Archive for January, 2014

Your Child And Allergic Rhinitis

I’ve been asked by several of female patients who have allergies and are pregnant, “Dr. Lubitz, will I pass on my allergies to my children?”

It’s a fair question and I will answer it this way. Any child could become allergic, but children who have either parents with a history of allergy are more likely to be allergic. Or as an interesting article in the ACAAI (American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology) website states that “children may inherit the tendency to become allergic from their parents, but only some of them will develop an active allergic disease.”

One of the most common of childhood allergies is allergic rhinitis, sometimes referred to as hay fever or seasonal allergic rhinitis. The website says that “it occurs during certain times of the year, usually when outdoor molds release their spores, and trees, grasses, and weeds release tiny pollen particles into the air to fertilize other plants.”

In New York and the northeast states, allergy symptoms occur in February through May for tree pollen and for grass pollen from May through June; weed pollen is from August through October, so I tell parents their children will have increased symptoms during those seasons. Mold spores tend to peak in midsummer through the fall.

Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include: sneezing; itchy nose/ and or throat; nasal congestion; clear, runny nose; and coughing. It may also be accompanied by itchy, watery, and/or red eyes commonly known as allergic conjunctivitis. On rare occasions, a child may exhibit wheezing or shortness of breath where the allergy may have progressed to asthma.

Your allergist can suggest the treatment that’s right for your child.

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Food Allergies And College Students

Patients of mine whose kids are entering college and who have food allergies are very concerned when their children may pick an out of town school. They are so used to monitoring their children’s eating habits, that they worry that their children won’t be as vigilant about their allergies as they were.

So what’s a mother to do?

Well, the organization Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) offers a few suggestions.

When choosing a college, ask the college staff whether they have guidelines in helping students manage their food allergies. FARE offers are a few points of interest to consider in allergy school awareness:

  • Make sure the dining facilities are safe by asking the food service director how you can verify the ingredients of each meal.
  • Some schools permit you to bring or rent a Micro-Fridge (a combination refrigerator and microwave), which allows you the option of preparing foods in your room. Find out if the school permits this.
  • Research your housing options to see if you can choose a supportive friend to be your roommate or if you can live in a single room, which can help create a safe and allergen-free living environment.

And also, for some, it is their first time legally drinking. Since drinking can affect the effectiveness of epinephrine use during an allergy attack, before aware of the consequences of consuming alcohol during social occasions that may involve food and drink.

For further information, and click on Common Allergies to review information on several common food allergies

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FitBit and Nickel Allergy

FitBit, a wearable health devise that tracks activity and sleep has apologized to customers after customers began experiencing a severe rash where the metal portion of the wristband touches the skin.

According to FitBit, the reported skin irritation may be an allergy to nickel, a common allergy. Everyday items contain nickel and can cause irritation from prolonged contact to those susceptible to a nickel allergy.

Click here for more on Allergies – from testing to treatment.


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How To Cope With Allergic Induced Asthma

A lot of my patients are asthmatics. And a lot of them have allergies. Some of them have allergic asthma.

Like regular asthma, allergic asthma symptoms are coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing and chest tightness. However, this type of asthma is triggered by inhaled allergens such as dust mite allergen, pet dander, pollen, mold, etc. resulting in asthma symptoms.

Over 50% of the 20 million asthma sufferers have this condition including 2.5 million children under the age of 18.

Like regular asthma, allergic asthma symptoms are coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing and chest tightness. However, I tell my patients there is hope in treating their symptoms. “Allergic asthma is airway obstruction and inflammation that is partially reversible with medication,” states the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

So what are the treatment protocols? Well, the Mayo Clinic lists three:

*Leukotriene modifier. “Montelukast (Singulair) is a medication that eases both allergy and asthma symptoms. It is a pill taken daily which helps control immune system chemicals released during an allergic reaction.”

*Allergy shots (immunotherapy). “Allergy shots can help treat asthma by gradually reducing your immune system response to certain allergy triggers. It involves getting regular injections of a tiny amount of the allergens that trigger your symptoms, gradually building up your immune system.”

*Anit-immunoglobulin E (IgE) therapy. “When you have an allergy, your immune system responds by releasing antibodies (known as Ige) against the allergy, triggering a chemical called histamine as well as other chemicals into your blood stream. The medication omalizumab (Xolair) interferes with IgE in the body and helps prevent the allergic reaction.

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Overcoming Teenage Smoking

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The National average of teenagers who smoke – a whopping 18%!

It is common knowledge now that  smoking causes cancer, emphysema, and heart disease; that shortens your life by as much as a decade; and cigarettes alone cost smokers thousands of dollars a year.  Why do people smoke?  Addiction.

Two facts that must be addressed to reduce the number of teen smokers.

  1. 90 percent of smokers began before the age 21.
  2. 3,900 adolescents under 18 years of age try their first cigarette each day and about 950 of them will succumb to a smoking habit.

The Mayo Clinic Offers 10 Tips to Keep Teens Smoke Free

1. Set a good example

It’s a fact teens are more lickely to smoke if their  parents smoke.  The earlier a parent quits – the less likely the teen will smoke. Need help quitting?  Visit for tips, support and information.  Your docotr is a great resource, too. Help is available. 

A smoking parent can also take these measures to discourage their child from smoking:

  • Don’t smoke in the house, in the car or in front of your teen,
  • Don’t leave cigarettes where your teen might find them.
  • Tell your child how unhappy you are with your habit,
  • Explain how how difficult it is to quit and that you’ll keep trying until you stop smoking for good.

2. Understand the attraction

Did you smoke? Remember why you or your friends started.  Was smoking a form of rebellion, to feel independent? Did you smoke because your friends did?

Ask your teen how he or she feels about smoking and ask if any of their friends smoke. Discuss the consequences of consequences of bad choices.  And point out the marketing efforts of tobacco companies that are trying to influence  ideas about smoking, like product placement in films,  print advertisements and store displays.

3. Say no to teen smoking

Remember who the parent is and tell your teen that smoking isn’t allowed. Teens whose parents set the firmest smoking restrictions smoke less than do teens whose parents don’t set smoking limits. Parental disapproval carries greater weight than most parents believe.

4. Appeal to your teen’s vanity

Is smoking really cool and glamorous? Smoking is actually dirty and smelly. It results in bad breath, yellow teeth  and facial wrinkles. Cigarette smoke makes clothing and hair smell. Smokers have less energy for sports and activities and leads to a chronic cough.

5. Do the math

Smoking is expensive! 
6. Expect peer pressure
Overcoming peer pressure may be as simple as ,”No thanks, I don’t smoke.”  Other children who smoke can be convincing, but as a parent you can provide your child with the knowledge that will allow them the strength and integrity to refuse cigarettes. Discuss peer pressure and rehearse how to handle tough social situations. 

7. Take addiction seriously

Every new smoker believes that they can quit at any time.  Teen and adolescent smokers become addicted with occasional and low levels of smoking. Remind your teen everyone was a new smoker at one time and that most adult smokers start as teens. Once you’re hooked, it’s tough to quit.

8. Predict the future

Children believe they are bulletproof and bad things only happen to other people.  The terms cancer, heart attacks and strokes in relation to cigarette smoking has become cliche’ and children see these terms only int he abstract. Explain how smoking has affected loved ones, friends, neighbors or celebrities and use their experiences with illness related to smoking as real-life examples.

9. Think beyond cigarettes

The Mayo Clinic reminds us that:

Smokeless tobacco, clove cigarettes (kreteks) and candy-flavored cigarettes (bidis) are sometimes mistaken as less harmful or addictive than are traditional cigarettes. Teens also often think that water pipe (hookah) smoking is safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. Kreteks, bidis and hookahs all carry health risks. Don’t let your teen be fooled.

10. Get involved

Take an active stance against teen smoking, discuss the consequences of smoking with your child. Make sure your child understands that never smoking or stopping now is one of the best things everyone and anyone can do for a lifetime of good health.
As a parent participate in local and school-sponsored smoking prevention campaigns, and get your child involved. Support efforts to make public places smoke-free.  These actions can help reduce the odds that your child will become a smoker.

I would like to add 11. Discuss with your healthcare provider

As a physician we have a number of tools available to help you maintain or achieve a smoke-free home.  Cigarette smoking is the basis of so many health problems and is 100% preventable.

If you smoke – get help to stop.  If you don’t smoke – Don’t start!


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Is It A Winter Cold Or Allergy? The Difference

This season, some of my patients have complained to me that they have symptoms of a runny nose and sometimes, a scratchy throat and think it’s a cold. But in reality, I tell them it’s probably a winter allergy.

Colds, I tell my patients, usually display symptoms of a low-grade fever, sore throat and a cough. But as Dr. William Schaffner, a chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. says in a report for ABC News, “you might a have a little bit of a sore throat with allergies, but’s mostly runny nose and red, itchy eyes.” Other symptoms include sneezing and dark circles under the eyes.

Also, colds can be accompanied by body aches and fatigue; symptoms not generally associated with allergic reactions.

So the question my patients ask if spring and summer brings pollen allergies, what causes the onset of winter ones.

Good question.

The winter season brings on a number of allergies associated with holiday celebrations. For instance, as Discovery Health. com states, “a stored Christmas tree and holiday ornaments or even a menorah may contain dust or even mold. A live tree’s scent may cause sinus congestion in some people. Furthermore, additional winter blankets, carpeting and clothes that been stored since the previous winter can release dust mites and old spores into the air and around the house when they are removed from storage.”

I recommend the following to limit allergen exposure: Keep pets outside as much as possible and limit them to a specific area in the house; wash all linens and clothes have been stored before using them again; keep humidity levels at 40% as recommended by National Jewish; use a HEPA air filter to clean dust from the air; and if necessary, buy a synthetic Christmas tree.

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Eating Nuts In Pregnancy No Risk To Babies

A lot of my female patients, who are mothers-to-be are concerned about their diet during pregnancy and how it might affect their baby. A primary concern of theirs is whether they should refrain from eating nuts during their pregnancy.

But last week, I saw online in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, the results of a study that implied that pregnant women should not be concerned about passing nut allergies on to their unborn baby.

The Boston Globe reports that the study, conducted in Boston’s Children’s Hospital “found that children born to women who ate peanuts, almonds, or other nuts on a nearly daily basis during pregnancy were 70% less likely to develop peanut or tree nut allergies compared to those born to women who rarely ate nuts.”

Says the authors of the study “our study supports the hypothesis that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy.”

One of the authors, reported the New York Times, Dr. Michael C. Young, an allergist at Children’s Hospital said the study could not conclusively say that there was “cause and effect” from the study but did say that “previously. women were concerned that eating nuts during pregnancy probably would lead to an allergic baby, but our data dispels that.

The American study comes on the heels of another study, published in early December, by the Canadian Pediatric Society and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that issued a joint statement, saying that “there appears to be no benefit to delaying the introduction of potential allergens in the diet of young children. Not giving children these foods may even the increase the risk of developing an allergy.”

For more on peanut allergies click here

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