What Parents Can do Now to Prevent Allergy Flares Next Holiday Season

Before hastily packing away holiday decorations into the garage, parents can take a few simple steps now to help prevent a sudden surge of allergy symptoms in children next holiday season, say CHOC allergists.

Dr. Wan-Yin Chan recommends that parents wipe down and air dry holiday decorations before packing them away to help minimize dust and mold accumulation when they return again next year. These allergens can prompt sudden allergy symptoms attacks in children, a phenomenon some doctors refer to as the “holiday effect.”

Dust from orna20130425_0505ments and decorations, mold from Christmas trees, exposure to new foods, and visits with others’ pets during the holidays can trigger these attacks in children and adults alike.

Holiday gatherings and spending more time indoors tends to expose people to other allergic triggers that they may not usually be exposed to during other times of the year,” says Dr. Sarah Field.

When the holidays roll around again next year, parents can take measures to prevent allergy and asthma symptoms.

Though comforting and festive to some, the fragrance emitted from a fresh tree may be irritating to others, and some trees may harbor mold spores, which can trigger asthma or allergies, cautions Dr. Field.

To combat this, Dr. Chan suggests adults leave a new Christmas tree to dry in the garage for a week and then shake it out before bringing into the home. Taking the same precautions recommended before packing away ornaments can also help eliminate the introduction of dust and mold into the home when decorating begins, she adds.

Traveling or even visiting homes of others can introduce other allergic or asthmatic symptoms.

Parents should ensure that children take any regular maintenance asthma and allergy medications, especially if traveling. They should also have an updated asthma action plan from their physician for asthma worsening.

Those with food allergies should inquire about ingredients in dishes served at others’ homes, Dr. Field says. Consider eating before visiting or bringing snacks from home, and be sure to bring an epinephrine autoinjector in case of accidental exposure, she says.

Children may also have an allergic reaction to new animals encountered in others’ homes, the doctors explain. Further, teenagers may suddenly experience allergy or asthma symptoms to their own pets after returning home from a semester at college. During their time away, the teen may lose tolerance to their pet. This phenomenon is called the “Thanksgiving effect,” explains Dr. Field.

Learn more about allergy and immunology at CHOC Children’s.

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It’s National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

It’s peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, a perfect time to educate yourself, as well as your family and friends about these conditions! Chances are, someone you know may be suffering from these common illnesses.

According to Kids Health, CHOC’s patient education online resource, Asthma is a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing, and it’s common among kids and teens. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Anyone can have asthma, even infants, and the tendency to develop the condition is often inherited.

When someone breathes normally, air is taken in through the nose or mouth and then goes into the trachea (windpipe), passing through the bronchial tubes, into the lungs, and finally back out again. But people with asthma have inflamed airways that produce lots of thick mucus. They’re also overly sensitive, or hyperreactive, to certain things, like exercise, dust, or cigarette smoke. This hyperreactivity causes the smooth muscle that surrounds the airways to tighten up. The combination of airway inflammation and muscle tightening narrows the airways and makes it difficult for air to move through.

An estimated 75% to 85% of people with asthma have some type of allergy. Even if the primary triggers are colds or exercise, allergies – diseases of the immune system that cause an overreaction to substances, such as pollen – can sometimes play a minor role in aggravating the condition. An allergist can usually pinpoint allergies and, once identified, the best treatment is to avoid exposure to allergens whenever possible. Medications may also be prescribed.

Fortunately, asthma can be easily controlled and managed. Talk to your child’s health care provider about a customized asthma action plan. Make sure your child’s teachers and babysitters have copies of the action plan and understand what to do in an emergency.

CHOC is a leader in early detection and treatment of pediatric asthma, providing families the education they need to prevent asthma emergencies. If you suspect your child may have Asthma or Allergies, schedule an appointment with a CHOC Allergy/Immunology specialist, at 714-633-6363.

To learn more about these conditions, please visit these helpful sites:



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Tips to Manage Spring Allergies…Ah-choo!

Spring is officially here! And, although it may not seem like it with rain in the forecast, the signs of springtime are starting to peek through. Tree and grass pollen are starting to make the rounds. So if your child seems sniffly and sneezy lately, springtime allergies might be to blame. Check out the symptoms and tips below to help your child cope with allergies this season.

• sneezing
• nasal congestion
• itchy nose and/or throat
• coughing
• clear, runny nose
• itchy, watery and/or red eyes

What to Do
Although there is no real cure for seasonal allergies, it is possible to relieve symptoms. You can:

• Eliminate or reduce exposure to allergens – mold; tree, grass and weed pollen.
• Stay indoors on dry, windy days or when pollen counts are high (check the Internet or TV for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels) .
•  Have your child wash his hands and change clothing after playing outside.
• Clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter.
• Delegate lawn mowing and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.

If reducing exposure is ineffective, medicines (such as decongestants and antihistamines) can help ease allergy symptoms. If symptoms cannot be managed with medicines, the doctor may recommend taking your child to an allergist or immunologist who can recommend the appropriate treatment.

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For pediatric Allergy and Immunology services at CHOC Children’s, click here:  http://www.choc.org/specialties/index.cfm?id=P00411

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Tips to Manage Winter Allergies

Itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing… can it be allergies? In the winter? Yes.

The sniffles are common during the winter months, and are not always the result of the common cold or flu. Some people who are sensitive to allergy triggers, such as dust mites and mold, can be just as miserable these months as they are in the spring and summer. Check out some common causes of winter allergies and ways to manage them in this Q&A with Dr. Sherwin Gillman, Emeritus Chief, Division of Allergy and Immunology at CHOC Children’s.

Q: What causes winter allergies?
A: In California, because of our temperate climate, we have things in the air year round that patients in areas of the country where there is frost, for example, don’t have to contend with. This includes mold spores, dust mites, pollens, and trees. Also, when the weather is damp and cooler, many families with outdoor pets tend to bring them in more, resulting in symptoms for those people who are allergic to animals, such as dogs and cats.

Q: What are the symptoms of winter allergies?
A: Some of the symptoms include sneezing, itchy nose and eyes, which are often red, and itchy throat and ears. Coughing and wheezing, as well as exertional limitation, especially if the outdoor air is cold and damp, are common in asthma patients. People with atopic dermatitis (eczema) are often allergic to things in the air, and because the indoor air is heated and dry, it makes their skin dryer and itchier. Patients with allergy to mold often feel worse one to two days after it rains, when the mold spores germinate. Allergies often interfere with getting a good night’s sleep, and with school or work performance.

Q: How are these symptoms different than cold symptoms?
A: People with colds usually have more malaise, body aches, headaches, sore throats, often fevers and usually end up with colored (yellow or green) mucous from their nose or lungs. Many times, they’ve had exposure to friends or family members who are ill with similar symptoms. In the first few days, however, it is often difficult to distinguish between colds and allergies, and the two may coexist. Evidence suggests that allergies may predispose individuals to infections, especially sinusitis, if not controlled.

Q: How can I treat my child’s winter allergies?
A: The most important thing parents can do is to find out what their child is allergic to. This can be done by allergy testing with a special blood test (usually done by their child’s pediatrician) or skin tests, which are usually favored by allergists. Once they have that knowledge, the best treatment is avoidance when possible, such as dust control for those who are allergic to mites, and keeping animals outside or in the garage when animals are the problem. Otherwise, there are excellent safe medications that are currently available to control the symptoms. Getting proper rest and a good diet are also helpful. We also recommend flu shots as another way of keeping an allergic child free from complications of influenza.

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