First, don’t freak out if your lips swell up A LOT. It’s actually normal.
“Just because your lip swells up so big, it doesn’t mean you’re allergic. It’s reacting like any part of your body when stung by a bee or wasp, it’s just more visible because it’s your face,” Eghrari-Sabet says. As for first-aid, she suggests carefully removing the stinger if you can, applying ice, and taking an antihistamine like Benadryl or Allegra to help with the swelling.
But make sure to look out for signs of a more serious reaction.
“If the reaction goes past where you were stung, you might have a severe allergic reaction, or ‘anaphylaxis’. This can include swelling of additional areas of your body where you weren’t stung such as the eyes and neck, itchiness, hives, difficulty breathing and swallowing, and even loss of consciousness,” says Eghrari-Sabet. If you experience any of these, you should go to the hospital for treatment and an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen).
Fortunately, this is very rare. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, only 3% of adults in the United States will have a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction to insect stings.
And try to be extra careful when you’re outside this summer.
Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, an allergist with Family ENT, Allergy & Asthma Center in Gaithersburg, Md was quoted by USA Today in a new article on non-prescription allergy relief:
Spring has barely sprung, but in most of the country, spring allergy season — triggered by the first stirrings of tree pollen — is well under way.
You can tell by the sniffles and sneezes of the afflicted. But you can also tell by the ads: TV spots selling remedies for drippy, congested noses, itchy eyes and other symptoms are in heavy rotation.
New this year: ads for Flonase, a nasal steroid spray from GlaxoSmithKline that just became available over the counter. It joins Sanofi’s Nasacort, a spray in the same class that went from prescription to over-the-counter status a year ago. And they both sit on store shelves next to antihistamines such as Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec that were prescription drugs just a few years ago. Older over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Benadryl, and decongestants, such as Sudafed and Afrin, remain available as well.
Don’t expect the ads to help you sort out what might work best for you. Here’s what some top allergists say you need to know about these non-prescription options.
Believe (some of) the hype about the newly-accessible steroid nasal sprays.
These drugs work by fighting inflammation and they are in the “single most effective drug class” for treating nasal allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Other expert groups have made similar statements. “These are first-line treatments” that can prevent allergy symptoms, not just treat them, says Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, an allergist in Gaithersburg, Md.
But that does not mean they work for everyone, says James Sublett, a Louisville allergist and president of the allergy group. People with mild to moderate symptoms have the best chance of full relief, he says.
Possible side effects include nasal irritation and nose bleeds. Labels caution that some children using the sprays may experience slower growth, so a doctor should be consulted if a child needs them for more than two months.
Expect to pay more.
When prescription drugs are first available over the counter, most consumers end up paying more, because their insurers no longer cover the cost. The non-prescription steroid nasal sprays are selling for about $17 to $23 for a one-month supply (at the typical two-squirts per nostril adult starting dose). Worth knowing: so far, insurers have continued to pay for similar prescription sprays, Eghrari-Sabet says. The various sprays have never been studied head to head, so it’s impossible to say whether they vary in effectiveness, she says.
There’s a right way to use these sprays.
They should be used daily during your vulnerable season or seasons, ideally starting before symptoms do, Eghrari-Sabet says. The idea is “to turn an army of inflammatory cells around before they recruit more soldiers,” she says.
It’s also important to administer the sprays correctly, so that they end up inside your nasal passages, not just your nose, where they might cause irritation, Sublett says. Packages contain instructions, and Sublett has an added tip: bend over and look at your toes while holding the bottle up and squirting.
Antihistamines still have a role.
These drugs target histamine. That’s a chemical your body releases, causing sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes, when you come in contact with allergy-triggering substances. Antihistamines work faster than the steroid sprays, which can take a week or so to reach full effectiveness. They also can be cheaper, because they are available in store-brand versions. For example, Walmart sells Equate loratadine tablets (the same active ingredient as Claritin) for about $7 for 60 24-hour doses
Antihistamines make perfect sense for someone who suffers a few sneezy days each season and doesn’t want to use a spray for weeks or months, Eghrari-Sabet says. Look for one that does not make you sleepy, Sublett says. It’s a myth, he adds, that older, sedating antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are extra effective against nasal allergies.
Be careful with decongestants.
Decongestants such as Sudafed work by shrinking swollen blood vessels in the nose. They can raise blood pressure and cause jitters, and some people are more susceptible than others. Some decongestant sprays such as Afrin — unlike the steroid nasal sprays — can be used for just few days at a time, because they otherwise cause rebound symptoms.
So use these medications sparingly, Sublett says.
Keep your medical providers in the loop.
Over-the-counter treatments should not take the place of professional care — especially if you have never been formally diagnosed with allergies, if you have additional medical problems or if your symptoms persist or worsen, Eghrari-Sabet and Sublett say. An allergist can test you to find out what’s causing your symptoms and offer additional treatments. Those include allergy shots and, for a few patients who qualify, newer immunotherapy pills that desensitize people to grass and ragweed pollens.
Also important to remember: While medications can be helpful, the first rule of allergy control is to avoid the substances that make you sniffle and sneeze. If you are allergic to mold spores or to pollen from trees, grasses or ragweed, that means knowing when levels are high (by checking pollen.com or the National Allergy Bureau) and then taking steps such as these recommended by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and & Immunology:
• Keep windows closed at home and in your car.
• Use air conditioning if possible.
• Try to stay indoors, and avoid mowing lawns or raking leaves.
• If you need to be outside for a long period, wear a pollen mask.
• After time outside, take a shower, shampoo your hair and change clothes
1 in every 13 kids has food allergy — many will figure that out for the first time on Oct 31st when they bite into a candy bar. In this informative NBC4 video, Dr. Jackie talks about several pertinent questions:
Does every one have to worry and how do you know if your infants, toddlers, or older kids have food allergy?
If you are at risk — what to do as you go door to door? What are the new “teal” pumpkin we may see this Halloween?
What about eating things that say “MAY contain nuts” or processed in factory with nuts — can you eat them?
What to do if you child is having a reaction ?
Overall tips to keep your food allergic child safe with a simple SAFE rule to follow:
Stay in a group when trick-or-treating through neighborhood streets.
Avoid eating candy you’re not familiar with and carry hand wipes in case of accidental exposure.
Feel free to say “no thank you” to treats you are allergic to.
Epinephrine, cell phone and emergency contact should always be carried in case of an allergic reaction
Dr. Jackie on Money Magazine: 5 ways to cut the cost of allergy relief
Looking for allergy relief? Prescriptions, rather than OTC remedies, are often more effective and cheaper in the long run. Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, along with four other allergy doctors, offers advice on how to cut the cost of allergy relief.
Ah, spring. The season of blooming flowers, warm days, and for many—achoo!—snuffling and sneezing. If you spend your days combatting seasonal allergies, there’s a good chance your kids may develop the same symptoms. “Anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of adults and children have allergic rhinitis [hayfever],” says Todd A. Mahr, M.D., chair of the section of Allergy & Immunology at the American Academy of Pediatrics. “And it can be passed down genetically. A child with one allergic parent has about a 25 percent chance of developing allergies; if two parents are allergic, that goes up to about 60 percent.” A family history of asthma can also dramatically raise a child’s risk for allergies.
Rule #1: Don’t assume your child is too young for allergies.
“We classically start to see seasonal allergies develop in preschool or early elementary school—around ages 3 ½ to 7—although they can appear as early as age two or well into adulthood,” says Mahr. And don’t forget that a long-distance move can trigger allergies that might not have been obvious before.
Rule #2: Don’t try to guess what’s causing your child’s symptoms.
“The only detective work you should be doing at home is to keep track of your own family history of allergies or asthma, and to monitor your child’s symptoms,” says Eghrari-Sabet. “You can’t determine whether your child has allergies—or what he or she is allergic to—on your own. Only an allergist can give you the definitive diagnosis.” If your child has repeated bouts of what seem like allergies—runny nose, congestion, eyes that are itchy, red, watering, or swollen—or he or she has a history of ear infections or eczema, see a specialist.
Rule #3: Be smart about avoiding allergy triggers.
“Environmental control is usually the first line of treatment—but doing it effectively requires knowing exactly what your child is allergic to,” says Eghrari-Sabet. Translation: Don’t go ripping up the carpet unless you know your child is allergic to dust mites, and don’t get rid of the cat unless you know he’s allergic to pet dander. Once you’ve got a clear diagnosis of your child’s allergy triggers, your doctor can help you figure out smart strategies to avoid them. For example:
• Avoid letting your child play outside when pollen counts are highest, usually early in the morning.
• Don’t open the windows in your child’s bedroom—use the A/C instead.
• Keep pets out of your child’s room, and wash your hands after playing with a pet. Even if your child isn’t allergic to dogs, Fido could have still been rolling around in the grass and then transfer pollen to your child.
• Use dust mite covers on your child’s bedding.
• Have your child take a shower and change clothes after an afternoon spent playing outside.
Rule #4: Don’t be afraid to ask about medication.
Many parents are hesitant to put their kids on medication, but “there are many allergy drugs, like antihistamines or intranasal steroids, that are approved for children, even young children,” says Mahr. And keep in mind that allergies aren’t just a nuisance. “Children with allergies are more likely to miss sleep, miss school, and develop chronic ear infections, asthma, even language delays because constant congestion can affect your hearing,” says Eghrari-Sabet. “Yes, you want to use the least amount of medication possible at the lowest dose possible, but we also have to consider a child’s quality of life and cognitive function.” Mahr adds that it’s often most beneficial to start a child on medication prior to allergy season, rather than once symptoms are full-throttle, so don’t delay seeing a specialist if you suspect your child needs help.
Rule #5: Consider allergy shots.
“Many parents turn to allergy shots [also known as allergen immunotherapy] because they don’t want their child to be on medication long-term, or they find that medication isn’t providing a lot of relief,” says Eghrari-Sabet. The treatment works by exposing your child to gradually increasing doses of an allergen, in order to help the body’s immune system build up a tolerance to the substance and lessen the allergic reaction. “The full course of treatment usually lasts somewhere between three and five years, but the majority of that time your child is only receiving one shot per month,” says Eghrari-Sabet. “And at the end, allergy symptoms have greatly diminished or even disappeared.” Bonus: According to Eghrari-Sabet, insurance providers generally provide more coverage for allergy shots than for medication. And the treatment can help reduce your child’s risk of developing asthma, which often goes hand-in-hand with seasonal allergies.
Our goal is to deliver compassionate cutting-edge allergy care for the whole family. After conducting a comprehensive health history and exam, we will develop a personalized treatment plan designed to give you the freedom you seek from your condition.
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