Posts tagged preventing allergies

A little boy with pet allergies cuddles up next to a puppy in a green beanbag chair.

Pet Allergies: Causes and Prevention

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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.

A little girl and a french bulldog touch noses, showing that pet allergies don't have to stop you from owning a furry or feathery companion.

If you have pet allergies and want to become a pet owner, fear not! There are ways to control pet dander and allergens in your home. You can also speak to a vet or your allergist to see if there is a compatible pet for you that won’t irritate your allergies.

An Overview

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.

A woman is putting in eyedrops against a blue sky. Are allergies genetic?

Are Allergies Genetic?

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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.

A little girl sneezes in a field full of flowers - are allergies genetic? Her siblings may be allergic to similar things as she is.

To what extent are allergies genetic? Allergies may not be passed down from parent to child, but there is definitely a genetic correlation. Twins, for example, are usually allergic to similar things.

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.

Allergen Immunotherapy

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!

Man is sitting at desk, sneezing due to indoor allergens.

Reducing Indoor Allergens

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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.

Clean Air

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.

A man changes the filter inside his air purifier, which helps reduce indoor allergens.

Purchasing a HEPA air purifier and changing the filter frequently can help reduce airborne indoor allergens and help you breathe easier.

Bedding

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.

Carpets

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.

Clutter

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.

Kitchen

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.

Storage

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.

Humidity

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!

A yellow road sign that says "Allergy Season Ahead." Sublingual immunotherapy may help allergy sufferers get the relief they need.

Is Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT) Right for You?

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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

A woman with a tissue to her nose is suffering from allergies and may benefit from sublingual immunotherapy.

Talk to your allergy doctor to see if sublingual immunotherapy is right for you.

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.

SLIT Facts

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!

One man sneezing portrait due to allergies.

Turning Off Allergies? Gene Therapy Says It’s Possible

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One man sneezing portrait due to allergies.

Is a one-time treatment for allergies on the way?

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.

A close-up of a man holding a tissue on his nose and dealing with a sinus infection.

Home Remedies for a Sinus Infection

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A close-up of a man holding a tissue on his nose and dealing with a sinus infection.

Which home remedies can help you with a sinus infection?

Is it a cold, the flu, or a sinus infection? Sometimes it can be hard to tell. Situations, where you end up sick, can occur at any time. And sometimes you can’t get to a doctor right away. So, what do you do in the meantime? Well, until you can see your physician, we suggest using these home remedies to help you ease your symptoms.

Saline Sprays and Washes

Designed to wash out your sinus cavities and nose, saline sprays and washes are your first defense against sinusitis. They provide quick relief and eliminate the nasty bacteria and other materials that cause infection. And if you are experiencing dryness, they are especially useful. They provide moisture within the nasal passageways, which prevents headaches, bleeding, and inflammation.

Stay Hydrated

You should always stay hydrated. It is especially important when you are dealing with a sickness. Like we said before, the sinuses must remain moist. A lot of water or healthy fluids will keep your body adequately hydrated and your sinus healthy.

Keeping the Air Moist

If you have noticed by now, these home remedies are all following a theme. Moisture in the sinuses means relief from pain and congestion. Another way to keep the sinus moist is to either take a steam shower or buy a humidifier. Breathing in the moist air will help you breathe easy and reduce the swelling of the sinuses.

Clean Your Home

Your symptoms can also be a result of allergies. Allergy symptoms usually don’t go away until the all the allergens in your home are gone. There are a few steps you can take to remedy this. For example, having someone clean your home for you will avoid upsetting your allergy symptoms. You can also use dust covers and run the air conditioner to prevent allergens from affecting you.

Confirm if You Have a Sinus Infection

While these home remedies will provide temporary relief, your condition can persist. It is important to know exactly what you’re dealing with. An otolaryngologist can confirm if you do indeed have a common cold or a sinus infection. Reach out to one for help.

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