses more on local pollens counts and allergen levels. App users can access 5-day weather and allergy forecasts, and keep an allergy diary.

Keeping a log of medication use and staying informed about allergens and pollution forecasts can help asthma sufferers better adhere to their asthma management plan, and help them to identify potential triggers.


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.

 

Additional Resources:


Fact or Fiction? Spring Allergy Myths Debunked

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma Leave a comment  
Six sneezing people sm

Photo from Shutterstock

No sooner does cold season end that allergy season begins. It’s easy to get cold and allergy symptoms confused, and finding the right tools to treat allergies can be a challenge. Take a look at these answers to allergy myths for tips on how to keep pesky symptoms in check.

1. Allergies and colds have the same symptoms.

Not exactly. Allergy symptoms may include itchy nose, eyes and throat; clear mucus; and symptoms that persist from as little as a few days to a few months. Colds typically end after two weeks; usually occur in the winter; and can cause coughs, aches, fatigue, a sore throat, and a runny nose with yellow mucus. Allergies rarely cause coughs and never cause aches or fever, which are occasional cold symptoms.
2. An air purifier will stop allergy symptoms.

An air purifier will remove airborne allergens, but doesn’t take care of allergens that have settled on clothing or furniture. Wash clothes and shower to remove pollen at night, and try an impervious mattress cover as a shield against dust mites.

3. All allergy medicines cause drowsiness.

Some antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and doxylamine succinate (Nyquil) can cause drowsiness. Newer antihistamines like loratadine (Claritin) and Fexofenadine (Allegra) are less likely to make patients drowsy. Benadryl may be a better solution for nighttime allergy relief, whereas Claritin is better for the daytime.

4. Moving to the Southwest will cure allergies.

Allergens are everywhere, and there are plenty of plants in the desert that produce pollen. Offenders include sagebrush, cottonwood, ash and olive trees. Moving to the desert may offer temporary relief, but new allergies can develop after a few months.

5. People with pet allergies are allergic to the pet’s fur.

The pet allergen is a protein produced in pet skin and, to a lesser extent, its urine and saliva. There aren’t any non-allergenic breeds, but pets with shorter hair shed less and send less dander into the air. These breeds are a better option to the pet lover with pet allergies.


How to manage asthma’s annual nemesis: pollen

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  

In early spring I don’t even bother washing my car; I’ve given up on the fight with the yellow-green pine pollen. Although few people are allergic to pine pollen, it’s a visible reminder of other invisible pollen that trigger allergic reactions. Thirty-five million Americans suffer through hay fever each year, but it can be an even tougher time for those with asthma.

If spring allergies increase your asthma symptoms, keep this list of springtime pollinators and allergy tips on hand to help you prepare for the worst.

Springtime pollinators:

Tree Pollination Period Peak Pollination Count
Cedar January to February Early January
Elm January to April Early March
Pine February to April Early March
Oak February to May Late March
Ash February to April Mid February to Mid March
Hackberry March Early March
Pecan April to May Late April to Early May

 

How to lessen allergy symptoms:

  • Close windows and doors.
  • Change clothes and shower at night to keep pollen from lingering indoors.
  • Reduce time spent outdoors when pollen counts are high. Pollen counts are highest before sunrise and after sunset.
  • Replace indoor air filters at home each month.
  • Dry laundry inside so pollen won’t settle on clean clothes.
  • See an allergist to determine which allergens affect you.
  • Keep antihistamines on hand. Nasal steroid sprays and neti pots can also offer relief.


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