Winter Cold or Allergy?

The winter months can be challenging to your health. The drop in temperatures often results in symptoms that could be either a winter cold or allergies.

While many of the symptoms of colds and allergies are similar, the causes of each are very different.

Colds are contagious and they are contracted when a person is exposed to an individual infected with a cold virus.  Our body’s immune system will launch a counter attack against the virus. This response usually brings on the classic symptoms, such as a runny nose or cough.

An allergic reaction is caused by an overactive immune system that mistakes harmless things, such as mold or dust mites and attacks them. To combat what it thinks are germs, your body releases chemicals called histamines as a defense. The release of these histamines can cause a swelling of the nasal passages and result in coughing and sneezing. While many of the symptoms are similar, the easiest way to determine if you have a cold or are suffering from allergies is the duration of your condition. While most colds last from three to 14 days, allergies can last for months as long as the person is in contact with the allergen. Other differences are:

  • An allergic reaction will begin immediately after exposure to an allergen while cold symptoms usually take approximately three days to appear after exposure
  • A cold virus can sometimes cause fever and body aches while allergies never do
  • An allergic reaction can often result in itchy, watery eyes, which a cold rarely produces this type of reaction
  • Allergies are not contagious.

Once a determination between cold or allergy is made, the appropriate treatment can be applied.

There is no cure for a cold, but there are medications that can help alleviate the symptoms. Cough syrups, pain relievers, decongestant sprays, or multi-symptom cold relief medicines can all be used to help, but should only be taken after consulting your doctor, especially if you are taking other medications or if you have other underlying health conditions. Drinking plenty of liquids also speeds up the recovery process.

To treat allergies, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine to block the reaction to the allergens. There are many forms of antihistamines and some may cause drowsiness so be sure to look for the non-drowsy formula or only take them at night. Decongestants may also be suggested to relieve nasal congestion and avoid an infection.

If you are not sure if you have a cold or allergies, please speak with your doctor. If you do not have a doctor, Jamaica Hospital’s Ambulatory Care Center can help. To make an appointment, please call 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Food Allergy Action Month

 

Allergenic food isolated on white

May has been designated as Food Allergy Action Month in an effort to educate Americans about food allergies and to support those who suffer from them.

Recent surveys indicate that 15 million Americans now suffer from food allergies. This number indicates that food allergies are much more common than previously believed and the number of people with allergies is steadily growing. It is now estimated that one out of every 13 children has a food allergy.

An allergic reaction occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies a food component as a hazardous substance and attacks it. The effects of food allergies may appear on the skin, in the respiratory passage, or in the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms of food allergies may vary from mild to severe, and in extreme cases, they can even be fatal.

Minor reactions include:

  • Skin rash
  • Eczema
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea

Serious Reactions Include:

  • Obstructive inflammation of the tongue and respiratory tract
  • Panting and wheezing
  • Lack of oxygen, leading to blue lips
  • Unconsciousness
  • Drop in pulse rate

Anaphylaxis is a very serious allergic reaction that can cause death. This type of allergic reaction requires immediate action and medical attention. If you or a loved one has a severe food allergy, you must be prepared for an emergency. Learn the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and know what the emergency care plan is. It may include the administration of epinephrine, a life-saving drug.

Over 170 different foods have been reported to cause an allergic reaction, but the food products that cause the most reactions are:

  • Soy
  • Milk
  • Fish / Shellfish
  • Peanuts / Tree Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Wheat

There is currently no cure for food allergies. To prevent an allergic reaction, it is important for the person with the allergy to stay away from foods that cause symptoms. Contact with even the smallest amounts of the allergen can cause serious problems. To avoid an allergic reaction, take the following precautions:

  • Learn to carefully read food labels and ask about ingredients in prepared foods
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after touching food
  • Use clean, uncontaminated utensils when preparing foods
  • Educate others about food allergies.

Every year in the United States, approximately 30,000 individuals are brought to hospital Emergency Departments and 150 people die due to severe allergic reactions. Jamaica Hospital joins the effort to raise awareness about food allergies and urges everyone to learn more about this growing, yet manageable issue.

For more hospital events, highlights, health and  fitness tips, visit us on 

Facebook.com/JamaicaHospital  or Facebook.com/Flushing Hospital 

and follow us on Twitter @JamaicaHospital or @FHMC_NYC 

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Are Allergy Shots an Option for You?

Do you suffer with seasonal allergies and over the counter medications have not helped? Allergy shots may be an option when all other treatment methods have failed.

Allergy test

Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, are injections given at regular intervals to allergy sufferers over three to five years to stop or reduce the symptoms associated with an allergy attack. Each shot contains a tiny amount of the allergens that trigger an attack; just enough to spark the immune system, but not enough to cause a reaction. Over time, doctors will increase the amount of allergens as your system builds up a tolerance to them and becomes desensitized to their effects.

Allergy shots should be considered if medications to treat your allergies are ineffective, if allergy medications poorly interact with other medications you are taking, if allergy medications cause bothersome side effects, or if you want to reduce the long-term use of allergy medications.

Allergy shots can be used to treat reactions to:

• Seasonal allergens, such as pollens released by trees, grass, and weeds
• Indoor allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold
• Insect strings from bees, wasps, hornets, or yellow jackets

Unfortunately, allergy shots cannot treat food allergies.

Before you can even consider receiving an allergy shot your doctor must perform a skin test to determine what you are allergic to. During a skin test, a small amount of multiple allergens are scratched into your skin and the area (usually the back) is observed for 15 minutes. Redness or swelling will occur on whatever substances you are allergic to.

Once identified, allergy shots are injected regularly during two different phases of treatment.

• The build-up phase –Typically shots are given one to three times a week over three to six months. During the buildup phase, the allergen dose is gradually increased with each shot.
• The maintenance – This phase generally continues for three to five years or longer with maintenance injections administered approximately once a month.

You will need to remain in the doctor’s office for 30 minutes after each shot, in case you have a reaction, which can include local redness or swelling, sneezing, or nasal congestion. In rare cases, allergy shots can result in low blood pressure or difficulty breathing.

Allergy symptoms won’t stop overnight. They usually improve during the first year of treatment, but the most noticeable improvement often happens during the second year. By the third year, most people are desensitized to the allergens contained in the shots — and no longer have significant allergic reactions to those substances. After a few years of successful treatment, some people don’t have significant allergy problems even after allergy shots are stopped. Other people need ongoing shots to keep symptoms under control.

Speak with your doctor to determine if allergy shots are an option for you. If you do not have a doctor, Jamaica Hospital has an allergy clinic. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.

Are Allergies Controlling Your Life?

Hay fever cedar pollen allergy

In some parts of the country, spring allergy season starts as early as February and can last through the summer months. Tree pollen is the first sign of allergy season’s arrival and continues to cause allergy symptoms throughout March and April. Tree pollen and grass pollen are one in the same, beginning in late spring and continuing into early summer.

Allergies are the result of an over-reactive immune system. When allergies occur, the immune system mistakenly identifies an allergen such as pollen, pet dander, mold, and dust mites as an “invader.” As a reaction, the body mounts an inappropriate immune response. To get rid of the “invader,” the immune response triggers a response that results in you experiencing typical allergy symptoms like, sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes.

People are affected by all kinds of allergens. Some people need to avoid pollen and dust; others can’t be around dogs or cats. Regardless of what sets your allergies off, symptoms can interfere with daily activities and reduce your quality of life. Here are a few suggestions to lessen the severity of your allergies:

  1. Leave your shoes at the door

When you come home from the outside, taking your shoes off at the door lessens the amount of pollen you track into the house. Wipe down your dog’s coat before he comes into the house, too, because pollen clings to fur.

  1. Change your clothes when you get home

You can bring pollen into your home on your clothes and shoes even if you can’t see it. Toss soiled clothes in the hamper immediately; even better, take a shower.

  1. Clean or change the filters in your air conditioner

Change them at the intervals recommended by the manufacturer, or more frequently if it seems to help.

  1. Keep open windows closed

Open windows can be refreshing, but they let in pollen. Close windows and outside doors, especially on high-pollen days, and turn on the heat or the air-conditioning.

  1. Take allergy medicine at night.

If your doctor suggests or prescribes allergy medicine try taking them at night. Typically, allergy symptoms tend to be at their worst in the morning.

There are many popular methods of treatment. They work in different ways, but some are more effective than others. Before making any changes in your allergy treatment options speak with your doctor first. Jamaica Hospital’s Division of Allergy and Immunology has qualified doctors available to diagnose and treat your allergy symptoms. To make an appointment, please call 718-206-7001.

For more hospital events, highlights, health and  fitness tips, visit us on 

Facebook.com/JamaicaHospital  or Facebook.com/Flushing Hospital 

and follow us on Twitter @JamaicaHospital or @FHMC_NYC

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.