Sunday, December 7, 2014

Why Are My Lips Itchy and Dry?

Cold temperatures and harsh winds can bring about dry itchy skin and peeling lips.  Lip balm usage is on the uptick this holiday season.  More are looking for protection and treatment for delicate skin, covering lips so they look their best at holiday parties and date nights.

For some, the entire answer to why their lips peel and itch isn't just the extreme weather.  Is it possible that an allergy can make your lips peel and itch?  Of course!

Chemicals we use on our face and hands is a common cause of itchy, dry and irritated lips. This condition is called lip contact dermatitis.  Often people think they just have "dry" lips and continue using the products that are actually the source of the problem.  Chemicals in lipsticks, lip balms and nail polish are common sources of the irritations to lips.

What causes lip contact dermatitis?
  •  Inflammation and irritation of the lips caused by common chemicals in make-up , toothpaste, lipstick/balm, facial wash, and products we use our hands.
  • Repeated application of chemicals causes allergic sensitization
  • Common chemicals that cause lip contact dermatitis include:
    • shellac- commonly found in lipsticks/lip balms
    • fragrance- commonly found in most personal care products, gum, mouthwash and toothpaste
    • nickel- contamination in some make-up or transferred from lip product container
    • sunscreen
    • varnish found in nail polish
    • preservatives- commonly found in all personal care items.
  • Irritants from toothpaste, lip balms and licking lips can also cause a non-allergic dermatitis 
What is the treatment for lip contact dermatitis?
  • Identification of the chemical allergy and avoidance will cure the dermatitis.
  • Evaluation by an allergist will help determine if the irritation, infection or is caused by an chemical allergy or a irritant reaction.  
  • Patch testing for common chemicals used in the personal care products will help determine what to avoid.
Need more help?  Call the office or schedule appointment here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How To Deal With Food Allergies When You're A Guest At Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  There's always space at the table for unexpected friends or family members to join in a huge communal feast.  If you have food allergies, getting the invite to go a  new home is scary.  You have to confide in your friends information about your health and potentially something that can make you very sick.  Having food allergies shouldn't stop you from enjoying the generosity of others.

Here are 5 easy tips to deal with food allergies at Thanksgiving:

1) Communicate
  • Give your host ample time to make substitutions to the menu by telling them clearly your allergies. Bring it up one time and then avoid constant reminders about your allergy
  • Find out what the menu will be and if they are planning on cooking with something that causes a food allergy
2) Offer to help
  • Offer to bring the salad, stuffing or dessert.  This are foods that often have multiple ingredients that can be difficult to identify.
  • If your allergy is especially difficult to avoid, then offer to bring food for yourself.
  • There are easy substitutions for milk, eggs, and nuts available.  
    • Milk- any of the milk substitutes (coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, oat milk etc) can be used 1:1 in any recipe.
    • Eggs- applesauce and banana's are great substitutes for cookies and cakes.
    • Nuts- keep them on the side, or make 2 dishes 1 with and 1 without.
    • Here's a great website for more information Cooking with Food Allergies
3)  Educate yourself
  • Sit down with your allergist and put together a specific plan on what to do if there's an accidental ingestion.
  • Consider foods that might have hidden ingredients (cocktails, baked goods, stuffing, mashed potato etc..)
4) Be prepared
  • Be sure to have an epinephrine auto-injector in your bag along with an anti-histamine.
  • Consult with your allergist about recipes and ideas on how to approach the situation.
  • Know where the closest hospital is in case there is an accidental ingestion.
5) Enjoy yourself
  • Trust those around you to take your allergy seriously.  
  • Don't let your food allergies spoil the holidays. 
  • Here's to your good health and those around you 
Need more specific help?  Please call the office or click here to schedule an appointment

Friday, November 7, 2014

What's New in Skin Allergies? D-Day for Skin Deep Allergies

Being itchy and scratchy all over is one of the worst things to experience.  Symptoms interfere with sleep, work, and your life.  Scratching can leave your skin scarred and damaged.   Many of my patients come to me with difficult to treat rashes.  They've gone from doctor to doctor and treated with topical steroids without anyone finding the cause of the itch.

 Did you know on an average day we are exposed to over 128 chemical in our personal care items (shampoo, cosmetics, deodorants, etc)?  These rashes are called allergic contact dermatitis.  Over 14.5 million people have chemical allergy & many of these are children!  I love trying to find the cause of why my patients are itching- it is one of my favorite puzzles to solve.   Anyone who's read my blog in the past knows I often write about these allergies- shellac allergy, formaldehyde resin allergy, and; methyldibromo glutaronitrile

Chemicals like preservatives and additives in our products trigger difficult to treat rashes like lip, eye lid, and foot rash.   I do extensive chemical & environmental allergy testing in my office in the hopes of identifying the trigger for the itch.  This is a huge win in any of my patients care.  Avoidance of the offending chemicals can lead to complete resolution of the rash- without medications.  Common chemicals that cause contact dermatitis include fragrance, cocamidopropyl, formaldehyde, nickel and so many more.  

Today, I attended D-Day for Skin Deep Allergies and Patch Testing a full day conference put on by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Atlanta, Georgia.  The room was filled with over 100 other Allergists/Immunologist just as excited as I am about finding the cause of a rash.  
I'm spending the entire weekend in Atlanta at the College's meeting and will bring my expanded knowledge base back to New York to help my patients.  
  • Why do my lips itch?
  • What's the cause of my foot rash?
  • How much nickel can I eat if I'm nickel allergic?
  • What's the cause of eye lid rashes?
  • Why am I itchy all over?  
Stay tuned- I'll be writing more on these and other topics I learn at the American College of Allergy Asthma, and Immunology's 2014 conference!

Need help with a difficult to treat rash?  Suspect you have contact dermatitis?  Call the office 212-679-3574 or click Gramercy Allergy & Asthma to schedule an appointment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

How to Prevent Colds this Winter....

This time of the year temperatures are all over the place.  The drop in temperature also brings out activities of cold virus.  Colds cause for significant disruption to our lives, work, and social interactions.

Everyone's goal during cough and cold season is to keep healthy. As an immunologist, I'm often asked about natural ways to prevent viruses from taking hold and to reduce the time of a cold.

Here are my 5 top tips.  I hope they keep you cold free this year!
1) Wash your hands! 
  • You've heard it before and you'll hear it again.  Frequent hand washing is the number one way you can prevent colds.  Your hands bring germs and viruses to your nose, mouth and eyes where they gain entry and cause illness. Keeping your hands germ free will help keep you germ free.  Wash or use portable hand disinfectants after riding the subways, before eating, after shaking hands, or anything you think of it.  Aim for 20 seconds at least with warm soapy water. 
2) Eat a rainbow of foods each day!
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seed and lean proteins will ensure you are getting enough essential vitamins and nutrients to keep your immune system working at maximum potential!   Critical vitamins involved in the immune reaction are Vitamin A (think anything orange like pumpkin and squash), Vitamin C (oranges and grapefruits), Vitamin D (the sun!),  Vitamin E  (nuts and sunflower seeds) and Zinc (oysters & chickpeas). Vitamins, anti-oxidants and bacteria are natural ways to maintain this balance. 

3)  Keep your fluids up!
  • Water helps keep your skin and outer mucosal functioning at it's best.  These surfaces are the first line defense against germs and viruses. 
  • Shoot for 4-5 8 ounces of water per day.  Live in a dry apartment?  Drink at least an 1-2 glasses more.
4) Maintain regular exercise and sleep program!
  • Did you know that regular exercise helps boost the activity of critical immune cells in fighting off germs and viruses? 
  • Even if you're getting sick low intensity exercise will reduce the time of the illness.
  • Sleep is when your body repairs and rejuvenates itself.  As we enter the holiday season, increased parties and plans often infringe on our time for sleep, but shoot for 7-8 hours a night to keep your body in it's best form. 
5) Disinfect Germ Magnets!
  • The phone- Your home, office and personal phone are way stations for viruses.  They can survive on them for a few hours to days.
  • Remote controls- touched by everyone in the family, but least cleaned.  During cold season, try and wipe off at least once a day.
  • Keep boards and computers- we sit at them for hours a day sneezing and breathing on them.  Make sure to wipe them off several times a week to keep yourself healthy
  • The bathroom- yuck...faucets and door knobs are touched by everyone in the house and office.  This is the perfect place to pick up viruses.  Make sure faucets and knobs are getting disinfected frequently.   
Hopefully these tips will keep you cold free this season!

Need more personalized care?  Call the office or  schedule an appointment here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How To have Fun on Halloween When You Have Allergies!

Haunted houses, witches, goblins and super-hero costumes  bring smiles and scares during Halloween.  It's a wonderful time of the year to allow your imagination to go wild and have fun!
For parent's of children with seasonal allergies, food allergies and asthma there are potential dangers lurking in trips to the pumpkin patch, makeup, Halloween candy, and party treats.

What are some tips so you can enjoy all the Halloween fun when you have food allergies and asthma?

1) Do your kids have food allergies?  Don't be Scared, Be Prepared!
  •  Feed your kids dinner before going trick-or-treating.  That way they won't be tempted to eat candy before you have a chance to check it for potential allergens.
  • Talk to your neighbors.  Provide them with "safe" treats specifically for your children. 
  • Throw your own Halloween party so you can "control" the types of treats provided.
  • Talk to you kids about not eating candy until you've had a chance to inspect it.
  • Make sure they have emergency medication  including auto-injectable epinephrine & a cell phone when they are trick or treating just in case there is an accidental exposure. 
2) Heading to a Pumpkin Patch, don't let asthma and allergies get in the way of the fun!
  • Make sure your children take there maintenance medication before they head out to the farm.  Hay, leaves, and mold can often trigger an attack. 
  • Bring albuterol and extra anti-histamines along with you.
  • Use scarfs to warm up cold fall air to help prevent asthma
  • Listen for warning sounds- sneezing, runny nose, and coughing are signs that a reaction is happening. 
3) Choose Wise Costumes When Your Kids have Allergies and Asthma
  • Use care with Halloween make up if your child has eczema.  Harsh chemicals and dyes can often trigger an eczema flare.
  • Masks are great a great addition to a costume, but also mask if you're child is having an allergic reaction.  They can also make it difficult to breath if your child has asthma.  Use costumes with glasses, wigs, hoods, and funny hats instead.
  • Is your child sensitive to latex?   Be sure to read the costume labels carefully to avoid potential exposure.
Want more tips?  Check out the American College of Allergies website

Want more tips- call the office 212-679-3574 for an appointment or book on line.

Most of all Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 3, 2014

What Is Propolis Allergy?

What is Propolis?
Propolis, bee glue, is an increasingly important contact allergy because of it's increased use in "natural products". Just because it's natural doesn't mean you can't have an allergic reaction to the substance.

Benefits of propolis - propolis health (3)
  • Propolis is a glue made by hone bees to build, repair and protect their hives.
  • It's made up of digested resins (natural glues), buds from trees, and bark that bees mix with bee wax.
  • It becomes a mixture of balsams and resins, waxes, essential oils, pollen and cinnamyl alcohol, vitamins A, B, C and E, flavanoids and minerals.
  • Overall, the chemical composition of propolis is highly variable depending on where the bees live and the types of trees they use to manufacture their glue.
  • It can be listed on an ingredient list as propolis, cera flava, and cera alba.
What is Propolis Used For?
  • For 1000s of years propolis has been used by humans to treat infections, wounds, and as a varnish.  It's believed to possess antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.  Given these properties, propolis is a common additive in many "natural" products.  The increased exposure to propolis has increased our sensitivity and allergic reaction to it. 

In modern times, propolis is used as:
  • Emulsifying and thickening agent in many cosmetics.
  • Food additive for coating and glazing candy and fresh fruit
  • Natural over the counter sprays for sore throats, mouth lozenges, cough syrups, ointments, lotions, drops and oral pills.
  • Anti-septic agent in many homeopathic and natural medicine
  • Varnish for violins
How Do you Know If You Are Allergic To Propolis?
  • Many people with propolis allergy will have a rash on/or around mouth (from using topical ointments with propolis), or rash at the site of application (typically face, arms and legs).
  • Propolis is used in many "natural" cosmetics and homeopathic remedies.  Exposure from these products can cause a rash at the site of application.
  • Many people with allergy to propolis are also allergic to balsam of peru, colophony, beeswax, clove oil, and tree buds
  • Bee keepers, violin makers, and persons who make handmade boots are at increased risk for developing propolis allergy.
  • If you suspect propolis allergy, see an allergist for patch testing to determine the specific cause of your rash
Need more help or have questions?  Reach out to the office at 212-679-3574 or our website gramercyallergy.com to schedule an appointment. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Can You Be Prepared for Ragweed Season?

Fall is in the air and with it brings ragweed pollen! 

Did you know?
  • Ragweed pollen, considered to be one of the most allergenic pollens begins pollinating in mid August and goes through mid fall. 
  • One in 10 Americans suffers from sensitivity to ragweed pollen- runny nose, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, coughing, and asthma attacks are just some of the symptoms you might experience if you're allergic to ragweed. 
  • One plant alone can produce up to a billion pollen grains.  The grains travel over 100 miles! 
  •  Ragweed was so prevalent in NYC in the early 1900's that there was a movement to remove it from the streets.  Despite their efforts ragweed still grows in the city. 
Below is what ragweed looks like. 
Common ragweed vegetative plants

What Can you Do to Be Prepared for Ragweed Season?  Here are 5 Easy Tips to Keep you Feeling Healthy!

1) Get a jump start- Mid-August is when ragweed starts to bloom.  Mark your calendars so you can start your medications before the plants get into full swing.

2) Keep pollen outside- shower if spending the day in the park, wipe dogs down with a wet wash clothe and keep your windows closed to prevent the pollen from entering your home.

3) See an Allergist-
an allergist will test you to identify what you're sensitive to and create a personalized plan for you and give you advice on how to prevent symptoms.

4) Consider a cure- if non-prescription medication isn't controlling your symptoms, consider allergy shots and/or sublingual treatment for allergies.  Recently released there are now pills you can take to orally desensitize yourself to ragweed pollen called Ragwitek.

5) Don't stop your medications- Because the nasal and eye symptoms of associated with ragweed allergies can linger after the pollen can no longer be detected in the air , don’t stop your allergy medication immediately.

Need personalized help from Dr. Jennifer Collins?  We are glad to help- visit our website Gramercy Allergy & Asthma to book an appointment or call the office- 212-679-3574.

Monday, September 15, 2014

How Can You Keep Your Skin Beautiful When You Have Eczema?

Eczema, an itchy red rash, is a common cause of embarrassment for the 30 million people who are affected.  It can affect any part of your body, but typical areas are the backs of knees and arms, and usually starts in childhood.  Eczema is typically associated with other allergic diseases like food allergies, hay fever and asthma.   Caring for skin when you have eczema can be problematic and often prompts the question what's the best way of keeping your skin beautiful and in control when you have eczema? 

To keep you skin looking beautiful and healthy you need to know the cause, symptoms and  triggers of your eczema.

What Causes Eczema?
  • The cause of eczema is unknown but it's often inherited. 
  • There is an itch scratch cycle that causes skin to be inflamed and irritated.
  • A variety of factors including allergic sensitizations to dust mites, roach, pollens, and chemical, changes in temperature and humidity. 
  • Exposure to these items can cause an unexpected flare of itchy skin. 
What Are Symptoms of Eczema?
  • Dry irritated skin
  • Intense Itching
  • Red patches
  • Scaling, oozing or scratching till you bleed
What Are the Triggers of Eczema?
  • Did you know that eczema is often triggered by allergies?  Common things like dust mites, roach, and pollens can cause a flare
  • In children eczema is often caused by a food sensitivity to egg and/or milk.
  • Chemicals like fragrance and preservatives in your make-up, personal care products and sunscreens can also cause a flare.
  • See an allergist to get evaluated and tested to determine what is driving your eczema.  They will test you for environmental & food allergies and may suggest testing for chemical sensitivities.
How Can you Best Care for Your Skin?
  • Eczema is a state with the skin is dryer than someone with non-eczematous skin
  • Use luke warm water in the shower with a gentle soap
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!  Keeping your skin moist with lubricants will help it heal and protect it from outside exposures.
  • After showering, pat skin dry and then immediately apply a moisturizer to trap in any water on your skin.
  • Hydrate from the inside out with plenty of water.
  • Avoid scratching.
What more information on a specific plan for you eczema?  Call the office to schedule an appointment 212-679-3574 or visit our website to  book an appointment.

Want more information on eczema?  Reach out to the National Eczema Foundation

Want more information on me?  Book an Appointment Here Check out our website Gramercy Allergy and Asthma.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

What Should You Do if You Are Allergic To Vaccines?

Whether it be vaccination for the flu or meningitis, everyone is talking about vaccines this time of the year.    Public vaccination against diseases is one of the most important scientific achievements of all time and has increased our health and life span.  Summer is the perfect time to get your children vaccinated before returning to school or starting college.

But it raises an interesting dilemma for some persons with vaccine allergy. What should you do if you suspect you are allergic to vaccines?

What is Vaccine Allergy?
  • A reaction to vaccination can be either:
    • Immediate- these reactions take place within 1 hour of vaccine administration.  Symptoms include hives, swelling, itching, or anaphylaxis
    • Delayed - these reactions take place more than 1 day after the vaccination.  Symptoms generally include a total body rash and possibly a fever.
What Causes Vaccine Allergy?
  • Depending on the vaccine,  there are different components that can cause an allergic reaction.  Common components that are known to cause an allergic reaction are:
    • Gelatin
    • Egg
    • Chicken
    • Cow's Milk
    • Yeast
    • Antibiotics (neomycin, polymyxin B, and streptomycin) 
    • Latex
    • Thimerosal, aluminum, and phenoxyethanol 
Does Being Allergic to A Component Mean you Can't Be Vaccinated?
  • No. If you suspect an allergic reaction to a vaccine you should seek evaluation by an allergist/immunologist.
  • They will test you to determine the cause of the allergic reaction.
  • Once they've identified the allergen, they will help formulate a plan for safe vaccination.
Bottom Line
  • Vaccination against disease is one of the most important ways we have against preventing disease
  • Don't let suspected allergy prevent you or your child from vaccination
  • See an allergist to get help in determining what the allergy is and how you can proceed safely with vaccination.
Need help?  Please call or visit our office at 212-679-3574 or 205 East 22nd Street, NY, NY 10010

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Does Diet Affect the Development of Allergies?

Pregnant and new moms often ask me about the role of nutrition in developing allergies.  Rightfully so.  Over the past decade, the incidence of allergic disease has increased from 20 to 30%.  Peanut and other food allergies are rampant in schools.  Asthma in children is on the rise.  The incidence only continues to increase for unknown reasons.  They want to know- “Can diet cause or prevent allergies?” 
I’ve written before (Food Allergy- the ugly, the bad, the good....) about the complex interaction between nutrition, environmental exposures, genetics, infections and other unknowns play a role in the whether a person develops allergies or not. 

There is some promising news though….

Researchers in Europe in a quest to find the answer looked at the role of a “diverse” diet during the first year of life and the development of food allergies, asthma and atopic dermatitis (eczema).  

They followed the diets of 856 children from year 1 to 6 years of age looking at the development of eczema, allergic rhinitis, asthma and food allergies. 

What did they find? 
  • Children with a more diverse diet were at lower risk for the development of allergic disease.
  • This included- asthma, food allergies, allergic rhinitis, and eczema.

Bottom line- Does Diet Affect the Development of Allergies?
  • We don’t know the answer to the cause and more importantly, how to prevent the development of all types of allergic diseases.
  • Nutrition does appear to influence the development of allergies.
  • Eating a more diverse diet appears when you are young has an inverse relationship with the development of allergies.

 Want to read more?  Abstract

Have specific questions about allergies?  Please call the office 212-679-3574 or go to our on-line appointment scheduler .

Thursday, July 17, 2014

How Can You Travel Safely With Allergies?

Summer is finally in full swing!  Bags are packed and people are heading out of town to enjoy a respite from the city heat.  Traveling with allergies can be difficult and I've put together these easy tips that I hope will make your trip more focused on R & R and less about your allergies.

Have food allergies?

  • Do a quick search to see what restaurants in the area are friendly for those with allergies.
  • Have a travel anaphylaxis kit to carry in you carry on or purse include quick melt antihistamines and your injectable epinephrine.

Have asthma?
  • Bring an extra inhaler along with you in your bag.  You never know what kind of environmental triggers you'll be exposed to in your vacation home.
  • Check out common triggers/environmental exposures you might face in that location.  Weather.com can give you specific information about pollen and mold counts depending on where you are headed.
  • Ask your doctor to put together an emergency supply of medicine that you can bring with you in case you get sick- this will help keep you out of an unfamiliar emergency room,
Have skin allergies?
  • Bring travel size versions of your favorite sunscreens, moisturizers, shampoos/conditioners
  • Ask your doctor for a small tube of a corticosteroid to carry with you just in case; no one wants to be itchy and scratchy while on vacation
Going somewhere where they speak another language?
  • If you have food allergies  translate your food allergy before you go.  It might help to put this on a card and carry it with you to make sure there's no confusion
  • In many countries asthma and allergy medications are over the counter.  Translate your problem so you'll be able to effectively communicate with the pharmacist there.
With these simple effective tips, your vacation will be filled with laughter, love, and beautiful memories rather than a trip the doctor

Want more directed tips on allergies and travel?  Feel free to email me at jcollins@gramercyallergy.com, click here to schedule an appointment, call the office 212-679-3574 or check out our new website- www.gramercyallergy.com

Friday, June 13, 2014

And the winner is....Benzophphenones Contact Allergen of 2014!

Benzophenone recently named contact allergen of 2014! 

Now that summer is almost upon us, sunscreen allergy is a popular topic.  Even more fitting is that benzophenone was recently named contact allergy of the year by the Contact Dermatitis society of North America.

What are Benzophenones?
  • Chemical UV light absorber used in sunscreen, hair spray, shampoo, detergent bars, nail polish and plastic lens filters.
  • Originally used before the 1950's to extend the life of paints and varnishes, in the 1950's it was introduced into sunscreen.
  • Can you believe that benzophenones now rank as one of the most 4 common agents used in personal care products according to a recent article in Dermatitis!
  • It also ranks as one of the top chemicals to cause allergy!
What type of reaction can you have from Benzophenone?
  • Applying products with benzophenone can lead to:
    •  a local rash
    • a rash that come out when the sun hits it (photosensitivity),
    • itchy bumps like hives
    • a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis.
What should you do if you suspect you have Benzophenone allergy?

  • Talk to your allergist about being tested for chemical allergies.
  • Benzophenone allergy is one of the most common causes of contact dermatitis.
Want to read more about Benzophenone Allergy?

Need further help with an suspected benzophenone allergy?  We do patch testing in the office to all components of sunscreen.

Call us 212-679-3574 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Why do Apples and Other Fruits Make My Mouth Itch?

Wow doesn't the fruit in the farmers markets and grocery stores look delicious?  It's such a treat to see fresh cherries, nectarines, and peaches.  But for many, biting into these fruits can make their mouth and lips itch! In some cases, small blisters might form. Bizarre right?  And isn't it funny that they can eat them when they are cooked or peeled? 

So what's going on?  Can you really be allergic to raw fruit?  Yes!

Why do Apples and Other Fruits Make My Mouth Itch?
  • This is a common problem called oral allergy syndrome. 
  •  People allergic to raw fruits are most likely also allergic to tree or weed pollens.
  • The protein that causes the allergy is heat sensitive.  Heating it changes it so that it doesn't cause a reaction.
  • Many people think it's the pesticides on the fruit that causes the itching. 
  • Actually the protein is also present on many tree fruits and nuts.  Apple being the most common offender, but any of the stone fruits (cherries, plums, nectarines, and peaches) and other "tree" fruits like pears can cause the problem. 
Want more information about oral allergy syndrome or have an allergy question you need answered?  Call the office for an appointment 212-679-3574 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

How Do You Recognize Allergic Asthma?

Wow! The weather outside has finally turned beautiful and looks like we've finally shaken this sticky winter.  But spring for everyone isn't a time of joy.  Symptoms of nasal congestion, itchy watery eyes, and sneezing are common this time of the year.  But what about coughing, chest tightness of shortness of breath?  Could you have allergic asthma?

What are Signs of Allergic Asthma?
  • A dry cough that happens seasonally or with other triggers like animals or dust exposure.
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or run down
  • Not being able to exercise for as long as you'd like
What Should you Do if you Have Allergic Asthma?
  • If you have asthma medication then start it at the first sign.
  • Use your rescue inhaler before going outside
  • Know what your triggers are.  See an allergist to get tested.
  • If sympotms are uncontrolled, you need to go to the emergency room for allergy treatments during the spring, then seek out an allergist.  They can help you control your allergies better thereby controlling your asthma
Need help or other tips on your allergic asthma?  Schedule an appointment with us here or call the office for a same day appointment 212-679-3574.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why Is This Going To Be The Worst Pollen Season Ever?

"This is going to be the worst pollen season ever!"  "The pollen vortex is coming our way". 

You might be wondering what's going on. Is this just sensationalism in the news?  Or is there any truth to these claims?  If so, why are the seasons getting worse?  What actually makes for the worst pollen season ever?

What makes for the worst pollen season ever?

  • This spring it's been hot and cold.  The warm days we've had have been pleasant relief from this sticky winter, but trigger trees to start blooming and producing pollen
  • Low levels of pollen during these warm days "prime" our immune systems towards the pollen. 
  • When the pollen gets into full force in the spring, because our systems are primed, it takes less pollen to trigger a reaction

Are the allergy seasons getting worse? 

  • Warmer temperatures and shorter winter stretches are prolonging the pollinating seasons for plants.  
  • Plants are producing increased amounts of pollen.
  • Some believe that the increase in the warmer months is producing stronger pollen.
  • Longer exposure to pollens means that your allergy symptoms will be longer.
  • Increases in CO2 (carbon dioxide) causes plants to grow faster and more robust.  This may be an untold consequence of global warming on pollen.

So there may be some truth to the claim that it is going to be the worst pollen season ever.

Don't fear though, knowing what you're allergic to, early use of medications to prevent symptoms, and talking to your doctor or an allergist/immunologist can help you stay healthy and enjoy the spring.

Need more tips on how to battle your allergies?  Call the office 212-679-3574 or click here Schedule an Appointment  to schedule an appointment.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

What's New to Treat Allergy?

The past few weeks have been very exciting for allergy treatments!

Several new medications are available to help patients with itchy watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion and even hives!

Have Chronic Hives?
  • Recently, Xolair (omalizumab) was approved for the treatment of chronic hives. 
  •  Xolair is an injectable medication that binds to a protein (IgE) that triggers an allergic reaction in the body.  This medication is highly effective for hives and helps reduce symptoms in as little as a week. 
  • For the past decade we've been using Xolair in the treatment of asthma and it's relatively safe
  • The medication is given as a monthly injection and helps reduce steroid use.
  • Want more information?  Call the office and we can discuss in person
Are you Allergic to Grass and or Ragweed Pollen?
  • Great news for grass and/or ragweed pollen suffers- there is now a tablet you can take to help reduce symptoms associated with pollen allergy.
  • The grass (Grasteck) and ragweed (Ragwitek) tablets need to be started about 12 week before the season starts.
  • They are daily tablets you leave in your mouth for about 1 minute.
  • They help reduce symptoms by about 27% in studies.
  • These are great options if you don't want to do allergy shots, but have symptoms in the summer and fall.
Stay tuned, there's a lot happening in the world of allergy and we are here to help.

Want more information?  Call the office for an appointment- 212-679-3574 or click here to schedule online. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tips for conquering the pollen vortex coming our way....

Good news for New Yorkers- it seems spring is upon us!  Bad news is that these warm and then cold days are going to create a pollen vortex triggering severe allergy symptoms.  Tree & grass pollen along with mold spores will all bloom at once causing severe symptoms. 

Maybe you're already feeling the pull of these allergens?  Itchy watery eyes, dry cough, sneezing, mucous in your throat, and sinus pressure are some of the signs you're allergic.

Don't lose hope though, here are some easy tips to help you fight off your allergies and enjoy spring!
  • Pollen counts are earliest before 10 AM.  Keep your windows closed during this time, to help prevent pollen from entering your home.
  • Have Asthma?  Make sure you're inhalers aren't expired.  If you're needing your albuterol more than 2 x per week, go see your doctor. 
  • Wipe your dog off after walking with a wet washcloth.  This will help prevent outdoor allergens from entering your home.
  • Spending the day in the park?  Take medicine before you go and shower when you get home to wash the pollen off of you.
  • Playing softball with your company?  Make sure you have extra anti-histamines & asthma medication in your sports bag.
  • If your symptoms are severe, prescription medication may be necessary.
See an allergist/immunologist to know exactly what you're allergic too. They can provide specific  advice on a treatment plan and avoidance measures.

Call the office if you need specific advice- 212-679-3574.  We are here to help. 

Good luck and enjoy the spring! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Food Allergy- the ugly, the bad, the good....

Peanut, egg, milk, seafood are common culprits of food allergy.  Severe and deadly reactions drive schools to be nut free and to have anaphylaxis plans in place.  But why the increase?  Why the severity?  Are there potential treatments or even a way of curing food allergy?

What's the ugly, the bad and the good for food allergy?

The Ugly
  • Food allergies affect about 8% of children and 5% of adults
  • These numbers have risen from by more than 50% since 1999
  • Peanut allergy increased from 0.4% to 1.4% over the same time period
  • Every 3 minutes someone has an allergic reaction to food sending them to the emergency room
  • Having food allergies doesn't potentially cause just a severe allergic reaction, but is associated with bullying, increased anxiety, and a lower quality of life.
The Bad
  • Eight foods account for 90 % of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction.
  • Risk factors for developing food allergies include:  male, race, family history of allergy, low vitamin D levels, and food preparation.  
  • Bottom line though is we don't know what causes food allergy.  There is probably a complex interaction between genetics and the environment leading causing the increase.
The Good
  • Can you out grow food allergy?  
    • Yes, luckily milk, egg, wheat and soy allergy generally resolve with age!  Unfortunately peanut and tree nut allergy persist.
  • Is there a potential treatment for food allergy?
    • Yes!
    • Research and trials are being done on slow oral desensitization for milk, egg, and peanut allergy.
    • Results are promising so stay tuned for updates.
Do you have food allergies and need help? Call the office so we can formalize an individual plan for you 212-679-3574 or schedule an appointment here.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Why Should you Feed Your Gut? The Importance of the Microbiome

What is a Microbiome?

  • Did you know that our guts (intestines) are filled with over 100 trillion bacteria?  Each part of our bodies has specific types of bacteria peacefully living.   These bacteria are called our microbiome
  • The microbiome helps teach our immune system what's safe not safe.  In doing so, they modulate our immune response.  
  • Our guts provide the microbiome a safe place to live.  It's definitely a mutually beneficial relationship.
Where Does the Micrbiome Come From?
  • We are colonized very early in life with a bacteria that will be with us through our entire life.
  • Typical species of bacteria living in our gut are:
    •  Bacterioides species is the most abundant species
    • Lactobacillus, Peptococcus, and E. Coli  along with others are also present.
  • Which bacteria are the most important to our digestion and absorption of nutrients?  
    • Bifdobacteria and Lactic acid bacteria.
Can you Alter Your Microbiome?
  • Yes...The food we eat and medications we take can alter our microbiome.  
  • Antibiotics can have a negative effect on the microbiome and change the balance of bacteria living within us. This can cause problems with our digestion- gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea
  • Foods we eat can change the microbiome- think active cultures in yogurts and probiotics 
  • Foods that bacteria like to eat and support their growth are called prebiotics. Important prebiotics are foods containing inulin and  trans-galactooligosaccharide.
  • Foods rich in these substances are Acaica gums, beans, and artichoke roots.  
Why is an Allergist Interested in the Microbiome?  
  • The microbiome helps teach our immune system what's safe and not safe.
  • More and more evidence suggests that changes with the microbiome can lead to allergic disease like food allergies, eczema and even asthma.
  • Stay tuned, the microbiome is an exciting area of research in allergy and immunology.
Have questions or need help with another allergic issue.  Call the office for a consultation 212-679-3574 or schedule an appointment here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

What Should You Know About Over the Counter Nasal Steriods?

The next time you’re at the local pharmacy, you may be surprised to see your prescribed allergy nasal spray available over-the-counter. Many drug manufacturers are pushing for this move to make finding relief easier for some of the 50 million Americans with allergies. But this warrants caution for some. 

Before you use these over the counter medication, what should you know about over the counter nasal steroids? 

1) Is it safe? Not only can the new nasal allergy spray relieve congestion, sneezing and a runny nose, it also does not cause drowsiness and is non-habit forming.  Improper use of nasal sprays may cause nasal bleeding and in worse case scenario a hole in your nose.   Follow the package instructions and inform your allergist if bleeding and/or irritation occurs.

2) If I'm controlled with this nasal spray, why should I still see an Allergist?  
  • Allergies and asthma are serious diseases and self medicating may not be the best way of controlling your symptoms. 
  • Getting testing for allergies and instituting environmental controls are powerful ways to prevent allergies without using medication.  An allergist is the best person to advise you on this.  Many allergy sufferers that have year-round allergies to pets, dust and mold often find nasal sprays are not enough for symptom relief. Many allergists prescribe immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots), which not only provides symptom relief, but can modify and prevent disease progression.
  • Asthma is a disease commonly found in people with allergies in their nose.  An allergist can screen you for this. 
3) Can I stop antihistamines? If you find solely using the nasal allergy spray is helping to suppress your symptoms, you may not need to take an antihistamine. Each person is different and they will have to be the judge of how they feel only using one medication. However, if you’re not finding relief from one or both medications, you should speak with your allergist.

4) Is it safe to give my child?
The medication is approved for children two-years and older. But it may complicate some infections your child might have, so check with your allergist.

5) Can it be used year-round?
Yes, it is approved for year-round use.  As with any over the counter medication, you should speak with your doctor about long term use.

6) Will my insurance cover it?
It is unlikely your insurance provider will cover over-the-counter nasal allergy sprays, even if it was covered when it was prescribed.

7) Do I need to continue following up with my allergist?
Allergy sprays are a band aid approach to allergies and only control symptoms.  They do not a cure for allergy. Because allergies can change over time, it’s important to be under the care of an allergist for proper testing, diagnosis and treatment that may go beyond over-the-counter medications. Allergies can also cause symptoms such as chronic sinus infections, nasal congestion or difficulty breathing.

Need more help controlling your allergies?  Please call 212-679-3574 or click here to schedule an appointment online. 



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to Celebrate Valentine's Day with Allergies?

Valentine's day can be an especially difficult time for persons with allergic disease.  Most consider only food allergies as a problem, but uncontrolled asthma, latex allergy, allergic skin, or allergic sinusitis symptoms can impact your ability to feel romantic with your partner. 

What should you do if you suffer from allergies around Valentine's Day?  Here are some simple tips to keep you giving and receiving the love that abounds this time of the year.

Love someone with food allergies?
  • Make homemade treats for your sweetie so you'll be sure not to include ingredient. 
  • Too busy to bake?  Divvies is a wonderful company launched by a mom with children with food allergies.  The idea is to have snacks persons with food allergies can share with others. Premium Chocolatiers, Amandas Own and Vermont Nut Free are other options to order allergy free chocolates.
  • Making reservations for a date night out?  Notify the restaurant before you go of any allergies you or your loved one  have to prevent an accidental exposure.  Here's a list of allergy friendly restaurants in NYC.
  • Want to give a good night kiss?  Many food allergies are transferred in saliva.  If your dating someone with food allergies, it's smart to watch what you've eaten as well. 
Want to send flowers? 
  • Pollen from flowers is a common cause of allergic asthma. 
  • What are the best flowers to send those with allergies? Orchids, begonia, cactus, clematis, columbine, crocus, daffodil and geraniums are terrific options.
  • Use caution with flowers like lilies, chamomile, chrysanthemums, daisies, goldenrod and ordinary sunflowers are among the worst. They have strong pollens that can often cause a severe allergic reaction.
Ordering up a Massage?
  • Use caution with new creams and oils.  Many suffer from allergies in their skin and new contact exposures can trigger an out break.
  • Beware many organic products contain nut oils.  These can trigger a reaction.
Want to be Very Intimate?
  • Latex allergy with condoms can cause severe irritation during sex.  I've had patients with latex allergy who ended up in the emergency room after a night of passion because of latex allergy. 
  • If you're loved one is latex allergic make sure to use latex free condoms and other latex free products.
  • Visit Latex Allergy Resources for more specific advice.
Follow this simple advice to keep the focus on the love rather than the allergy this upcoming Valentine's Day.

Need more specific advice?  Contact me in my office at 212-679-3574 
or on line schedule appointment.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Why Test For Allergy?

It's hard to believe that the spring is just around the corner with temperatures here in NYC still in the 20's and ice covering the sidewalks, but soon trees and flowers will be blooming.  And, with their blooms, will come spring time allergies. 

  • Did you know that 1 out of 3 people are allergic? 
    • Allergies often cause social embarrassment, missed days of school and/or work, and can leave you feeling like you have a cold that won't go away.
    • Don't suffer without knowing that allergies are the cause.
  • Avoid Being Treated with Antibiotics When it's Actually an Allergy. 
    • Allergies are often mistaken for a cold and/or sinus infection and treated with antibiotics.   Minimizing your exposure to antibiotics is important because of increasing rates of bacterial resistance.
    • Antibiotics won't help symptoms associated with allergies.  You need the right type of medication.  An allergist/immunologist will give you personalized guidance on avoidance measures.
  • Know Your Allergic Triggers- Get Tested
    • Most people in the U.S. are allergic to more than one allergen.
    • Knowing a full composite of what your allergic to, can aid in helping you to use avoidance measures rather than just medications.
    • Testing for allergies is a painless test that's done through skin prick testing.
  • Allergies Change Over Time
    • Many people ask me how they can develop allergies when they never suffered before.  Allergies can develop and change at any point in your life.  New sensitizations can pop up and if you're lucky resolve.
    • Being testing on an interval basis will help you keep up to date with what you are sensitized to so you can have a direct approach.
  • Not All Allergy Runs in Families
    • While many people with allergic disease will have a family history of disease, you may be the only one with symptoms.
    • While they may not understand, I do....
Don't be left out of enjoying spring because your nose is running, the end of winter is the perfect time to get checked for allergies and make sure you have medications to treat your symptoms.  Get tested before the ice melts and temperatures melt so you can enjoy spring to it's fullest.

Want help or more information on testing for allergies?  Contact the office at 212-6793574 , Gramercy Allergy & Asthma, 205 East 22nd Street, NY NY 10010 or visit our website www.gramercyallergy.com

Thursday, January 30, 2014

What is Shellac Allergy?

Cosmetic allergy is a common complaint I hear in my practice.  Symptoms include swollen red eyes, irritated eyes, flaking of the eyelids, or redness/rash around the mouth.  Sometimes, individuals will be treated for eczema, when in fact they are allergic to their cosmetic. Once you identify what the chemical is that's causing the irritation, avoiding it leads to a cure.

A common cause of cosmetic allergy is shellac.  Shellac is a natural plastic resin secreted by a lac bug ( Laccifer lacca) onto the bark of trees that's been in common use for over 3000 years.  Shellac is FDA approved to be used in cosmetics, foods, and medications.

Where is shellac found?
  • In cosmetics like lip gloss, mascara, hair spray, eye liner and finger nail polish
  • Dentures
  • Furniture and painting glazes
  •  Shellac is found on the outside of fruits and vegetables to make them shiny (think apples, and peppers)
  • On the inside of ice cream cones where it acts as a moisture barrier.
  • Pharmaceutical companies use it to prevent breakdown in the stomach or in time released medications.
Can you be allergic to shellac?
  • Yes...
  • While shellac allergy is not common, it is a common cause of eye lid dermatitis because of it's presence in cosmetics.
  • If you ingest it in food and are allergic, it can cause abdominal pain, bloating, and irritation.
  • We don't know the incidence of shellac allergy. 
How can you be tested for shellac allergy?
  • Your doctor if they suspect shellac allergy will "patch test" you for common chemicals present in cosmetics and look to see which one causes a rash.
Want to read more about cosmetic allergy?

Need help with deciphering a cosmetic allergy?
Please call the office for an appointment and we'll be glad to help- 212-679-35754

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What is Allergic Asthma?

What is Allergic Asthma?
  • Allergic asthma affects almost 60% of asthmatics
  • There is a history of cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or wheezing around an allergic trigger.
  • Allergic triggers can be pollens, cats/dogs, dust, or cockroaches, or molds.  This will present with asthma symptoms in season (spring, fall or summer) or with exposure to other triggers.
  • Often there is a family history of allergies
  • Often there is a personal history of an allergic nose, eczema or food allergies as a child.

What should you do if you suspect you have allergic asthma?
  • Get tested for allergies.  You doctor or allergist can do simple skin or blood testing to identify what your triggers are.
  • Ask your doctor to check a total immunoglobulin E.  This is an important marker of allergic asthma
Is there treatment for allergic asthma?
  • YES!  Your allergist will recommend avoidance measures, medications and based on your symptoms may recommend allergy treatment.

Want more information?  Please contact me at 212-679-3574 or www.gramercyallergy.com

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to deal with asthma when it's bitter cold....

Burr, it's cold outside!  Asthma, chronic inflammation of the the airways and lungs, is commonly triggered by cold temperatures.  With over 1.1 million New Yorkers suffering from asthma, I thought it might be a good idea to give you some tips on preventing an asthma attack.  

Here are 5 tips for preventing an asthma attack when the temperature drops!
1) Use a scarf.

  • Warming air before it enters your lungs can help prevent an asthma attack.
2) Breath via your nose.

  •  Your nose is specially designed to air before it enters into your lungs.

3) Keep well hydrated.

  •  Drinking plenty of water will keep your lungs hydrated from the inside out.  When your lungs are dehydrated you're more likely to have an asthma attack.

4)  Use your inhaler.

  • Use your albuterol inhaler (rescue inhaler) 15-30 minutes before going outside if your asthma is commonly triggered by cold weather.

5) Keep your inhaler warm.

  • Keeping your inhaler in an inside pocket near your body will keep the medicine warm.  Warming the medicine will prevent for a cold spray of medicine into your lungs.
Symptoms of asthma are cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath and wheezing. If you experience any of these and can't get them under control, contact your doctor or the emergency room.  Need my help?  Contact me in the office at 212-679-3574.