There are many symptoms of evidence for those unfortunate people who are afflicted by pollen allergies, including persistent runny noses, constant itching, sneezing, and eye irritation. These symptoms, in turn, can lead to other problems such as fatigue, and when medications are used to control the symptoms associated with allergies, that can make a person very drowsy and much less alert.
Scientists are now beginning to study the relationship between high pollen count and the performance of children in school and adults at work. There’s long been a suspicion that there would be a correlation between the two, but until scientific evidence was available to support it, that remained only a suspicion.
This discussion will focus on some recent studies which have been performed, that demonstrate a significant relationship between high pollen counts in the environment and lower performance in school-aged children and adult workers.
Impact of High Pollen Count on Students
Studies conducted at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology by Simon Bensnes have examined the connection between high pollen counts and exam performance on students. The study conducted by Bensnes at that university evaluated the results of year-end exams during a four-year period from 2008 through 2011.
Between 25% and 30% of Norwegian young people have symptoms attributable to pollen allergies, primarily among males. The study closely studied exam scores in specific locations and on specific dates and related that information to the local pollen count on those exam days. The results of the study showed that students exposed to higher pollen counts were definitely impacted by them, especially those students who had pollen allergies.
Whenever the pollen count increased by as much as 20 pollen grains per cubic meter (one standard deviation), the grade of an average student dropped by approximately 2.5%. Assuming that pupils with no pollen allergies suffer no ill effects from the pollen count, results of the study show clearly that one out of every 10 students with a pollen allergy dropped at least one grade, whenever the pollen count increased by as much as a standard deviation.
High Pollen Count Equals Lower Grades
Information gathered from the study made it clear that students who do suffer from pollen allergies tend to get lower grades on exams, on those days where the pollen count increased significantly. After the study was concluded, Bensnes shifted his focus to a higher education setting, attempting to find out if similar results would be reflected by students at an older age.
His findings supported the same kind of statistics that he encountered at the lower academic levels. Whenever random increases in pollen count occurred on the days of exams for students who were allergic to pollen, there was a corresponding downturn in the average exam score for those students. His conclusions were that results demonstrated a clear correlation between increased pollen counts and lower exam scores, ostensibly because students were significantly distracted by the symptoms they were forced to deal with while taking those examinations.
U.S. figures indicate that American schoolchildren miss approximately 2 million school days every single year because of pollen allergies, which keep them in misery. While students with allergies are often given slight accommodations in the form of extended time for taking exams, this doesn’t always produce the desired results. In the same study conducted in Norway by Bensnes, results showed that students with pollen allergies were still at a disadvantage, even when they were given extended time to complete their examinations.
Impact of High Pollen Count on Working Adults
Statistics compiled in Sweden demonstrate that hay fever costs in the neighborhood of SEK 2.7 billion every year, mainly due to absenteeism of employees. Presumably, symptoms caused by hay fever are severe enough that people simply don’t feel up to going to work, and having to deal with all those annoying issues whenever the pollen count would rise significantly.
A study conducted in the US discovered that hay fever victims were subject to reduced mental activity speeds during pollen season, as opposed to any other times of the year. Another study intentionally exposed people with allergies to pollen in a controlled setting, so that the effects could be measured relative to decreased memory, less accurate computation abilities, slower reasoning, and overall reduced mental function, compared to test subjects who had no allergies.
How to Cope With High Pollen Count
So what’s the bottom line for people with pollen allergies? How do students avoid getting lower test scores, how do adults cope with a reduced performance at work, and how do both groups avoid absenteeism whenever pollen counts rise in a given location? Doctors recognize that there is no way that pollen can be completely avoided, simply because it’s all around us in the flowers, trees, grasses, and weeds. However, there are a few things you can do to minimize how pollen count impacts you.
First of all, people who know they have allergies should make a point of checking the pollen count each day, which is available from the National Allergy Bureau. Next, you should find out from your doctor exactly which things you are allergic to, and when you are aware that the particular type of pollen is peaking, you can take preventive measures such as medication. You can also stay indoors when you know the pollen count is high, you can protect yourself when you do have to go outside, and you can take the most effective medication for your type of allergy.
There are a lot of wonderful things about springtime that makes people very anxious for its arrival, as winter snows and cold weather begins to fade away. But for the millions of people afflicted by allergies, there can be a serious downside to the spring season as well. This is the time of year when pollen count increases dramatically, along with mold and other airborne irritants. All of these will have allergy sufferers scrambling for tissues, eye drops, and allergy medications.
Once the allergy season gets in full swing, it’s difficult to do anything but manage the symptoms of your allergies and try your best to reduce the misery you go through on a daily basis. However, before your allergies really have a chance to ramp up, there are some things you can do proactively to minimize the effects you might be subject to during the full season.
Consult Your Allergist
Rather than waiting for allergies to come to you, why not get ahead of the game this season and consult your allergist before things get out of control? Talk to your doctor about which antihistamines work best, and which have been shown to be the most effective in your area of the country. There are different plants and weeds in every area, so the medications which are most effective for your particular region might be the ones you should start using. Ideally, you should also settle on an antihistamine which doesn’t make you drowsy at work.
Close out Pollen
To whatever extent is reasonably possible, try to keep pollen and other irritants out of your home, so that at least you can enjoy a safe haven from them when you’re not physically outdoors. This will mean keeping doors and windows shut so that pollen and other materials can’t invade the home. If you haven’t done your spring cleaning yet, make sure to clean the carpeting and upholstery, and change the air filters so that they can effectively trap anything that does get indoors.
When you do have to make trips outdoors, you might want to get into the habit of changing your clothes once you’re inside. Pollen is known to stick to many different fabrics, and you’ll be giving them a free ride into your home, and then wearing them for a while unless you change immediately.
Showering before bedtime is another good idea because any pollen which has attached itself to you will be transferred down the drain, instead of onto your pillow where it can torment you through the night. Make sure your air conditioning filters are high-quality filters that trap a very high percentage of all pollutants and pollen so that it doesn’t keep circulating around the home.
Be on the Lookout for Mold
Pollen isn’t the only irritant you need to be on the lookout for, because mold is another pollutant which can trigger and aggravate your allergy symptoms. There are several common places where mold can routinely have the best chance for forming and developing, including your kitchen, basement, and bathroom, all of which are areas having considerable moisture, and providing an opportunity for leaks.
When you do discover mold in any area of the household, you should remove it promptly with water and a disinfectant cleaner. If mold has settled on any fabrics in your home, try to clean them off with soap and water, but if that fails, you will probably be forced to throw them away. This might seem undesirable from the standpoint of losing a favored item of your wardrobe, but if mold can’t be removed, it will only come back to torment you the rest of the season.
Make a systematic examination of your household to find any leaks there may be around windows or pipes, or anywhere around your roof. When you do find any leaks, repair them as quickly as possible, and make sure there is no material which remains saturated with water, allowing mold to grow.
After you’ve done your mold investigation and cleanup, if you discover any persistent re-growth of mold, you’ll need to check again for any leaks, or you may have to check on the level of ventilation in that particular room. If air can’t circulate in any specific area, it’s possible that moisture can accumulate as the temperature rises, and that can also promote the growth of mold.
Plan Your Outdoor Visits Wisely
Obviously, you won’t get through an entire pollen season without going outdoors, even if you’re one of those people who doesn’t mind being shut in for a relatively long period of time. But you can plan ahead of time to avoid the very worst times of day for peak pollen count, and then stay indoors when you know those are in effect.
Early mornings often have such high pollen counts, so it would be better to plan your outdoor trips later in the day to avoid getting exposed to too much pollen. When you have an extended stretch of weather which is hot and dry, that can also be prime pollen count time and something to be avoided. Rainy days are generally much lower for pollen count, so if you don’t mind getting a little wet, and you don’t mind the gloom of a rainy day, those might be the best days for you to be more active outside.
Some things stay controversial, and the debate over pets and allergies has been going on for some time. Can you have pets when you have allergies? How will it affect you? Why do pets trigger allergies in the first place? Since our furry, feathery friends can add so much to our lives, it seems sad we should be restricted due to such a common health issue like pet allergies.
What Causes Pet Allergies?
Before we go any further, we should note that everybody is unique so will have different types of pet allergies and different things that set off the condition. For example, some people might be allergic to just dogs while others are allergic to cats, horses, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice, rabbits, gerbils, and even birds.
When it comes to pet allergies themselves, they commonly develop in children, but they can also show at any stage of life. Even if you had a cat for the first twenty years of your life with no problems, you could still get a cat at 40 and suddenly see a reaction. Regardless of when it develops, pet allergies are what we call ‘allergic asthma.’ Proteins from their skin, known as ‘dander,’ irritate your immune system.
If you’re sensitive to these particular proteins, the immune system overreacts after touching or inhaling the allergen and this releases histamine thus leading to an allergic reaction. If you have allergies or asthma, the release of histamines will worsen the symptoms.
Unfortunately, family pets can be a trigger of allergy and asthma attacks, but this doesn’t mean you need to give up your pet or put your dream of having a pet aside just yet. First things first, talk with your doctor, and they should be able to assess the severity of your case. From here, you should consult with your vet. Since physicians aren’t typically trained giving you advice for living with pets, professional vets will probably provide you with the best opportunity to live harmoniously.
As you work with your vet, they’re likely to present you with tips that’ll lessen the effects of having the pet and, hopefully, reduce the symptoms you see. For example, regular vacuuming to control pet dander will be necessary, as will keeping your pet from your bedroom. Considering you need to avoid the allergen to prevent an allergy attack, it’s best to keep your pet from living spaces, so you have allergen-free sections of your home.
Furthermore, your vet will recommend keeping all bedding clean while also considering dust mite covers, and this is because dust mites enjoy eating pet dander. As an alternative solution, you can try some shampoos and sprays on the market that have been designed to neutralize all dander. Ultimately, it’s about being sensible and doing all you can to avoid pet dander from ruling your home.
Talk To Your Doctor or Allergist
If the tips above haven’t helped or you’ve tried them before, it’s now time to talk with your doctor again because they should help you to find what’s actually causing the allergy symptoms. Rather than assuming the pet is the cause, the doctor should be able to test for pet allergies to see the primary contributing factor to your allergies. From here, they can suggest advice, or you may find that your condition just doesn’t allow you to live safely with your current pet. If you need to find a new home for your friend, your vet should be able to help you with this.
As we’ve said previously, this doesn’t mean you can’t have a little companion by your side because all pets are different. While all dogs (and other pets) shed, some will shed less than others. These pets may be more compatible with your health concerns. With these hypoallergenic pet breeds, you might be able to live comfortably by applying the tips listed previously.
Ultimately, we recommend spending time with the type of pet you wish to adopt so you can learn whether you can both live happily together. If the pet doesn’t trigger your allergies, you may just have found a new home for a pet and a happy future for yourself. Before committing though, we recommend taking them home and spending time together in different environments just to be sure.
Are allergies genetic, hereditary, developed over time? No matter how you ask it, you seem to have stumbled across one of the most popular questions regarding allergies (after “how do I cope with allergies because they’re driving me crazy,”of course). Whether you’re starting to develop similar allergies to your parents or perhaps you’re noticing the signs in your own children, you might be wondering whether allergies can be passed down from one generation to the next.
To answer this question, we first need to deal with the word “allergy” and what it actually means. In truth, it’s quite a broad term and covers any abnormal reaction to substances that are, generally speaking, harmless to the masses. Known as ˜allergens,”these substances can be found outside, inside, in our foods, and in a variety of other locations in life.
With each allergen offering something different, the reactions and symptoms of a reaction can be very different. For pollen, for example, you might experience a runny nose, red eyes, itchy ears, watery eyes, scratchy throat, or perhaps something else. With animal dander, dust mites, and mold, the symptoms are very similar but may vary in how often one occurs over the other. Finally, more severe symptoms can include coughs, sinus headaches, and facial pain.
True or False: Are Allergies Genetic?
So, to what extent are allergies genetic? All things considered, there are many ways in which we can develop allergies and our genes are included in this list. Often, parents will pass these allergy genes to their children who will then suffer the same (or similar) allergies throughout their life. Of course, this isn’t to say that, if you have allergies, your children or potential children will definitely develop the same allergies. While some children will develop them, others will develop different allergies, while a third group won’t develop any allergies at all so each case is unique.
At this point, we should note that the allergy cannot be passed from parent to child. In what sense then, are allergies genetic? Instead, it’s the tendency to be allergic to a certain substance that’s passed on. Today, this is a common misconception even though the difference is quite significant.
Overall, we can say that children belonging to parents with allergies are more likely to see allergies themselves. This being said, it’s important for all parents to have their children tested for the same allergies if any symptoms show. As long as you’re alert and aware of your child’s behavior, you can approach your doctor and have the best case of treatment installed. To diagnose allergies, the doctor will ask for the medical history of your child (or yourself if you’re experiencing the symptoms) before then performing certain physical tests. If allergies are present but the doctor can’t quite pinpoint the issue, allergy skin testing may be used.
As soon as the issue has been highlighted, the right treatment can be put into place to keep the allergies under control in the time ahead. Rather than ignoring it and hoping for the best, medication can control the allergies and make the experience a little easier to bear.
Regardless of whether it’s your children, yourself, or even a friend or family member, your doctor might also recommend allergen immunotherapy. If the issue is severe and affecting everyday life, this treatment will gradually desensitize the body to the allergen causing the problems. As the body starts to recover, not as much medication will be required and the symptoms should reduce.
Studies and Research
A recent study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology noted how allergies can also be gender-related as well as just inherited. For the longest time, it was assumed all allergies came from the mother. With this discovery, it means the mother is more likely to pass allergies to her daughter while a father is more likely to pass allergies to his son.
Finally, there has also been some interesting research on twins. If they share the same 25,000 genes (identical twins), there’s a 60% chance of both being allergic to peanuts if one is allergic to peanuts. If only 50% of the genes are shared (fraternal twins), this rate decreases to just 7%.
Ultimately, as we’ve seen all the way through, genes do play a role in passing these allergies along. However, this role is still largely undefined and we’ll only find out how it all works when researchers make a substantial breakthrough!
For the most part, there’s not much we can do to control the allergens and wider environment outside. However, we can control what’s inside our home and today we have some simple yet effective tips for reducing indoor allergens both now and long into the future.
Common Indoor Allergens
First and foremost, we should note that the most common allergens you might experience in your home include pet dander, food, cockroaches, mold, dust, and dust mite droppings. For the people inside your home, this can lead to allergic reactions, eczema flare-ups, and asthma spells. Therefore, prevention will always be better than the cure and you should be looking to remove these indoor allergens before doing anything else.
At first, this might seem like mission impossible because your home is a large place to cover all in one sitting. For this reason, today we’re concentrating on the most common hiding places for indoor allergens. By targeting the allergens at their source, you can keep issues to a minimum and breathe freely in your own home.
As a starting point, you should be aiming for the cleanest possible air and this comes from some form of indoor air cleaner such as a High Efficiency Particulate Arresting (HEPA) air purifier. By recycling the air and capturing allergen particles, your home can be free from dust mite debris and pet dander for some time to come.
While on the note of clean air, we also recommend moving your spring cleaning. If you leave the cleaning until later in the season, allergens will make their way into the home as soon as you open the windows to let your house breathe. For example, pollen is a big one in spring and an issue that will cause havoc for many.
With the air as clean as possible, the next area to target should be your bedroom because this should be your haven from the world. As well as cleaning your bedsheets regularly, you should also keep pets away from your bedroom and invest in dust-proof pillows and mattress. Since dust mites feed on the dead skin cells found within the bed sheets, cleaning them in hot water is important to kill them off and ensure your sheets are free from dust mites at all times.
If you have a high pile or shaggy carpet, this is the perfect breeding ground for dust mites so a weekly vacuum is essential. If you have pets, make this more frequent and this will keep your carpet as clean as possible. Every 12 to 18 months, we also recommend a professional steam as this will pull all deep-rooted stains and dust. Since the flooring covers the whole house, this is important for removing allergens and staying healthy in your home.
Often, we tend to build piles of what can only be described as ‘stuff’ around the home. Whether it’s magazines, paper, or clothing, they end up being forgotten and it creates a safe home for cockroaches. Over time, they’ll shed body parts, leave feces, and drop saliva all over the place and this will be awful for those with allergies and asthma.
While on the topic of cockroaches, you’ll need to keep an eye on your appliances to ensure all food debris is cleaned every so often. In your oven, microwave, toaster, and other appliances, the best way to remove the threat of cockroaches is to keep their food source to a minimum.
Sure, you wash all bedding once it gets pulled from your bed but how long does it stay in the linen closet after being washed? If you have three or four sets of linen on rotation, dust mites will build by the time you come to use the set and this can be dangerous. If you have sets that don’t even make their way out of the closet, they’ll be a hive of activity for dust mites which immediately taints everything else nearby. To prevent this, we highly recommend cleaning all linen with hot water even if (or especially if) it hasn’t been used for a while.
Finally, we recommend investing in a small humidity monitor because mold and mildew thrive in humid areas. If you can keep an eye on the most humid areas within the home, you should be able to prevent the growth of mold thus also preventing issues for those with allergies and asthma. Let’s not forget, mold can affect the respiratory system of even healthy people so it’s always best to keep your home free from the problem!
If you have allergies but you dislike having your allergy medicine injected intravenously, there is another solution – sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). If you’re surprised this solution even exists, you aren’t alone. There is a general lack of information available regarding this topic. With this in mind, we’ve decided discuss sublingual immunotherapy so you can decide whether it can benefit you.
What Is Sublingual Immunotherapy?
With many preventative medicines, they expose your body to a small amount of the disease or illness in order to build your immunity. For example, your seasonal flu vaccine works the same way – you’re given a small amount of the virus and this allows the body to recognize the virus and then build an immunity. For some, they’ll experience a light cold for a couple of days after but the idea is that it prevents a heavier illness later in the season.
With sublingual immunotherapy, an allergist (or you, but we’ll discuss this later) will give you tiny amounts of the allergen underneath the tongue. In the same way we’ve seen, this allows the body to build a tolerance to the illness and prevent symptoms from occurring. At this time, many different allergens are actually being tested within the United States. However, not all of these solutions are ready for administration or even available just yet. New tests are constantly being performed by the FDA, hopefully leading to more allergy solutions in the future.
Will You Benefit From Sublingual Immunotherapy?
Currently, if your body has an overreaction to allergens within the immune system, you could benefit. Available for both adults and children, sublingual immunotherapy is designed for those who suffer from this overreaction (allergic rhinitis) more than once a year. Furthermore, you may also benefit if your existing treatments aren’t sufficiently addressing your allergy concerns. Sometimes, the traditional treatments can become ineffective and this is where SLIT gets to work.
If you have mild allergies or you only experience an illness every so often, SLIT may not be recommended. Elsewhere, you might also be dissuaded from this treatment if your mild allergies can be contained with traditional medicine. Until the procedure becomes more common and accessible, only the most severe cases will be considered for this treatment
Is It Safe and Effective?
Whenever the topic of SLIT arises, the questions of safety and effectiveness aren’t far behind. First and foremost, there has been several clinical trials and surveys over the past two decades alone that show SLIT is safe for all patients. Furthermore, it’s also effective for those that suffer with allergies for cat dander, tree pollens, dust mites, ragweed, and even grass.
As time goes on, we’re also getting more evidence to suggest its use in the treatment of the itchy red eyes that often comes with pollen during the worst time of year for sufferers; hay fever season. Also, we should note an ongoing study investigating the relationship between SLIT and children with eczema as well as treating certain food allergies. With these studies and the general excitement surrounding the topic, it’s fair to say there is potential in SLIT and the coming years could be very important.
Are There Any Risks Associated With Sublingual Immunotherapy?
Compared to other treatment methods, the risks aren’t exactly severe but many worry about the fact it’s normally administered at home without any supervision from a professional. If you’re considering this treatment, we highly recommend discussing the option with an allergist because they can provide you with advice while informing you of how to manage adverse reactions. Additionally, you’ll learn what is and isn’t normal in the time after the treatment.
To finish, we have some extra information you should know about sublingual immunotherapy including the fact it’s used within the gold standard of care throughout much of Europe. However, it remains as an ‘off-label’ solution in the US by the FDA despite the support it’s received from many professional bodies including the American Academy of Otolaryngic Allergy (AAOA). This being said, more products are now being approved and the growing number of studies/evidence falling in the ’positive’ column could certainly change this.
For now, you’ll have to pay out of pocket since it isn’t covered on most insurance policies. After the treatment has been administered, you should start to see results after six months so it isn’t an instant solution. On a positive note, the effects can last up to five years with symptom improvement continuing even after this.
Ultimately, a conversation with your doctor and allergist is always advised as they can tell you whether or not you would benefit from sublingual immunotherapy. If they advise against it, they may just suggest a more effective medicine you haven’t yet tried for your allergies!
Allergies are a major cause of stress and discomfort for millions of people around the world. In America alone, we have approximately 50 million people suffering from this disease. Various medicines and treatments exist to ease allergy symptoms; however, these methods are no cure. Scientists at the University of Queensland are looking into a possible life-long treatment for severe allergies. Find out if there’s hope for a cure.
How Allergies Work
An allergy is a response from your immune system, an indicator that you are hypersensitive to certain substances. These allergens vary from person to person. Some people are allergic to certain plants, foods, drugs, materials or bugs. Even dust in the air is a potential allergen for someone suffering from the disease. When the body comes into contact with any of these allergens, it overreacts, causing allergy sufferers to experience coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, and more.
New Allergy Treatment
In a study using animal, Associate Professor Ray Steptoe at the UQ Diamantina Institute essentially ‘turned-off’ the immune response.
“Our work used an experimental asthma allergen, but this research could be applied to treat those who have severe allergies to peanuts, bee venom, shell fish and other substances,” says Professor Steptoe. “We take blood stem cells, insert a gene which regulates the allergen protein and we put that into the recipient. Those engineered cells produce new blood cells that express the protein and target specific immune cells, ‘turning off’ the allergic response.”
This research could mean significant progress towards curing allergy sufferers of their dilemma. Most current allergy treatments are effective but temporary. Patients have to keep taking these treatments and medications to relieve symptoms.
Professor Steptoe explains that “When someone has an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms they experience results from immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen. The challenge in asthma and allergies is that these immune cells, known as T-cells, develop a form of immune ‘memory’ and become very resistant to treatments.”
The Next Step in Research
The gene therapy is still in its early stages. Now that the animal trails have proven successful, Professor Steptoe hopes to move onto the next step – human trials.
“We have now been able ‘wipe’ the memory of these T-cells in animals with gene therapy, de-sensitising the immune system so that it tolerates the protein,” says Professor Steptoe. “We haven’t quite got it to the point where it’s as simple as getting a flu jab, so we are working on making it simpler and safer so it could be used across a wide cross-section of affected individuals.”
Professor Steptoe is working from Australia, which has more than 2 million residents with allergies. By testing the gene therapy with human cells, scientists can discover if the treatment is effective in people. The researchers might also discover if the gene therapy negatively effects the immune system altogether. For now, more research needs to be done and hopefully, it can lead to a single treatment cure for people suffering from allergies.
If you have allergy symptoms, we suggest visiting an ENT doctor. They have experience helping patients find a way to live with allergy symptoms.
Dealing with allergies can be difficult, especially during childhood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 10% of children (under the age of 18) have experienced respiratory allergies. It is difficult for kids, who are dealing with childhood allergies, to avoid anything that will trigger their symptoms. However, it is more important for parents to make sure they that their children are safe in places like school.
Are Childhood Allergies Safe at School?
Airborne allergens come in many forms, from pollen to dust mites. However, if you want your children to remain safe, it is important to know where they accumulate. This means making sure that schools are allergen-free. The problem is that some educational institutions contain airborne allergens. These allergens trigger the symptoms of children, putting them at risk.
Wanda Phipatanakul of Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School conducted a recent study. She and other researchers sought to find out if airborne allergen affected kids in school. By examining 37 inner-city schools, they were able to detect if there were any common indoor allergens. Surprisingly, there are not many.
Researchers found that these schools contained a high level of mouse allergens. These were the biggest cause of severe asthma symptoms. Researchers also found a very low amount of other allergy triggers. This includes dust mites, cockroaches, and rats.
Schools seem to keep themselves clean. However, given the location of the study, it is understandable why mice are a problem. Inner-cities have high populations of mice. Their feces are a known allergy trigger. If they are not kept out of the schools, it can be bad for many kids. Parents expect their children to learn in a safe environment, free from any possible danger.
The authors had this to say about their findings: “Exposure Reduction strategies in the school may effectively and efficiently benefit all children with asthma. Future school-based environmental intervention studies may be warranted.”
We’ve known for some years that antibiotics don’t help most bronchitis cases and other respiratory problems, like sinusitis. In fact, taking antibiotics isn’t as effective for treating bacterial sinusitis as is widely believed. The American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery Foundation says antibiotics fare only slightly better than waiting for the infection to go away on its own. This scant improvement is most likely not worth taking antibiotics. Yet over-prescribing antibiotics persists—even when they don’t help and can even hurt — a study says.
A new study published last month in the American Journal of Managed Care reports that particularly with urgent care, primary care and emergency departments, clinicians seldom follow evidence-based care guidelines for the treatment of common sinusitis. The study criticizes several clinical practices such as over-prescribing antibiotics and over-ordering CT scans.
From the report, only 29 percent of adult acute sinusitis encounters followed accepted clinical guidelines for the prescription of antibiotics, according to the Kaiser Permanente study. And they found the ordering of CT scans more likely in emergency room visits, resulting in expensive imaging tests.
Sinusitis strikes nearly 31 million Americans per year, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, costing around $3 billion because of tests and procedures, outpatient and emergency department visits, and medication. It is one of the most prescribed conditions for which antibiotics are used, but national clinical guidelines state that antibiotics should only be used when it lasts more than seven days.
Providers may be going against what is suggested by current guidelines, the researchers suggest, resulting in unacceptable standards of care. From the study, antibiotics were prescribed in 89.2 percent of the 152,774 EHR encounters. Nearly 50 percent of these encounters were with patients having symptoms for fewer than seven days.
Granted, each recorded visit entails a different set of symptoms with unique circumstances, especially for those presenting the most urgent and severe symptoms. But from the study, over 75% of the cases took place at the primary care providers’ offices. This number is much too high, considering that most patients were given antibiotics when they had only exhibited symptoms for less than 7 days. We understand the importance of immediate relief, but it’s the long-term harm that should be overriding our decisions.
Despite the frequency of acute sinusitis cases, treatment and prescription habits have not been closely monitored. “A clear understanding of current practices requires awareness of how acute sinusitis is treated in different acute care settings,” say the researchers, from Kaiser Permanente’s large, integrated Southern California system.
This study points to how we as healthcare providers need to better understand and coordinate acute care services in order to achieve the triple crown of health care: that is, improving the patient-care experience, the overall population’s health, and reducing healthcare costs.
The age-old problem of over-prescribing antibiotics may be partly due to the difficulty in differentiating bacterial sinusitis infections from the more common viral ones. To help clinicians identify patients who are likely to benefit from antibiotics for acute sinusitis, the most pragmatic and evidence-based approach is to focus on the patient’s length of symptoms.
Allergy and Asthma Attacks: Being Prepared For The Worst
Being caught off guard from an allergy attack that triggers asthma can create a feeling of helplessness and panic. While avoiding your own personal allergen triggers as much as possible is a good idea, they cannot always be avoided. Certain factors are always going to be out of your control. Yet, there are ways to be prepared for a combination of allergy and asthma attacks so, if it does happen, you can handle it quickly, calmly, and effectively.
The first thing you need, of course, is to make sure your medications are on hand. Knowing how to use your medications properly is vital but knowing when to use them is just as important. For example, you should know what to take for quick relief at the onset of an attack and what medicines should be used daily for prevention. Also, check the expiration dates, as expired medications may not be potent when you need them the most. From time to time you should check with your physician to make sure your dosages are correct. If you notice, for example, that it is taking a while for a fast-acting drug to take effect, you should inform your doctor. There could be several reasons the drug is not working the way it should work or the way it used to work for you. The medicine may be out of date, you may require a higher dose or it may be time for a completely different drug.
People who suffer from allergies should always be aware of their surroundings. Checking the local weather and air reports can help you to decide whether to stay indoors or to opt for a walk in the park. If the pollen counts are high it may be time to wear a mask when you have to go outdoors. Just like a forecast lets you decide whether to bring your umbrella, an air quality report can help you to be prepared for potential allergic reactions.
Should an attack suddenly occur, and it may, remember to remain calm. Panicking can make matters worse. If you have thought this out before hand, you will have a plan of action and your medications on hand. You will know that you will be alright and, with this knowledge, you know there is no need to panic. Remember to just breathe. Calming exercises, which you should practice during stress-free times at home, can help you control breathing and relax you when the attack hits.
It’s not possible to be ready for everything that life throws our way. However, we can be ready for sudden allergy and asthma attacks. Being prepared can go a long way to putting one’s mind at ease. Then you can handle an attack—even if it catches you at a time you least expect it.