Patient Newsletter

ACAAI Newsletter Issue #1

Welcome to Allergy and Asthma News

Welcome to Allergy and Asthma News, a newsletter with information about how you can find relief from your allergies and asthma and how an allergist can help.

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"Adults and children with allergies and asthma should be able feel good, be active all day and sleep well at night. Patients don't need to accept anything less," said Richard Gower, M.D., ACAAI president. "Allergies and asthma are serious diseases and should be treated as such. Many doctors try to treat the symptoms of these conditions, but fail to find the source of the suffering. An allergist has the expertise and the training to do that, and to find the best treatments to eliminate your symptoms."

Look for the allergist logo, , to find a doctor who is an expert in diagnosing and treating allergic diseases.

These new resources are part of a national initiative to wipe out suffering for the millions of people with allergies and asthma. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, a professional association that represents the nation's allergists, has launched this public education and awareness effort to address how asthma and allergy sufferers are needlessly accepting symptoms, such as sneezing, wheezing and itchy eyes and sinus problems. Allergists know this suffering is just not necessary.

"The bottom line is that an allergist can help you improve your quality of life," Dr. Gower said. "By finding an allergist, you can find relief."

What does an allergist treat? More than you think...

Allergists treat two of the nation's most common health problems—allergies and asthma. Although symptoms may not always be severe, allergies and asthma are diseases and should be treated that way. Many people with allergies and asthma simply don't realize how much better they can feel.

Allergists are specialists at treating all allergic diseases, finding the source of your symptoms and providing the most effective treatment options. Here are some of the conditions allergists treat:

  • Asthma and Frequent Cough. Asthma is a disease that affects the airways in the lungs, making them inflamed and swollen. The inflammation makes airways more likely to be bothered by allergens or things such as smoke, stress, exercise or cold air. Airway muscle spasms block the flow of air to the lungs, causing symptoms that may include difficulty breathing, a tight feeling in the chest, coughing and wheezing. Sometimes the only symptom is a chronic cough, especially at night, after exercise or when laughing. Asthma may have only mild symptoms, or it can be life-threatening when attacks stop breathing altogether.
  • Allergic Rhinitis (Hay Fever or Sinus Allergy). Allergic rhinitis is a general term used to describe allergic reactions that take place in the nose and nasal passages. Symptoms may include sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, and itching of the nose, the eyes and/or the roof of the mouth. When triggered by pollens or outdoor molds—especially during the spring, summer or fall—the condition often is called "hay fever," or seasonal allergy. When the problem is caused by exposure to house dust mites, pets, indoor molds or other allergy triggers at home, school or work, it is called perennial allergic rhinitis.
  • Eye Allergies. Allergic reactions in the eyes, called eye allergies or allergic conjunctivitis, result in itching, redness and burning. They are often caused by the same allergy triggers that cause allergic rhinitis and also can result in many of the same symptoms such as sneezing, sniffling and a stuffy nose. While many people treat their nasal allergy symptoms, they often ignore eye symptoms which can be treated effectively with medication or immunotherapy.
  • Skin Allergies. Contact dermatitis, eczema and hives are skin reactions that can be caused by allergens and other irritants. Sometimes the reaction can happen quickly. Other reactions may take hours or days, as in poison ivy. Common allergens can be medicines, insect stings, foods, animals and chemicals used at home or work. Skin allergies may be worse under stress.
  • Food Allergies. An allergic reaction to food can cause mild to serious symptoms such as vomiting or nausea, stomach cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, hives or other skin rashes, headaches, asthma or stuffy nose, sneezing and runny nose. In extreme cases, food allergy can trigger a severe and life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Some mild symptoms may actually be caused by a food sensitivity rather than an allergic reaction. An allergist can help determine if it is a true allergic reaction. Shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergies in adults. Milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts are the most common food allergies in children.
  • Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a rare allergic reaction that affects many parts of the body at the same time. If not treated quickly, it can be fatal. The trigger may be an insect sting, a food (such as peanuts), the latex in rubber products or a medication. The most dangerous symptoms of anaphylaxis affect the respiratory system (breathing) and/or cardiovascular system (heart and blood pressure). Symptoms can include some or all of the following:
    • Hives, itchiness and redness on the skin, lips, eyelids or other areas of the body
    • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
    • Swelling of the tongue, throat, nose and lips
    • Nausea, stomach cramping and vomiting or diarrhea
    • Dizziness and fainting or loss of consciousness, which can lead to shock and heart failure
    Frequently these symptoms start suddenly without warning and rapidly get worse. At the first sign of anaphylaxis, a patient should get help immediately, call 911 or go to the closest emergency room. An allergist can help determine the triggers of anaphylaxis.
  • Sinus infections. Sinus infections, also called sinusitis, are common in people with allergies that affect the nose such as allergic rhinitis. The constant stuffy and runny nose can inflame the nasal passages and make them swell. Symptoms include a runny nose with a thick discharge, cough and occasionally pain in the forehead, around and in between the eyes, in the upper jaw, cheeks and teeth. In some cases, sinusitis can be chronic and cause several infections a year. People with asthma are more likely to have chronic sinus infections which can complicate their disease and make their symptoms more severe.

In addition to these conditions, the allergist also is an expert in treating immune system problems that might cause repeated infections such as pneumonia, ear infections or bronchitis. To find an allergist, click here.

'Tis the season for sneezing and wheezing: How to beat spring allergies

While many eagerly await the first signs of spring, the budding trees and growing grass can mean a season of sneezing and wheezing for millions of allergy sufferers.

Spring allergies, also called seasonal allergic rhinitis, affect as many as 30 percent of adults and up to 40 percent of children. Common symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • sore throat
  • itchy or watery eyes
  • fatigue

If you're asthma is triggered by allergies, you also may have symptoms of wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, difficulty breathing or coughing.

These symptoms are typically caused by pollen from the trees and grasses. These tiny grains get released into the air beginning as early as January and lasting all the way until June depending on where you live.

These allergies are more than just a nuisance. They are serious diseases and should be treated that way. In fact, more than two-thirds of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round allergies.

But there's no reason for you to suffer. An allergist can work with you to find out what offending allergies trigger your symptoms and discuss treatments to put the spring back into your steps. The most effective way to treat spring allergies is through allergy shots, also called immunotherapy. These shots slowly introduce a little bit of what you are allergic to so your body learns to tolerate it, rather than react with the sneezing, a stuffy nose or itchy eyes.

Avoiding the things that trigger your allergies can also help. Here are some tips:

  • Keep windows closed during pollen season, especially during the day.
  • Stay inside during mid-day and afternoon hours when pollen counts are highest.
  • Take a shower, wash hair and change clothing after working or playing outdoors.
  • Wear a mask when doing outdoor chores like mowing the lawn. An allergist can help you find the type of mask that works best.

An allergist can discuss other treatment options. To find an allergist, click here.

Nationwide Asthma Screening Program makes sure asthma doesn't take anyone's breath away

Do you cough a lot, especially at night? Do you have trouble breathing or cough when you walk or do simple chores? Does your chest ever feel tight?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be one of the millions of people who let asthma take their breath away and the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program can help.

Sponsored by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and allergists across the country, the program finds those at risk for asthma and helps those already diagnosed take control of the disease.

The most common asthma symptoms are:

  • Coughing, especially at night, with exercise or when laughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A tight feeling in the chest
  • Wheezing, a squeaky or whistling sound

If you have breathing problems or think your asthma could be better controlled, consider stopping by one of the free screenings. The screenings are held at locations around the country including shopping malls, health fairs, stores, parks and other public places. Each person being screened fills out a questionnaire, takes a quick breathing test by blowing into a tube and meets with an allergist.

The program has helped more than 114,000 people since it began 13 years ago.

To find a screening, click here.


Can you outgrow asthma?

No. Asthma is a chronic disease, which means that it doesn't go away once you have it and you are always at risk for symptoms. Some people think children outgrow asthma because they have fewer symptoms or attacks as they get older. But asthma causes changes in the lungs' airways. That doesn't go away and symptoms can return at any time. Even after a long time without symptoms, asthma can be triggered again. About a third of children with asthma still have symptoms when they become adults.

Is it true that a simple blood test can help you find out if you have allergies?

Actually, the first step in diagnosing allergies is a thorough health history and physical examination. Allergy tests, such as skin tests or blood tests, confirm what your health history tells the allergist. If your doctor were to rely exclusively on the results of the allergy test without history and physical examination, you could be diagnosed as having an allergic problem you may not have.

Allergists prefer using skin tests because:

  • the results are available immediately
  • the testing is less expensive
  • the tests are more sensitive to subtle allergies

Sometimes a blood test is appropriate, particularly when:

  • you can't stop taking medication before having skin tests
  • you have a skin disease like eczema or psoriasis
  • you are so sensitive to an allergen that even a slight exposure could be risky

How do you tell the difference between a cold and allergies?

The biggest clue in deciding whether symptoms like sneezing or a runny nose are a cold or allergies is how long they last. A cold normally lasts about a week, but allergies can last for several weeks or longer—depending on what you are allergic to and how often you are exposed to it.

Other differences include some of the symptoms. While both can cause a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and wheezing, you are more likely to have itchy, watery eyes with allergies and get a fever or body aches with a cold. Another clue is your runny nose. If it's clear, it's usually related to an allergy and not an infection.

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