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'allergies' posts

Food allergies and emergency epinephrine in Washington State schools

Food allergies have been on the rise in recent years.  Studies suggest that up to 1 in 13 children are affected by a food allergy.  Egg and cow’s milk are the most common food allergies for infants and toddlers.  Fortunately, most children will lose a milk or egg allergy by the time they enter school.  Peanut and tree nut allergies are also becoming more common.  Unfortunately, only 10-20% of children will ever outgrow a nut allergy.

Currently there is no cure for food allergies.  Instead, doctors rely on an accurate diagnosis, avoiding food triggers, and being prepared in the event of a severe reaction.  Making the situation more challenging, nearly half of children with a food allergy may be at risk for a potentially life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:

  • hives or itchy welts
  • swelling
  • vomiting or diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing (cough, wheeze or shortness of breath)
  • dizziness or passing out

During a severe food allergy reaction, epinephrine (“adrenaline”) can be a life-saving medication. Epinephrine is typically injected into a thigh muscle with an “auto-injector” device like EpiPen® or Auvi-Q™.  Oral antihistamines like Benadryl, Allegra, or Zyrtec can help with some anaphylaxis symptoms, but are not considered life-saving treatment.

Emergency Epinephrine in Schools

Until recently, only certain students in Washington State could receive a life-saving epinephrine injection while at school.  They needed to be diagnosed with a food allergy and already have an epinephrine injector in the health room.  However, some students may not have an injector at school, or they have their first serious allergic reaction while at school.  In that case, the school could only call 911 and hope they arrived in time to save a life.

In January 2013...

Managing nasal congestion

Nasal congestion is an extremely common complaint that brings patients in to see their physician. Often times congestion is temporarily associated with the common cold or infrequent sinus infections. Nasal congestion can in some patients be more of a chronic daily problem that impairs quality of life, sleep, and exercise tolerance. Sometimes congestion is not a daily problem but a frequently recurring problem associated with frequent bouts of sinusitis.

Frequent causes of nasal congestion include:

  • Deviated nasal septum sometimes also associated with a crooked nose
  • Uncontrolled and undiagnosed allergies
  • Recurring sinus infections
  • Enlarged structures in the nose called turbinates which can block one’s breathing

There are many treatment options for chronic nasal congestion, both medical and surgical. Evaluating which....

Advocating for Children with Severe Food Allergies

Eosinophilic Gastrointestinal Disorders (“EGIDs”) are a severe form of gastrointestinal inflammation that results from food allergy.  Children and adults in the U.S. are increasingly being diagnosed with this condition that unfortunately requires strict elimination diets, and many times, a life-long inability to eat foods that most of us take for granted each day, including dairy, wheat, soy, and eggs. 

For children requiring such restrictive diets, pediatric gastroenterologists like me work hard to find adequate alternate sources of nutrition.  For my patients with EGIDs, I often prescribe special “elemental formulas” as a treatment to both heal the intestinal inflammation and prevent further harm.  These formulas are completely allergen-free while meeting 100% of a child’s nutritional needs. 

However, in the state of Washington, most ....

Child’s Belly Discomfort Caused By Allergies

This is one of the most common questions that I get asked in the office. Allergic diseases are certainly becoming more and more prevalent in the developed world. General pediatricians and specialists are on ‘high-alert’ for this when evaluating a child that may be sick. Within the realm of intestinal diseases, however, a true allergy is actually not very common. To understand this, we must first understand what ‘allergy’ means.

An allergy is a biologic response from our body’s immune system. When our body senses a foreign invader, our army of immune cells attacks it. It does this by releasing chemicals into the blood stream and/or in to the organs where the threat may lie. Those chemicals are meant to destroy the invader, but often hurt our healthy organs as well. For example, airborn pollen may land in your eye, the immune system senses that pollen, releases those chemicals, and as a consequence we get itchy, puffy, watery eyes. The same thing can happen in the bowel if we ingest food that we are allergic to.

Intestinal manifestations of food allergies

One of the more common sites of an allergic response to food is in the esophagus—the food pipe. When the esophagus gets inflamed, it can manifest in a few different ways: heartburn symptoms, chest pain, chronic dry cough, upper abdominal pain, frequent regurgitation, or food that is stuck the chest. The name of this is Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Food allergies lower in the bowels can cause diarrhea, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, weight loss, anemia, and fatigue.

There are usually other red flags

One of the most important things to remember is ....

Tips for getting the most out of your inhalers

“Darn! My inhaler is out and I am going to have to call today, a Sunday, to get a refill…”

Spring is here! And that means asthma season is back, and with the nicer weather, pollen counts are high. Flowers are wonderful and the trees beautiful, but if you are like me, some of those plants have your number. The beautiful smells come with itchy eyes, sneezes, and for some, a serious amount of wheezing.

Patients are reaching for their inhalers more often, and sometimes getting into serious respiratory trouble, especially if their medication is running short. Inhalers are expensive, too, and so using them optimally is both financially and healthfully important.

Fortunately, a couple of tricks can really help maximize an asthma spray’s value.

The medication comes out fast and hard when you squeeze the canister, and it can be difficult to time your breath to inhale the dose well, plus with the energy of the release being so high, a lot of misted drug can zoom right out of your mouth. The trick is to use a ‘spacer’, and the simplest is a rolled up piece of paper, to about a one inch diameter. Tuck the sprayer in the far end, wrap your lips around the outside of the other end, and take your leisure squeezing and breathing! The tube holds the mist in place for a few seconds, letting you better coordinate your inhalation and improve substantially the amount of drug you get to where it is needed.

The second tip is to use a steroid inhaler daily if you need your rescue inhaler more than a few times a week. The rescue inhaler will become less effective the more you use it if you don’t directly treat the inflammation of the allergic response in your bronchial tubes with a low dose of cortisone type medication. The dose of the latter is small and will not cause harm to the rest of your system if used according to directions, but it will keep your rescue medication most beneficial!

Two years in the life of the Swedish blog

For those of you who don't know, today is the official two year anniversary of the Swedish blog - this means Swedish has been blogging several times a week for two full years!

What have we been blogging about this year?

Who's been blogging?

We've had people from across Swedish blogging (more than 100 the last time we checked), including:

  • Surgeons

  • Nurses

  • Family Medicine and Primary Care Physicians

  • Dietitians

  • Educators

  • (And many others!)

Why are we blogging?

We started the blog as a way to connect with you (our community), whether you're a current patient, a past patient, a future patient…or just someone who stumbled across our site looking for health information. We believe our role is to be a resource of information, both online and off. Blogging gives us an easy way to keep you up to date, informed, and engaged on a number of health topics

Tips for dealing with dust allergy

Although it’s hard to imagine, we are living and sleeping with thousands of little bugs called dust mites.

For many people, ignorance is bliss, but for those who are allergic, these bugs can cause lots of problems. Dust mite allergy symptoms include eye redness and discharge, itching, sneezing, congestion and trouble breathing. Dust mites are a problem all year long, but can be more obvious in the winter when people spend more time indoors.

Dust mites like to burrow into soft surfaces, like carpets, curtains, pillows, mattresses and stuffed animals. It is impossible to completely kill all dust mites, but here are six ways to minimize exposure:

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