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Why Its Important to Know the Difference

Allergy Symptoms vs Cold SymptomsColds and allergies have a number of overlapping symptoms, including runny nose, congestion, and cough. Given that these symptoms can indicate different issues that require different interventions, confusing one condition for another can prolong symptoms and reduce quality of life for an extended period of time. Understanding the different etiologies and other distinguishing features of colds and allergies can help increase the likelihood that the symptoms are accurately assessed and that optimal steps are taken to rid the patient of those symptoms.

The Cause of Colds Versus Allergies

Viruses cause colds. Once viruses invade the body, the immune system recognizes and attacks them. The process of immune response causes the symptoms that are associated with a cold. Like colds, allergy symptoms arise because of actions of the immune system. However, unlike with colds, the immune system’s role in allergies represents over-activity of the immune system. Specifically, the immune system mistakes an innocuous foreign substance as a harmful invader. In response, the immune system causes the body to release certain chemicals that it would also release upon an infection with a cold. For instance, histamine is released in both allergies and colds, which causes swelling in the nose, as well as coughing, and sneezing.

Because allergies represent the nature of one’s immune system, rather than the nature of what is coming into the body, allergies are not contagious. On the other hand, colds are easily transmitted from one person to another when a person with a cold transfers infected material – through things like a sneeze, cough, or handshake. Though this does not happen with allergies, having family members with allergies can increase one’s likelihood of developing them.

Distinguishing Between A Cold and An Allergy

Several overlapping symptoms of colds and allergies can make them difficult to distinguish. For example, a runny or stuffy nose is often associated with both colds and allergies, and each condition can lead to fatigue. Though fever is rare in both conditions, it does sometimes occur with colds but should never occur with allergies. A cough or a sore throat is more likely an indicator of a cold, though each can also occur with allergies. Better distinguishing characteristics are aches, which do not occur with allergies but can occur with a cold, and itchy, watery eyes, which often occur in allergies and rarely occur in colds.

In addition to the symptoms themselves, some other features of colds and allergies can be used to determine from which ailment one is suffering. The onset of symptoms can occur immediately in allergies once one is exposed to an allergen, whereas colds normally take a few days to occur after infection occurs. However, knowing when one was introduced to a virus can be difficult, so this difference in symptom onset is not always useful for identifying the cause of one’s symptoms. The time of year can provide a clue as to whether one is experiencing a cold or allergies, as colds are most frequent in the winter. Allergies can occur any time of year, but they are often specific to the time of year when specific allergens are in season.

One of the best indicators that one is suffering from allergies rather than a cold has to do with the duration of symptoms. Whereas cold symptoms last from a few days up to bout 2 weeks, allergies can last months and will likely persist as long as one is exposed to allergens. Thus, if symptoms exceed about 2 weeks, it is likely that those symptoms are associated with allergies rather than a cold. It is often at this point that patients realize that what they thought was a cold is actually a different type of immune reaction.

Preventing and Treating Colds and Allergies

Prevention in both colds and allergies involves avoiding the agent that causes the illness. For a cold, this means staying away from infected people and keeping your hands clean. Allergies are harder to avoid if one does not know what causes their allergies, but some allergens are common and cause more allergies in our population than others. For instance, pollen, dust mites, mold, animal dander, and cockroaches are among the substances most frequently associated with allergies.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for either colds or allergies, but there are specific medications that can help manage the symptoms. For colds, rest and consuming fluids can improve symptoms and help the body recover from the invading virus, whereas such healthy practices do not help one recover from allergies as long as allergens are present. Colds can also be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, which help reduce the most common symptoms of colds. Pain relievers can also be used to reduce aches that may be experienced during a cold.

Allergies are often treated with antihistamines, which prevent the histamine that the body releases in response to allergens from causing congestion. Decongestants help minimize swelling in the nasal passage, which can also be accomplished with nasal steroids. A doctor may decide to employ immunotherapy, which often involves allergy shots, to reduce one’s allergies over time. By injecting small amounts of the allergen, the body can get desensitized over time so that the immune system no longer overreacts to the presence of that allergen, and the symptoms of allergies are avoided.

By focusing on the specific experience one has during the presence of symptoms that resemble both colds and allergies, one may be able to determine which illness is occurring. Quicker recognition of the illness allows for better management of the underlying symptoms and quicker overall recovery from those symptoms.

Friday, 06 February 2015 08:00

Stanford Launches Center for Allergy Research

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Donation Facilitates Important Allergy Research

Food Allergy ResearchAlmost 40% of the global population currently suffers from allergies, and the percentage is expected to increase to 50% soon. There is no cure for allergies that is currently approved by the FDA. Stanford University School of Medicine is launching a new research center aimed at developing innovative solutions for allergies. The center received a $24 million donation, which is among the largest private gifts ever dedicated to allergy research in the United States. Of the $24 million $4 million will go toward a matching program for new gifts to the center.

The gift comes from from Sean Parker, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who suffers from severe allergies to a number of foods. Parker was the co-founder of Napster and has also served as president of Facebook. He was prompted by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to make this specific donation. Sean has landed in the emergency room over a dozen times due to accidental ingestion of allergens, which include avocados, shellfish, and nuts. Because allergies can be genetically passed on to children, Parker worries for the safety of his two children and wants to help in the global challenge to prevent, or at least safely control, allergic reactions. Reported allergic reactions to food allergens double each decade. It is estimated that about 1 in 4 people suffering from food allergies will have a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction at some point in their lives.

Parker considers his gift more of a form of venture capital funding than a traditional endowment, as the investment is much like that of an investment in a startup. Specifically, Parker views the center as an opportunity to assemble an idea team to conduct important research and develop effective clinical applications.

The Allergy Center Will Be Innovative and Multidisciplinary

The new center for allergies will be inter-disciplinary, combining research initiatives with programs that ensure that care is compassionate and comprehensive. The center will also initiate clinical trials and organize community outreach. Several fields within Stanford’s medical school will also contribute to the center, including not only immunology, but also otolaryngology, pulmonology, pathology, genetics, gastroenterology, chemistry, and bioengineering.

Led by Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, the center’s research will focus on both therapeutic interventions, as well as the uncovering of mechanisms by which allergies develop and the relevant causes for alterations within the immune system. Nadeau’s immunological research focusing on allergies – and in particular, the activity of regulatory T cells - is internationally recognized. She points to the need for a better understanding of how allergies emerge and evolve for the development of long-term therapies. Nadeau herself suffers from life-threatening allergies, which has inspired aspects of her career.

Nadeau developed the first combination therapy that involved multiple food allergies, demonstrating that it is safe to desensitize patients to multiple allergens at the same time. Using immunotherapy, Nadeau exposes patients to small doses of the substances to which they are allergic to help accustom their immune systems to these substances. Over time, as higher doses of these substances are introduced, the danger of natural exposure to these substances decreases, as the body no longer perceives these substances as harmful or dangerous. Nadeau has conducted these studies on how to build tolerance against multiple food allergies at once at Stanford’s Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford Health Care. She was able to cure 680 of the 700 patients using methods from these clinical trials.

The experience of an eighth grade boy from Los Altos, CA in one of Nadeau’s clinical trial demonstrates the results of these studies. This youth had a severe peanut allergy and entered the study, hoping to become desensitized to peanuts. During a trial of oral immunotherapy, where he at small peanut doses, he became more able to tolerate nuts. He can now eat moderate doses of peanuts with no allergy symptoms. Future research should help determine if continued exposure is necessary for maintaining tolerance to allergens. For now, this patient eats about 8 peanuts a day, which helps ensure that he remains immune to peanuts. In the trial in which he was a part, Nadeau showed that this type of exposure to allergens could be particularly effective when used in combination with allergy an allergy drug, Xolair.

Specific Goals for the Center

The hope for the future is that better therapies will be developed. The combination therapies that Nadeau has shown can be effective can take a long time to become effective and can be both dangerous and scary for both patients and their loved ones. For some patients, the exposure to small amounts of an allergen can cause reactions without enabling the patient to build a tolerance against the allergen. Understanding the pathology associated with allergies could lead to cures that become active more quickly, are safer, and are more feasible as long-term solutions for allergies. Nadeau has said that the goal of the new Center for Allergy Research is to find a cure for allergies within 10 years.

Thursday, 27 November 2014 00:00

What Does It Mean To Be Allergic To Gluten?

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What Does It Mean To Be Allergic To Gluten? Premier Allergy

These days, we're hearing a lot about the benefits of a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein that makes dough elastic, and it's found in many of the staple food items we consume every day. While many people without sensitivity to the substance are opting for these diets, those with gluten allergies have a more urgent reason to cut this substance out of their daily routines.
Gluten sensitivity differs from many food allergies, as it can have chronic, malignant effects on the intestines, muscles, and joints. Over 250 symptoms have been observed in patients with an observed sensitivity. Patients most commonly complain of bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. This condition has a genetic origin: there are several types of sensitivity, each traceable to the body's failure to handle these specific proteins properly.

It's important to distinguish gluten allergies from other similar conditions, such as celiac disease and wheat allergies. Celiac disease is, in fact, a specific kind of gluten sensitivity that is treated by cutting the protein from a patient's diet. However, the disease poses a host of risks to the immune system that an allergic condition does not. Wheat allergy is often confused with gluten intolerance, but it involves a reaction to a totally different set of substances.

How is gluten intolerance diagnosed? Well, the jury's still out on this. At present, researchers have not found any surefire biomarkers to indicate the disorder. Physicians will often ask patients to undergo a "gluten challenge," during which they are required to either regularly eat or cut out the substance for a specified time period. A diagnosis can then be made based on any symptoms patients experience. Those who seem prone to intolerance are advised to cut this protein from their diet, which means excluding foods that contain wheat, barley, rye, and cross-contaminated oats.

If you're experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, you should consider asking your doctor about getting tested for gluten allergies. The sooner you know, the sooner you'll be able to modify your habits for a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014 00:00

How to Avoid Food Allergies in Your Thanksgiving Meal

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Thanksgiving is the time of year when cooks prepare magnificent feasts. Special dishes are often served that you just don't get the rest of the year. These yummy recipes are great, but you need to be careful if you have food allergies. The best way to enjoy a holiday meal is to identify allergies, make food substitutions, and communicate your needs to the cook.

How to Avoid Food Allergies in Your Thanksgiving Meal Premier Allergy

Identify Foods
Make a list of foods that you cannot eat. This will refresh your memory, and you can give the list to the cook if you will be sharing a meal at a friend or relative's home.

Side Dishes
When you are doing the cooking, you can create side dishes that do not contain the ingredients that you can't eat. That is one of the simplest solutions, or you can make ingredient substitutions and still enjoy a nice meal.
Most people with food allergies can eat fresh slices of vegetables like carrots, celery, or cucumbers. If you are allergic to milk products, however, you need to check the ingredients in the homemade dips that often accompany these veggies or avoid them all together.

The Main Course
The best turkeys are those that are tender and juicy. However, if you have an allergy to wheat, you need to be careful when choosing the turkey. Turkeys that are exceptionally juicy are often injected with wheat that many people cannot tolerate. Check the label on the packaging to determine if it contains wheat. Another alternative is to buy gluten-free birds. Also keep in mind that gravy purchased from the store contains wheat. Making your own gravy is safer and probably tastier.

Just Ask
Many different cooks often prepare Holiday meals, so it may be hard to convey what you cannot eat ahead of time. If some dishes look questionable, just politely ask what the ingredients are. The cooks will certainly rather answer a few questions that have you suffer through an allergy attack.

Individuals with food allergies must take great care to be selective about what they eat during the holidays. Just because you have to be careful doesn't mean you can't have any fun. As long as you make sure to check the ingredients of each dish you try, you're sure to be able to taste your way through the season!

 

Thursday, 20 November 2014 00:00

Best Dog Breeds for Allergy Sufferers

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Dogs make wonderful pets and are found in many homes throughout the world. However, about 10 percent of the people in the United States are actually allergic to some dogs and experience itchy eyes, stuffy noses, wheezing, sneezing, and coughing when they are around them. Nevertheless, people with pet allergies still want the love and companionship provided by these animals. There are some ways to make this possible.
For starters, it's important to realize that you're not actually allergic to dogs – you're allergic to their dander. Dog hair is actually not the allergen, but it contains dog dander that people are often allergic to. Dander consists of old skin cells that are shed from a dog. Saliva and dog urine also contain dander. Choosing a dog that sheds less and produces less dander could make it possible for you to have this pet in your home. Read on for some of the best breeds for those with pet allergies.

Choosing a Breed

The Chinese Crested Hairless has just a little hair on the tail, feet and head. It is considered to be a popular breed for those people who have pet allergies because it has so little hair to carry dander.

The American Hairless Terrier was specifically bred to reduce allergy symptoms. People who react to many other types of breeds often do just fine with this terrier.

Best Dog Breeds for Allergy Sufferers

Miniature Poodles shed just a little hair and usually make good pets for anyone suffering from allergies.

The Bichon Frise has a double coat, which helps to lessen the amount of dander that is shed and reduce allergy symptoms for the pet owner.

These breeds are suggestions that seem to work well for those people with known pet allergies. However, it doesn't mean that all people can tolerate these breeds. You should spend a little time with the dog you are considering to see how you personally react. With the proper breed, pet ownership could be in the cards for even those with the worst allergies!

Thursday, 13 November 2014 20:33

How to Travel Safely with Allergies

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Traveling can create unique challenges for people with allergies. Hotels may have dust mites or even mold, and airplanes and trains seem to always contain an allergy trigger. Whether it's from spending time in new places or around new people, you're likely to be exposed to something that can irritate your allergy conditions. Try a few of the following tips on your next journey to make your allergies less of an issue.

Packing

Get medications refilled before your trip. In case of travel delays, it may be a good idea to carry an extra dose of medications. Medications should always be packed in a carry-on bag or purse for easy access. Never pack them in luggage that could be lost at the airport. It is also a good idea to keep all medications in original containers to get through airport security.

Additionally, people that have an allergy to food should put snacks in their carry-on so they can avoid disagreeable foods on airlines and trains.

Hotels

Try to locate a hotel that offers allergy-friendly rooms. Some hotels are now totally smoke-free, which could be helpful. Avoid smoke-free rooms that are located one floor above the smokers' floor. The smoke can rise up to your floor and aggravate your allergies.

Many hotels advertise if they are pet friendly. Since animal dander can be tough to control or clean up, your allergies may act up if a dog or a cat has recently stayed in the room you are assigned. These hotels should be avoided when you have allergies to animal dander.

Car Travel

Pollution is generally at its lowest during the late evening and early morning hours. It is a good idea to use the recirculation setting when running your air conditioner in the car, so you do not pull in outside air. This minimizes your chances of being exposed to environmental elements that may trigger your allergies.

Planes

Although it is illegal on most domestic flights, some international flights may still permit smoking. If you have allergies, request a seat far from the smoking area.

Taking some of these things into consideration is a nice way to ensure that your travel will be as easy as possible. Never let your allergies get in the way of going on a trip and having an adventure again!

Tuesday, 07 October 2014 18:58

Avoiding Food Allergy Mistakes with Children

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We are hearing talk of food allergies more often because there seems to be an increase in allergies found in children. What should you do if you think your child might have an allergy? Stay calm and consider these important points. Don't hesitate to contact a pediatric allergist if you see serious symptoms.

Self Diagnosing

If you are familiar with some of the symptoms of food allergies, you may think about trying to diagnose your child but this is usually a mistake. Common symptoms can include stomach pain, hives, sneezing, coughing, itching or diarrhea. Diagnosing a food allergy is difficult because many of the symptoms could be pointing to another problem and not necessarily a food allergy.

Changing a Diet

Parents assume that changing the child's diet is the best course of action when in reality it is another pitfall. Health professionals don’t recommend changing a child's diet before you have seen a pediatric allergist. It is actually harder to get a proper diagnosis when foods are removed from a diet. Eliminating essential food groups from a child's diet can be unhealthy and they could become deficient in key nutrients needed for growth.

Keep a Log 

Write down all the food your child eats for a couple of weeks and note any symptoms seen after eating. It is a good idea to note the time they ate in relation to the time a symptom may have appeared. A log with two weeks worth of documentation can help a specialist to rule out several foods and determine a better recommendation.

Professional Help

Since most parents do not have the training to properly determine what is wrong with their child, it is best to get professional help. Avoid practitioners who are not qualified to test for food allergies. If you see unusual symptoms, contact a pediatric allergist to get your child tested. Consult with a dietitian about food and nutrition if your allergist finds problems.

Parents and schools have come to realize the seriousness of treating severe allergic reactions quickly with allergy shots. Schools are taking the initiative to see that epinephrine auto-injectors are available and used to stop allergic reactions in children and staff.

allergy-shot

Federal legislation for keeping epinephrine at schools was signed by President Obama in 2013. The Emergency Epinephrine Act provides strong incentives for states to legislate epinephrine and provide trained personnel to dispense the shots. All states except two already have legislation in place or having pending legislation ready to go. Rhode Island and New Hampshire have no legislation in place for stocking schools with epinephrine at this time.

Anaphylaxis is a dangerous allergic reaction, which can be life-threatening. Allergy shots containing epinephrine can stop allergic reactions in an instant. Most classrooms have an average of at least two children with known food allergies that may need immediate attention and require an injection of epinephrine.

Medications, foods, insect stings, latex and other triggers can cause anaphylaxis reactions. In most cases, 90 percent of food allergies are the result of eating soy, milk, tree nuts, shellfish, peanuts, fish or wheat. In some instances a child merely has to touch or inhale an allergen to have an allergic reaction.

Now that most states have epinephrine legislation in place, it will be up to the schools to keep epinephrine and find the money to make the purchases. In addition, the schools must provide training to teachers, nurses and administrative personnel for administering shots. Auto-injectors come loaded with medication that is dispensed with a small needle into the upper region of the thigh.

Parents who have children with known allergies are advised to have their children carry their own allergy shots. Young children can easily lose their epinephrine shots, so emergency epinephrine auto-injectors stored on the school's premise provides an excellent backup source.

 

 

 

Tuesday, 07 October 2014 18:52

What is Causing Peanut Allergies?

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Peanut allergies have frustrated researchers for a long time but they may have finally found a solution to the problem. Recently, researchers from the Oxford University found possibly conclusive evidence regarding the cause of peanut allergies. The results may surprise you. 

People consume peanuts fried, boiled, raw or dry-roasted and they are found in a number of commercial products. Unfortunately, allergies to peanuts are quite common and symptoms can be severe. So, why do some people have food allergies to peanuts and some do not? Researchers now believe that the processing process is the key.

It has been known for a long time that Western countries have higher incidents of peanut allergies than people in East Asia. Genetic backgrounds may play a small part in whether people have allergies. However, researchers know that people in East Asia have a preference for fried, boiled or raw peanuts and Western people seem to prefer dry-roasted peanuts.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Oxford University conducted studies with mice to determine if the roasting process could possibly cause allergies. Mice received injections of dry-roasted nuts or raw nuts to see if they reacted differently.

Mice that received dry-roasted samples had strong immune system responses indicating a definite reaction to dry-roasted peanuts. The results of the study indicate that peanut roasting at high-temperatures to make dry-roasted nuts and peanut butter is more than likely causing allergies than raw peanuts.

In addition to studying peanut processing, researchers from the Cambridge University found that children exposed to small amounts of nuts over time might become desensitized to peanuts. These exciting breakthroughs could make a huge difference for people suffering from peanut allergies. The studies are still in the early stages of development, but researchers are making positive strides in determining the causes of peanut allergies.

Tuesday, 07 October 2014 18:45

Steps for Dealing with Allergies in the Classroom

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For unknown reasons, allergies are on the rise in classrooms. One in 13 children is likely to develop allergies and need a pediatric allergist. As a parent, you need to know the symptoms of allergies and how to protect children from serious illness.

premierallergy-allergies-in-the-classroom

Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms from allergies can appear in just a few minutes or take several hours before they are noticed. Mild symptoms could include difficulty breathing, hives, itching or coughing. Dangerous symptoms may include wheezing, chest pain, trouble swallowing or losing consciousness.

Food Allergies

Children are often diagnosed by a pediatric allergist as being allergic to eggs, wheat and milk products when they are young. Surprisingly, many children grow out of these allergies as they mature. However, in some cases, children that are allergic to shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts or fish deal with allergy symptoms for life.

Other Allergies

When sending your child to school each fall, you may notice an increase in allergy like symptoms not associated with food. Schools have a unique environment filled with odors from new flooring, dust, animal dander, dust mites and chalk dust. A visit to school could reveal the source of allergy symptoms such as classroom pets or dirty chalk boards.

Teach Your Child About Food Allergies

Make sure your child knows exactly what foods they are allergic to, and you should explain why they should not eat them. Teach your child not to trade food with other kids. Make sure your child has access to epinephrine at school if required. Talk to them about the dangers of eating home-baked goods or foods with unknown ingredients. Teach your children to recognize allergy symptoms and where to go for help at school.

Working with the School

If your pediatric allergist has determined your child has an allergy, you need to advise the school of the situation. Talk to the nurse, cafeteria staff, administrators and teachers to explain the allergy and care needs. Provide an Emergency Care Plan with the school listing details and emergency contact information.

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