Patient Newsletter

ACAAI Newsletter Issue #5

Welcome to Allergy and Asthma News

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

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Foiling Fall Asthma Symptoms

Autumn brings changing leaves and crisp, cool days. For the 23 million Americans with asthma, fall can also bring an increase in asthma attacks. That's because cool weather and respiratory infections that are common this time of year are asthma triggers. Hay fever, an allergy to the ragweed that blooms until the first frost, also can trigger asthma. If you suspect you or your child has asthma, ACAAI suggests trying the following to breathe easier this fall:

  1. Get tested – Allergists are specially trained to diagnose and treat asthma. In fact, research shows that asthma sufferers referred to an allergist experienced 76 percent fewer emergency room visits than those not treated by an allergist. Take a self-test, read about patients who have their asthma under control and find an allergist near you.
  2. Get treated – There are a number of asthma treatment options, including medication that may be taken daily for long-term control and inhalers that can be used to give quick relief when symptoms flare. Asthma often is triggered by allergies. To keep allergies in check, immunotherapy – also called allergy shots – can help. An allergist can help you determine what you’re allergic to, and suggest treatments.
  3. Avoid sniffling, sneezing and wheezing – Viral respiratory infections are widespread this time of year, and are the leading cause of severe asthma attacks. Do your best to avoid getting sick by regularly washing your hands, using hand sanitizer and getting a flu shot.
  4. Beware of the weather – Fall is known for fluctuating weather conditions. Changes, such as cold, extreme dryness, wetness or wind, can trigger or worsen asthma. Be prepared.
  5. Prepare before working up a sweat – Whether it’s a sprint down the soccer field, a game of tag at recess or a fall fun run, exercise can trigger adult and childhood asthma symptoms. Be sure to bring along a quick-relief inhaler.
  6. Look out for new allergens and triggers – The change of seasons can bring new asthma triggers. When the furnace goes on, it blows dust and mold throughout the house. In school, asthma often is triggered by things such as chalk dust, moldy carpeting or the class pet hamster. If your child has asthma, tell the teacher what symptoms to look for and discuss what to do if they flare up. Your allergist can help you develop an action plan for the treatment of childhood asthma to share with teachers and coaches to make sure your child is safe.
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Scaring Away Frightful Halloween Allergy
and Asthma Triggers

Halloween can be a scary time for kids with food allergies, allergic rhinitis and asthma. Triggers that lurk in candy, costumes, makeup and decorations may cause a reaction that spoils the spooky fun. ACAAI suggests the following tips to keep little goblins with allergic conditions safe this Halloween.

  1. Keep an eye on “fun size” treats – Even if the full-sized version of a treat is allergen-free, don’t assume the “fun-size” is safe, too. The mini versions can contain different ingredients or might be made at a facility where peanuts or other allergens are present.
  2. Unmask allergens in costumes, makeup and decorations – Masks and costumes may contain latex and other common allergens so be sure to read their labels. Makeup, hair dyes and decorations can include ingredients that: trigger asthma; cause an itchy allergic reaction called contact dermatitis; or make existing atopic dermatitis (eczema) worse. Use hypoallergenic makeup or steer clear of makeup altogether.  Learn more about the different types of allergic skin conditions.
  3. Be sure your child totes more than a candy bag – If your goblin has asthma or a life-threatening allergy, carry emergency medicines such as quick-relief inhalers or injectable epinephrine in case of a severe reaction.  Children with severe allergies or severe asthma also should wear medical alert identification bracelets or chains stating their diagnosis.
  4. Scare asthma away – Masks can interfere with breathing, so children with asthma should wear a half mask or no mask at all. Also keep in mind that cold weather, running from house to house for candy, and exposure to allergens such as mold spores hiding in piles of leaves, can cause asthma symptoms to flare up. 
  5. Control consumption – Feed your goblins before they go trick or treating so they are less tempted to snack on potentially problematic candy. When you’re back home, trade allergen-free candy you’ve purchased for the candy they’ve collected. Or have allergic kids do a candy swap with their non-allergic friends.
  6. Make your home the haunted house – Consider skipping trick or treating altogether and invite your child’s friends for a party, where you can control the food and offer fun activities such as bobbing for apples. Set up trick or treat stations around the house, each of which offers a different allergen-free treat.
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Prepare for Allergy and Asthma-Safe Holidays

Whether you’re the host or a guest, holiday gatherings can serve up allergy and asthma triggers. Thankfully, ACAAI offers the following tips to help you keep allergies and asthma in check this holiday season:

  • Give your host a heads up ahead of time – A few weeks or more before you drop in, let your relatives or friends know about your allergy and asthma triggers. If you’re hosting, ask your guests whether they have allergies or asthma. The following steps can help if accomplished at least a couple of weeks before the visit:
    • Stop all smoking in the house.
    • Change the furnace filter (replace with a high efficiency MERV 11 rated filter if possible).
    • Establish an “allergy-free zone” by keeping pets out of the bedroom where the person who has allergies or asthma will sleep.
    • Wash all bed linens and pillows in hot water.
    • Vacuum the house well before arrival of the guest with allergies or asthma, and not during the visit, as this stirs up allergens.
    • Place and run a HEPA air cleaner in the guest room a few days before arrival and continue through their visit.  Learn more about controlling allergens in the home.
  • Prepare for healthy holiday travel – If you travel by plane, be sure to pack your allergy medicine, inhaler or other prescriptions in your carry-on to keep close at hand. If dust mites are your trigger, pack an allergen-proof cover for your pillow.
  • Kick allergens off the menu – Got a wheat allergy or dairy allergy? It might be hard to believe, but some turkeys (such as the self-basting variety) can contain soy, wheat and dairy. Choose a natural turkey instead – by law, it must be minimally processed and contain nothing more than turkey and water. The stuffing, green bean casserole and other Thanksgiving traditional dishes can contain allergens, too, so read food labels while cooking. If you attend a celebration somewhere other than home, alert your host to any food allergies and ask to bring a safe dish or two. Pack safe snacks for children with allergies.
  • Get a flu shot – Catching the flu can result in a severe flair up of asthma. Don’t risk it – get a flu shot early before you’re exposed to all of your relatives and their germs.
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First of Kind Food Allergy Guidelines Released:
Good News for Patients

Allergies to food are becoming more common, with eight foods responsible for 90 percent of reactions: milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.  In December, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), will release its Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy

The guidelines were developed by an expert panel of 25 multi-specialty healthcare professionals, including allergy, pediatrics, pulmonology, nutrition, gastroenterology, dermatology, epidemiology and emergency medicine, after review of all relevant scientific studies and clinical information.  These first-ever interdisciplinary guidelines are intended to help all healthcare professionals in treating food allergies and lead to better and more consistent patient care.  The guidelines will include the definition, prevalence and history of food allergy, as well as diagnosis and management of reactions to food.  Stay tuned to the ACAAI’s Allergy and Asthma Relief for more information once the guidelines are released.

Q: I have asthma and got both the seasonal flu shot and the H1N1 flu shot last year.  Should I get both vaccines again this year?

A: The good news is you only need to get one flu shot this year. Last year’s H1N1 influenza virus is included in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine. Last year, the H1N1 virus became a problem after the seasonal vaccine was in production, so an H1N1 vaccine was developed and given separately. This year’s seasonal flu vaccine will protect you against last year’s H1N1 influenza virus and the two other types of influenza virus expected to cause disease during the upcoming influenza season (a H3N2 influenza A virus and an influenza B virus). The seasonal flu vaccine is available now. Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect from influenza.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine, but it’s especially important for people like you who have asthma to get vaccinated. People with asthma can become very ill if they get the flu. To learn about several other things you can do to keep yourself healthy this fall, read “Foiling Fall Asthma Symptoms.

Q: My 7-year-old daughter loves Halloween, but she’s just been diagnosed with an allergy to peanuts, and I’m afraid to let her go trick or treating. Is there a way for her to enjoy the fun?

A: It’s understandable that you are worried about your daughter, but she should be able to trick or treat as long as you plan ahead and are careful. Until she’s old enough to go on her own, you should tag along and teach her how to enjoy Halloween while making sure to look out for items that might contain peanuts. For starters, let her know she must carry her injectable epinephrine just in case. Tell her she’ll need to wait until she gets home to eat any candy, and then only after you read all labels and approve it. Small bite-sized candy labels often do not list ingredients. Don’t take the chance of her eating anything unless you know the contents. For more tips on enjoying Halloween, read “Scaring Away Frightful Halloween Allergy and Asthma Triggers.

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