Thursday, December 20, 2012

Itchy after Sex?

Earlier this week a young woman in my practice complained of discomfort, vaginal itch/burning with intercourse.  Symptoms started immediately with intercourse and lasted for a few hours.  Using latex condoms didn't help alleviate symptoms. And she was worried- the discomfort she experienced was putting strain on her relationship with her partner and she suspected something was wrong.  She'd tried talking to her gynecologist, but was frequently diagnosed with "yeast" infections despite not having symptoms.

What could be going on?  We suspected seminal fluid allergy.  What should you know about seminal fluid allergy?

What is seminal fluid allergy?
  • Allergy to a protein in the seminal fluid
  • Symptoms include vaginal itching, blistering, redness, and even swelling within 30 minutes of contact with seminal fluid
  • Can be limited to one partner or all partners
  • Is not associated with infertility
  • Commonly presents in your 20's
  • Often is misdiagnosed as yeast infection or other infections.
How is seminal fluid allergy diagnosed?
  • Using latex or animal skin condoms to avoid contact with the fluid often prevents symptoms
  • An allergist may skin prick test with fresh seminal fluid or ask you to use condoms to prevent symptoms
What are your options for treatment?
  • Using condoms regularly to prevent symptoms
  • Your allergist may discuss desensitizing you to the seminal fluid through a graded introduction.  This is a good option if you are trying to get pregnant.

If you are worried you have seminal plasma fluid allergy, seek out an allergist for diagnosis and treatment.

My patient started using condoms regularly with good results   Her relationship with her partner has improved and she's not worried that something is "wrong" with her any longer.

Want to read more?  Here's a great website-  http://www.seminalplasmaallergy.org/

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Recent publication

Check out my lastest publication on Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis in the Journal of Allergy and Asthma.  It looks at patients with a severe from of asthma caused by mold sensitivity who were treated with Xolair (omalizumab).  We showed that there was a decrease in oral corticosteroid use in these patients.  Using xolair might be an additional treatment modality for this difficult to treat group.



I hope you find it interesting and helpful.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Expanded Office Hours

To better serve you, I am expanding my office hours for allergy shots.

We'll be open Monday from 9-6 and Wednesday 10-7 in the 380 2nd Avenue Office and Tuesday from 10-6 in the Williamsburg (101 Broadway office).

I'll be spending every other Thursday in Tribeca at 77 Worth from 9-5.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Fall Allergies or Falling Prey to a Cold

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jane Wilkens Michael of Spry Magazine about fall allergies and colds.  Check out her article on her blog below.  I hope you'll find some useful tips.


Friday, November 2, 2012

380 2nd Avenue Office Will Be Open Monday

I've just learned wonderful news that power was restored to our 380 2nd Avenue office.  We will be open on Monday.  Again if you need to reach me in the meantime, I'm available via email jcollins@nyee.edu.

Hurricane Sandy- Update

Dear Friends and Patients,

I write this hoping to find you and your families warm and safe after this terrible storm.  My thoughts and prayers are with those who are without power or water.  I've been overwhelmed by the generosity of neighbors and friends. 

These upcoming days and weeks will be difficult for those of you with asthma and mold allergy and as we reopen our offices we commit to taking care of you during this difficult time.

For those of you with reception, I wanted to update you on the status of our offices and appointments.

Our phone lines for the 380 2nd Avenue and Tribeca 77 Worth offices are down.  

If you need to reach me, you can call Williamsburg office for a secretary at 718-384-6933 or if it's an emergency and you need to speak with me directly, you can reach me via email- jcollins@nyee.edu.  

With luck and the efforts of the men and women of Con Ed, the 380 2nd Avenue office will be open on Monday morning. 

Please keep safe.

Jennifer Collins, MD

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's the biggest immune organ in our bodies?

Welcome to the the first part of the role of allergy and the intestines.

The intestines of course!  Amazingly, our intestines when stretched out are almost a 1/4 of a mile long.  Just beneath the surface the are collections of lymph nodes (areas where immune reactions are initiated) called peyer's patches and mucosal associated lymph nodes (MALT) and immune cells.  These areas are where our immune system encounters some of the first exposures to bacteria, food, and learns to differentiate safe items from non-safe.  This differentiation is key to maintaining a healthy well functioning immune system.

Bacteria populates our intestines as soon as we are born and plays many critical roles.  Our relationship with gut bacteria is mutually beneficial.  Important functions of the bacteria are helping our bodies develop oral tolerance to food, altering the way the immune system recognizes dangerous pathogens via various pattern recognition, and helping our bodies digest food. The types of bacteria living  in our guts vary depending on our diet (meat versus vegetarian) and where we live in the world. Through these roles, the bacteria receives its own nutrition and a safe place to live.      

So why is this relationship important to our immune system?
  • Our first exposures to food (breast milk or formula, vegetarian versus meat based diet) may influence the types of bacteria living in us
  • Gut bacteria help teach immune cells which patterns in nature are safe or not safe
  • It's possible that early use of antibiotics changes the numbers and types of bacteria we have in our guts and ultimately may affect the way the immune system develops
Our understanding of these concepts is still in its infancy.  Stay tuned from more information as it's available.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."

In my practice, questions about the relationship between the immune system and food are commonly asked.   I see in the news, grocery stores, and advertisements words like pre-biotic, pro-biotic, and vitamins and claims for improved immune function.  Patients complain about digestive issues, abdominal pain, bloating and possible allergies. Many are concerned about gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and foods to increase their immune system.  This month's Nature Reviews in Immunology is dedicated to research talking about "how dietary choices affect immune cells".  More and more research is being done in this area and thought with the eating season of the holidays rapidly approaching it was worth spending a few posts on this fascinating area of research. 

I couldn’t start this topic without a bit of a tribute to Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin – a French lawyer, author, and one of the first foodies.  More than any individual, Brillat-Savarin was a proponent in the role of food, digestion, and health.  He had so many wonderful quotes about food, life, and eating, but his adage “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who your are.”  illustrates the important relationship between food and our immune system.  I might modify it to say, tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what kind of bacteria live within your intestines and how they impact your immune system.

The movement of local farming and farm to table dining illustrates the interest that our society has in the relationship with food and their bodies.  There's an abundance of information out on the Internet and in grocery stores about ways to increase your immune system through food products and improve the health of your intestines.  It's difficult to tell how to navigate the system and what's true. Over the next few weeks we'll start with the basics and move gradually through the topic in the hopes of helping you navigate the system, keep a healthy immune system, and survive the holiday eating push.  

I hope you enjoy!  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cough, cough, cough

So many people are coming into the office these past few weeks complaining of coughing.  The change in season brings about asthma, and cold season.  It's difficult to tell the difference and knowing when you're sick with a cold versus having an asthma attack is important.

Signs of Asthma:
  • dry cough often worse at night
  • chest tightness
  • feeling short of breath
  • wheezing
  • not contagious
  • often triggered by nasal allergies, a cold, change in temperature or weather
Signs of a Cold
  • sore throat 
  • nasal congestion
  • fatigue
  • low grade fever
  • cough often times productive
  • can often trigger an asthma attack

Remember- see your doctor is you aren't sure and you're aren't feeling well.

Enjoy Fall!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kosher Food Allergy Blog Site

Many of my patients keep kosher and thought you'd be interested in a new blog dedicated to kosher food allergies. kosherfoodallergies.blogspot.com 

For persons with milk allergy, kosher products are an excellent resource, they are clearly labeled dairy free.

The blog is dedicated to specific issues kosher patients might face and tools to deal with them.  I hope you'll find it helpful and useful.

Good luck surviving the heat!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Methyldibromo glutaronitrile/phenoxyethanol Allergy

Could one product cause a rash on the eyes, hands and vagina?

Absolutely! Methyldibromo glutaronitrile/phenoxyethanol is a common preservative found in make-up, personal wipes, shower gels, shampoos, massage oils, and sunscreen, body, face and hand lotions. It’s composed of 80% phenoxyethanol and 20% methyldibromo glutaronitrile. The methyldibromo glutaronitrile is the principle agent causing sensitization.

Each of my patients admitted to using personal care wipes on a regular basis.

The incidence of sensitization is on the rise and repeated exposure to this product at low levels over time can cause an allergic contact dermatitis. This substance is monitored closely in Europe.

Methyldibromo glutaronitrile/phenoxyethanol is difficult to avoid and goes by many names on ingredient lists:

• 1,2-Dibromo-2,4-dicyanobutan

• 2-Bromo-2-(bromomethyl) glutaronitrile

• 2-Bromo-2-(bromomethyl) pentanedinitrile

• Glutaronitrile, 2-bromo-2-(bromomethyl)-

• Methyldibromo glutaronitrile

• Pentanedinitrile, 2-bromo-2-(bromomethyl)-

What should you do if you have this allergy?

Avoid the chemical! Simple avoidance of products containing this preservative will alleviate your rash.

What are some safe personal wipes without methyldibromo glutaronitrile?

Always-Wipes to go

Charmin-Freshmates Wipes

Seventh Generation-Free & Clear Baby Wipes

Visine-Soothing Wipes
Suspect you might be sensitive to methyldibromo glutaronitrile?

• See your local allergist for patch testing.
Want more information?
 http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/index.htm is a great website that is easily searchable.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Poison Sofa Incident

A true mystery...solved!

From 2006 to 2007, approximately 60 Fins presented to their dermatologists with a strange rash on the backs of their legs, buttocks, and backs. Symptoms were difficult to treat and pervasive. Testing revealed little information as to what was causing such a reaction and all involved were puzzled. The rash spread internationally throughout the UK and Sweden affecting 100's. It was a true mystery.

It was only through careful history by Dr. Rantanen, a Finish dermatologist, learned that each person had recently bought the same sofa from China. He methodically deconstructed the sofa testing approximately 40 component. Inside the sofa he discovered a small sachet containing dimethyl fumarate in crystal form. Sachets were included to inhibit mold growth during transport. It was a true eureka moment when he patch tested the individuals with the crystals & it caused a severe rash. And the so Dr. Rantanen cracked the case of the poison sofa incident!

What is dimethyl fumarate? Dimethyl fumarate (DF) is a profound sensitizing agent and able to cause reactions at levels <1 ppm. DF crystals are highly volatile and can vaporize after 6 weeks. Rashes are severe and very difficult to treat. This product is commonly placed in shoes, furniture and other items shipped from overseas. Dimethyl fumarate has achieved notoriety two times after the discovery was made that it was responsible for the rash landing on the cover of British Journal of Dermatology and as contact allergy of the year in 2011.

In 2009, levels <0.1 ppm were banned in products by the European Union, but occasionally they slip through.

There is one reported case from Canada, but luckily, we’ve not seen any cases of dimethyl fumarate allergy in the US yet (although what out because currently it's not regulated here).

Worms for an Allergic Nose?

Allergic disease is on the rise in developed countries when compared to undeveloped countries and we have no idea why. There are many hypotheses....

Are we too clean?  

Do we use too many antibiotics?  
Is early use of tylenol affecting our allergies?  

Is it because we don't have parasitic worm infections? 
That's right parasitic worms, you read correctly. Worms are known to alter the immune system and in the past many have hypothesized that infections with worms leads to a decreased allergic response.  Could this be a potential treatment for your nasal symptoms this summer? Believe it or not, over 130 people agreed to be infected with parasitic worms and observe their nasal symptoms and medication uses.
There's been two well designed studies looking at the question of does worm therapy actually decrease symptoms and medications for hay fever or allergic rhinitis?  Dr. Croft from the UK recently published her studies in the Cochrane database in April.  130 people where treated with whipworms, hookworms or placebo.  They reported on their symptom reduction, quality of life, and medication usage.
The results were disappointing.  Treatment with both whipworms and hookworms showed no benefit.  Treatment did not significantly improve the percentage of days with minimal symptoms, decrease medication use, or improve quality-of-life scores.  Not surprisingly, patients treated with worms, reported increased stomach and gastrointestinal issues including increased gas, stomach pain, and nausea.

As much as I want to help my patients with their allergic disease, I must admit, I'm glad that don't have to make this recommendation!

Stay tuned for more interesting research in Allergy/Immunology.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

DiVersity, dIverSity, dIVERsity, dIverSITY- you have to love it!

Ever wonder if your health is effected by the type and variety of bacteria living in your intestines?
Well researcher Abrahamson et al. did and my patients ask me this question at least once a week.  

Abrahamsson et al. (JACI 2012;129:434-440) recently published research that that looked at the type bacteria and microdiversity (variety among the same type of bacteria) of bacteria in infants with and without eczema over the first year of life.

The results are fascinating!  

Infants followed who had eczema had lower total diversity and decreased microdiversity of bacteria (Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria) when compared to infants free of eczema at 1 month.  After 12 months, the trend for decreased types of of Proteobacteria continued and stool in bacteria became less diverse.  Infants without eczema had greater numbers of Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria at 1 year.  

This study was far from conclusive, but adds to a growing body of literature that the type and variety of bacteria living in our gut does influence the development of allergic disease.  Controversy exists over which is more important- the diversity of the specific type or the actual bacteria the development of allergy in infants.  Researchers continue to work on this question, so stay tuned!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cost Savings Coupons

I hear more and more from my patients their co-pays are increasing and they are finding it difficult to pay for medications.  I thought it would be helpful to consolidate all the links for asthma and allergy medication into one convenient spot.  Hopefully this helps put a little money back into your pockets!  Medications are grouped by condition and then alphabetical.

Asthma Medications

Asmanex- $15 off
Asmanex Coupon

Advair - $10 off
Advair Coupon

Dulera- up to $75 off
various coupons for dulera

Symbicort- 1 month free
symbicort Coupon

Zyflo CR
Zyflo CR Coupon

Epinephrine Offers

Auvi-Q- $0 copay
Auvi-Q Coupon

Epi-Pen Resources


Allergy Medication

Allegra-$2-4 off


Clarinex http://www.clarinex.com/application/savingsCoupon.action?link=savingsCoupon_couponConfirmation&web_program_id=00000300





Nasal Allergies

Astepro- up to $25 off copay


Nasonex- $15 off


Omnaris- Assistance with Copay


Patanase NS- up to $10 off


Qnasl NS- Up to $25 off




Eye Allergies



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring Fever!

Hopefully, you were able to get out and enjoy this beautiful weather this weekend.  Sunday really felt like the first day of spring in NYC and the streets were filled with bikers and runners all enjoying the end of winter.The streets and subways were also filled with the sound of frequent sneezes and bless you!

As much as I love spring, it does have a dark side- allergies. 

The temperate winter and early warm weather mean this going to be a brutal allergy season for those of you who suffer.  Allergist are expecting it to be a long, long season.  Don't fear, there are things you can do to prevent your allergies from interfering with enjoying this gorgeous season!

What are some signs you might have allergies?
  • itchy watery eyes, swollen eyes
  • fever
  • sinus pressure
  • frequent sneeze
  • runny nose
  • constant phlegm
  • rashes

How can you prepare?
  • You can track local pollen counts by zip code at http://www.pollen.com/
  • Visit your doctor or allergist to get the appropriate medications early on.
  • Carry extra medications, tissues, and your asthma medications with you. 
  • Try exercising early in the morning when pollen counts tend to be lower.
  • If you are especially sensitive, consider getting allergy shots to prevent symptoms.

Hopefully, with these tools, you'll avoid springs dark shadow & stay in it's beautiful light.

As always, please let me know if I can help.

It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  ~Mark Twain