allergies

6 Ways to Cope with Fall Seasonal Allergies

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Along with colorful autumn leaves, fall brings sneezes and runny eyes to many of us. For some, fall allergies are more bothersome than spring allergies. The primary culprits causing fall allergies are pollen, molds, and dust mites. But don’t just suffer! There are steps you can take to minimize allergic reactions.

What Causes Fall Allergies

Ragweed pollen causes more allergic reactions than anything else during fall months. (These reactions are often called “hay fever” despite their having nothing to do with hay and do not cause a fever.) If you are allergic to pollen during the spring, you have about a 75% chance of also reacting to ragweed. During warm days and cool nights in August through October, wind scatters the pollen nearly everywhere in North America. Pollen levels peak around midday and especially during warm, dry weather. Although rain removes the pollen from the air, dry winds can spread it for hundreds of miles.

Inhaling ragweed pollen can result in allergic rhinitis—a condition that produces runny nose and eyes and causes sneezing. Some symptoms resemble those of a cold. The pollen can also be ingested when certain foods are eaten raw. Bananas, melons, cucumbers, zucchini, beans, celery, and some fruits often carry ragweed pollen. Cooking usually removes the problem, but not always. Orally ingested pollen can result in swollen mouth and throats as well as, rarely, vomiting, diarrhea, or even anaphylactic shock.

Molds are another major trigger of fall allergies. Most of us are aware that molds grow in warm, damp places in our homes. But during the fall, those piles of autumn leaves that kids like to jump in are usually filled with mold spores. The spores can be kicked up by autumn winds or by raking. Even walking through the woods or a park where leaves have fallen can expose you to mold spores. Symptoms resemble those caused by ragweed and can sometimes be severe.

Dust mites present a third fall allergy trigger. They are too small to see without a microscope and are difficult to control. Although they live and are active year-round, turning on our heating systems in the fall forces dust and the residue from the mites into the air. Since dust mites feed on the dead scales of human skin, we encounter them most often in bedding, carpeting, and upholstered furniture. Symptoms, again, resemble those produced by ragweed.

Allergy or Cold?

Many of us have trouble determining whether we’re suffering from a cold or an allergic reaction, especially since some of the symptoms are similar. Remember, though, that allergies are caused by allergens—substances that trigger an autoimmune response in our bodies—while colds are caused by viruses. The following chart can help you distinguish them.

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What You Can Do

To prevent allergic reactions and to treat symptoms, try the following:

1.     Reduce exposure to ragweed and other pollens. If possible, keep windows closed and remain indoors. Use air conditioning to filter the air and change or clean filters monthly. Be especially careful on dry, windy days.

2.     If you are allergic to molds, avoid raking leaves. If you must rake or blow leaves, wear a NIOSH-rated N95mask. Also avoid walking in the woods or other places where leaves have fallen.

3.     Control the presence of dust mites.

a.     Encase your mattress and pillows in allergen-proof covers (available online and in many bedding or department stores).

b.     Wash all bedding weekly in hot (at least 130ºF) water and dry on high heat.

c.     Replace wall-to-wall carpeting with non-fabric flooring.

d.     Remove as much upholstered furniture as possible.

e.     Vacuum with double-layered microfilter bag or HEPA filter installed.

f.      Use damp mop or rag to remove dust (dry rags merely stir up allergens).

4.     Rinsing or irrigating nasal passages can offer temporary relief from nasal congestion and other symptoms. NeilMed™ offers a wide variety of types for children and adults. (Tip: when using nasal washes, be sure to use only distilled water, warmed, to which saline-solution ingredients have been added. Otherwise, the rinse will cause pain.)

5.     To ease symptoms, consider the following medications.

a.     Antihistamines (available in pills, liquids, or nasal sprays; Benadryl™, Zyrtec™, Allegra™) to reduce runny nose, nasal congestion, and sneezing.

b.     Nasal corticosteroids (Flonase™, Nasonex™) for reducing all symptoms and blocking allergic reactions. Best if begun before symptoms emerge. May have side effects.

c.     Leukotriene receptor antagonists (Monteleukast™) useful in treating asthma and blocking effects of allergens.

d.     Decongestants (in spray, pills, or liquids) for relieving nasal stuffiness; can have unwanted side effects for persons with high blood pressure and might cause drowsiness.

6.     In instances of severe or chronic allergic reaction, it might be necessary to receive allergy shots (subcutaneous immunotherapy, or SCIT). This should be handled by a physician or allergist who can conduct appropriate testing to identify the specific allergen that is causing the reaction.

Note: It is wise to consult a health care provider when using any medication.

Remember also that children returning to school in the fall often encounter high levels of allergens. School buildings that have been unused during summer months are usually filled with dust and mites—major allergy triggers. Be sure to monitor your children’s health during these months.

Managing fall allergies can be tricky. At Kathy’s Urgent Care, we can help. We’ll diagnose your situation, offer tips for controlling exposure to allergens, and prescribe the correct medications to help relieve your symptoms. Remember: No appointment is needed! Just walk in, 7 days a week, and we’ll help you feel better.

Authored by Dr. Tom Brown

Keep Your Kids Safe for a Fun Summer!

We all want our kids to have a fun summer. And most of the time they do without much help from us. Some of your happiest times were probably spent outdoors with your childhood friends. Your children are no different. They love to go to the beach, play at the park, swim in the pool, jump on the trampoline, camp out with relatives, hike in the woods, and so forth. Such activities help them develop physically and emotionally.

But as parents, we need to prevent injuries that can turn a fun summer into a painful time or even a life-altering tragedy. Here are 6 ways to help your kids have an enjoyable summer season.

1.     Prevent Sunburn

These days, you’re probably aware of the hazards of too much sun exposure, especially for infants and children. But it never hurts to be reminded of a few tips to prevent painful sunburn or worse.

  • Keep children out of direct sunlight or cover them completely between 10:00am and 4:00pm when UV rays are strongest. Infants under 6 months of age should avoid all sun exposure.
  • If children play outside during midday, apply a sunscreen with SPF strength of 30 or higher at least 15-30 minutes before sun exposure and have them wear protective clothing (wide-brimmed hats, sun-protective clothing that covers arms and legs, and sunglasses with UV protection).
  • For children playing in water, apply a water-resistant sunscreen every 2-3 hours.
  • If both sunscreen and insect repellant are required, apply the sunscreen first and then apply the insect repellant. Do not use a combination product.
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To treat a mild sunburn at home, try applying cool cloths or taking cool showers. Lotions containing aloe vera can help ease pain. Acetaminophen (Tylenol™) can help soothe a headache. It is also important to drink water to prevent or relieve dehydration. Avoid using topical steroids on young children unless directed by a physician.

More extreme sunburns that involve blistering, high fever, severe headache, dehydration, confusion, or nausea require the sort of medical attention that urgent care centers provide.

2.     Police the Playground and the Beach

 

Playgrounds and beaches provide places for good exercise and lots of fun. They can also be dangerous.

Make sure that your favorite playground has well-maintained equipment. Rusty metal equipment can lead to metal splinters and nasty infections. Untreated wooden equipment can produce splinters and unpleasant scrapes. Loose bolts are accidents waiting to happen. You might also check for poisonous plants such as poison ivy and infestations of bees or other pests.

Beaches are always a favorite with kids, but you should be aware of potential hazards. It goes without saying that you should always watch children in the water. Water depth and wave action can change rapidly. Also watch out for various critters—jellyfish, sea urchins, sting rays, even sharks—that can injure unsuspecting children and adults. Remember that the water and beach are these animals’ primary habitat, not yours. Medical attention might be needed for stings and bites.

A word about trampolines. If you’re thinking of getting one for your home, don’t. Citing nearly 100,000 injuries per year, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages recreational trampoline use for the home, even when all the safety rules (listed below) are followed. Kids are often injured when bumping into others, trying stunts like somersaulting, falling or jumping off the trampoline, or just landing wrong. Very serious and sometimes life-threatening injuries result, including broken bones, concussions, neck and spinal cord injuries that can lead to paralysis or even death.

If you already have and use a trampoline at home, follow these rules:

  • Allow only one jumper at a time.
  • Do not allow stunts, especially somersaults.
  • Adults who are willing and able to enforce safety rules must supervise at all times.
  • Make sure that safety netting and padding is in place and maintained.
  • Check your homeowner’s insurance policy to make sure that you’re covered for trampoline-related injuries.

3.     Avoid Insect Bites and Stings

 

Insect bites and stings can interrupt summer fun. Ticks are plentiful this year, and they carry debilitating, sometimes lethal, diseases [insert link to blog post on ticks]. Always check for ticks on anyone who has been outside, and remove them immediately. Using an insect repellant with at least 20% DEET can help.

Insect repellants are usually effective to keep mosquitoes in check. An occasional mosquito bite is seldom cause for concern, but being covered by mosquito bites will ruin any hike or camping trip in short order.

Bee and wasp stings can be dangerous, especially for persons who are allergic to them. For anyone who is allergic and at risk of anaphylactic shock, take the following steps:

  • Call 911.
  • Use an EpiPen™ to inject epinephrine into outer muscle of the thigh, not into hands or feet.
  • Go to an urgent care facility or emergency room immediately after an EpiPen™ injection, even if symptoms subside, since there can be a delayed allergic reaction.

If there are no symptoms of allergic reaction, do the following:

  • Remove the stinger by scraping with a flat edge. Do not pinch or use tweezers since that will inject more poison.
  • Apply ice or cold compress.
  • If stung on an arm or leg, elevate the area.
  • Take acetaminophen (Tylenol™) for pain or an antihistamine (Benadryl™) for itching. Do not use aspirin.
  • Follow up with a visit to an urgent care facility in 2-5 days if necessary.

If you have any questions or concerns after a bee sting, call or visit an urgent care center.

4.     Patch Up Those Cuts and Scrapes

Most minor cuts and scrapes can be treated at home. However, if the wound is deep, dirty, or caused by an animal, a tetanus shot (or booster) might be needed.

Remember the following steps:

  • Wash your hands.
  • If bleeding doesn’t stop, apply pressure with a clean bandage for a few minutes.
  • Clean the wound with clear water. Do not get soap or other cleansers into the wound, but use them as necessary to clean around the wound.
  • If any debris remains in the wound, try removing it with (disinfected) tweezers. If you cannot remove the debris, go to an urgent care facility.
  • Apply an antibiotic cream and cover the wound with a sterile bandage.
  • Change the bandage once a day or if it gets wet.
  • After the wound scabs over, stop applying the bandage.

It’s always a good idea to keep a well-stocked first aid kit handy for these situations.

Deep cuts or wounds that won’t stop bleeding might require stitches. Visit an urgent care facility for that sort of treatment.

5.     Attend to Head Injuries, Sprains, and Fractures

Bumps on the head are common for children and usually do not require medical attention. Nevertheless, if the following symptoms occur, you should go to an urgent care facility:

  • Unconsciousness, confusion, or disorientation.
  • Vomiting.
  • Persistent, severe headache.
  • Persistent irritability.
  • Memory loss.
  • Visual impairment.

If severe head trauma has occurred (immediate loss of consciousness; severe bleeding from head, nose, or ears; weakness in arm or leg; loss of balance, slurred speech, seizures, repeated vomiting, persistent crying, or cessation of breathing), CALL 911. Keep the victim still, lying down, and quiet. Do not move the victim unless absolutely necessary to get the victim out of further harm’s way. To avoid further spinal injury, do not move the neck. If the victim is wearing a helmet, leave it in place.

Sprains and fractures are sometimes difficult to distinguish. If your child merely rolled an ankle, then it might be a mild sprain. In such cases, the child might be able to put weight on the ankle, although sometimes there can be impressive swelling and pain. Rest, ice, and elevation will generally produce a good result in a few days.

P – Protect
R – Rest
I –  Ice
C – Ice
E – Elevation

If, however, there is major swelling, pain, numbness, or if it is extremely difficult for the ankle to bear any weight, a break might have occurred. Broken ankles, wrists, or other bones always require medical attention. Bear in mind that severe sprains can take longer to heal than some fractures.

Because it is difficult to tell a broken bone from a severe sprain, don’t take any chances. Go to your nearest urgent care center to get a professional diagnosis. Most have X-ray equipment on site and are prepared to treat broken bones and sprains.

6.     Keep Allergies in Check

During the summer, the weeds and grasses that developed during the spring continue to spread pollen that causes allergic reactions in children and adults. Sometimes, over-the-counter antihistamines such as Zyrtec™ can control these reactions.

But often, allergic reactions to pollen or molds can be truly debilitating with the potential to ruin a summer of fun. If you or your child suffer from seasonal allergies, ask a health professional to evaluate the situation. They can offer tips and medications that will help you avoid a summer filled with sniffles and runny eyes.

For all of these situations and if you are located near us, call or come to Kathy’s Urgent Care so that we can help you and your children enjoy a fun summer. Remember, we’re here to help you 7 days a week. No appointment needed!

Authored by Dr. Tom Brown