Allergy Myths 101: Animal Allergies

There are many old wives tales or popular myths about how a person can treat their allergies.  Here at Intermountain Allergy and Asthma, we have heard them all!  As a way to help dispel allergy myths, we’ve invited Dr. Harris to share a few his thoughts in our “Allergy Myths 101” blog posts.

Two popular animal allergy myths that we hear frequently are:

  1. “The new dog couldn’t be causing my current problems because it doesn’t shed”
  2. “I grew up with animals, so I won’t be allergic to them now”

Animal allergies are a significant part of what the typical allergist deals with on a daily basis.  Here are some facts about animal allergies and suggestions to help keep symptoms under control.

Animal Allergy Fact 1: Shedding – the vast majority of the time, the animal allergens that cause problems are from the dander (tiny skin particles or flakes – think dandruff in humans), or in the animal’s saliva.  The hair or fur has little or nothing to do with it.  It may be true that a long haired cat or dog could ‘hold – on’ to more dander in the fur than a short haired animal, but whether the fur stays on the pet or is shed doesn’t matter.  All furry/haired pets have dander because they all have skin.

Animal Allergy Fact 2: Pet Saliva There are proteins in pet saliva that can cause allergies.  Some people first know that they are allergic to dogs when they get hives (welts) after being licked by the animal.  Also, cats groom themselves by licking their fur.  When you pet a cat, then rub your eyes ……  cat ‘spit’ in the eye.  Yech! 

Animal Allergy Fact 3: Exposure to animals in the past:  People develop allergies to new things all the time — including animals, plants, and foods — that they weren’t sensitive to in the past.   Tolerating pets in the past doesn’t mean that you are ‘immune’ now.

More importantly, studies have shown that some people can develop a modest amount of clinical tolerance to an animal that they are around all the time.  The allergy skin tests are still positive, but the patient’s symptoms are subdued somewhat.  In many other cases, patients become accustomed to their allergy symptoms and just ignore them, even though they are as bad as ever.  These patients can then be miserable if they leave home for a while (school, marriage, work, world travel), and then return home, or if they decide to get a new pet after years of having none.  

Animal Allergy Solutions

There are some things you can do to decrease an animal’s potential to cause allergies:  Studies have shown that frequent washing, or rinsing an animal can, in some cases, lessen the dander that is deposited around the house.  Also, keeping an indoor animal out of the bedroom, off of the bed and off any fabric-covered furniture could help as well.

Measures that can actually decrease animal allergy problems:

  • Keep furry or feathered pets outside 24/7 when conditions allow (Nobody wants to do this!)
  • If indoors, keep pets off the beds and furniture
  • Wash/rinse pets weekly
  • Get a small animal. Toy poodles should produce less dander than Great Danes
  • Keep the animal’s pelt in good condition. Treat any eczema
  • Use a HEPA air filter in your personal room – or just use good furnace filters and change them frequently (less expensive and probably just as effective)

Animal fact: Cat dander can remain suspended in the air for long periods of time after the cat has left the room.  Cat allergic people can often tell that a cat lives in a home without ever seeing the pet.

Duane J. Harris M.D.
Intermountain Allergy and Asthma of Draper

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment.  Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

Please follow our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT”, for the daily pollen count.

Thank you for allowing Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

Allergy Myths 101: Iodine Allergy

There are many old wives tales or popular myths about how a person can treat their allergies. Here at Intermountain Allergy and Asthma, we have heard them all! As a way to help dispel allergy myths, we’ve invited Dr. Harris to share a few his thoughts in our “Allergy Myths 101” blog posts. 

Here is a popular allergy myth: There are cross-reactions between seafood and iodinated contrast (x-ray contrast dye) caused by “Iodine allergy”. 

What is Iodinated Contrast?

“Iodinated contrast is a form of intravenous radiocontrast (radiographic dye) containing iodine, which enhances the visibility of vascular structures and organs during radiographic procedures. Some pathologies, such as cancer, have particularly improved visibility with iodinated contrast” – Wikipedia.

It is true that some people have allergy-like reactions if they are given iodinated contrast dye during an x-ray procedure, and of course there are many people that have life-threatening allergic reactions after eating fish or shellfish.  However, the truth is that there is no connection between these two types of reactions and no ‘allergy’ relationship at all between seafood and radiologic contrast dyes.

I suspect that this allergy myth got started because radiology dyes and seawater/ seafood both contain iodine.

It isn’t clear why some people react when they are given iodinated contrast dyes, but we do know that it isn’t a true “allergy” to the dye (or to iodine) in the vast majority of cases.  It may be that the iodinated contrast dyes can affect the osmolality (the balance between water and electrolytes) in allergy cells and thus cause the cells to release their active contents.

During a true allergic reaction (such as with a fish or shrimp sensitivity), the immune system is involved and ‘allergic’ antibodies recognize a substance that we are sensitive to, and they (the antibodies) cause the release of active chemicals.  The immune system isn’t involved in most iodinated contrast dye reactions.  The reactions look the same, but take place for very different reasons.

What about people who have terrible reactions to seafood, and then get hives during an x-ray when iodinated contrast was used?

Those people do exist, but that is probably an example of someone who has two common problems at the same time – purely coincidental.  Someone who is allergic to fish is not at dramatically greater risk than anyone else to have a reaction during an x-ray procedure.  Someone who has a reaction to contrast dyes has about the same risk as everyone else to develop a seafood allergy.

Neither a reaction to contrast dyes nor a seafood allergy will cause any problems when consuming iodinated salt in food.

Duane J. Harris M.D.
Intermountain Allergy and Asthma of Draper

A Tip from Dr. Harris

By the way – We all need a little iodine in our diet for proper thyroid function.

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment.  Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

Please follow our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT”, for the daily pollen count.

Thank you for allowing Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

Allergy Myths 101: Unfiltered Local Honey

There are many old wives tales or popular myths about how a person can treat their allergies. Here at Intermountain Allergy and Asthma, we have heard them all! As a way to help dispel allergy myths, we’ve invited Dr. Harris to share a few of his thoughts in our “Allergy Myths 101” blog posts. We hope you’ll read this and read future 101 posts. Dr. Harris, take it away!

Here is a popular allergy myth: Eating unfiltered local honey will help control allergies.

I want to start this by saying that I love unfiltered “raw” honey.  I personally eat a lot of honey (sometimes by the spoonful), but I don’t recommend it for allergies.

There are two reasons that local honey is unlikely to be helpful with seasonal allergies:

Local Honey Allergy Myth Reason 1: The pollen that is found in honey is generally not the pollen that is causing your allergies.  Bees are attracted to bright, colorful, and fragrant plants (such as roses or lilacs), but pollen from those plants usually doesn’t cause nose and eye symptoms.  Most of the time, the pollen types that make us miserable in the spring and fall comes from drab, un-colored plants, with no noticeable fragrance (such as the grass in your front lawn, or ragweed).  These are the plants that bees usually ignore.  Ingesting the wrong pollen simply isn’t going to make a difference.

Local Honey Allergy Myth Reason 2: When we eat pollen-containing honey, the pollen proteins are very likely destroyed, or at least significantly altered by stomach acid and other digestive enzymes so that any allergy potential they may have had is eliminated.

If you could somehow put honey with the ‘correct’ pollen in it under the tongue (where a portion is absorbed directly into the blood stream) it might be effective.  Believe me though, it would take a lot of honey to do any good.

So – by all means enjoy the flavor of raw, local honey, but use tested and proven medicines and treatments to take care of allergies.

Duane J. Harris M.D.
Intermountain Allergy and Asthma
Draper, Utah

A Local Raw Honey Tip from Dr. Harris

An interesting taste test is to compare ‘raw’, unfiltered honey and commercial honey from your local store (it’s important that the raw honey hasn’t been heated at all or this may not work).  A friend who produces honey told me about this and I could definitely taste a difference (I loved the ‘raw’ honey).  Apparently, any significant heating can change the flavor – so you get the best, most ‘natural’ flavor by consuming the honey before it crystallizes and needs to be heated or ‘melted’.

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment.  Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

Please follow our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT”, for the daily pollen count.

Thank you for allowing Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis: Pollen Allergies in the Eyes

We are fast approaching the most common time of the year for allergic problems in the eyes.  Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAR) can occur anytime there is pollen in the air, however, for many allergy sufferers, grass pollen is more likely to cause bothersome eye symptoms than other types of pollen.  Most of the common grasses in northern and central Utah start to pollinate in late spring — when the daytime temps are in the 70’s or low 80’s.  It’s right around the corner!

What are symptoms of Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAR)?

Symptoms of SAR include redness, tearing, and itching in both eyes, and coincide with nasal symptoms in most patients.  A number of allergy medications can (and do) help with the eyes:  antihistamines can help to some degree, as do the daily nasal sprays.  For those really bad eye days though, you’ll need eye drops in addition.   It’s OK to use antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops at the same time – they won’t interfere with each other or cause unexpected side effects when used together.

If your eyes are itching somewhat, but burning, ‘grittiness’, pain, or redness are the main problems, you may have something else going on in addition to simple eye allergies.  Itching is generally the thing that patients with eye allergies complain about the most—and of course it’s often the hardest thing to control.  Rubbing an allergic eye will almost always make the itching worse – (but OH it’s tough not to rub and scratch!)  For children especially, it is just not realistic to think that they can resist the urge to rub their eyes.

How can I treat symptoms of Seasonal Allergic Conjunctivitis (SAR)?

There are a number of good over the counter (OTC) eye drops available, that will work for mild or moderate allergy symptoms.  However, be aware that some of the OTC drops are meant to be used sparingly, and can actually cause more problems in the eyes if used daily for extended periods of time.  Also, most OTC drops burn or sting for a few minutes after being used, and are not very kid friendly.  If you think that you or family members may need eye drops for much of this pollen allergy season, get in to see an Intermountain Allergy and Asthma allergist now and ask for prescription drops that can be used long term, and will be easier to use in children.

There are some types of allergic eye disease that can be quite severe, and if not treated appropriately can even affect vision long term.  If your eye symptoms are not adequately controlled with OTC meds, or if your prescription meds are not enough, make sure you let your doctor know!

Finally for those patients with significant nasal and eye allergies, and for whom medications are not enough:  allergy ‘desensitization’ shots can be very helpful with eye allergies, regardless of the type of pollen causing the problem.  Talk with an Intermountain Allergy and Asthma allergist and see if this may be a good form of treatment for you.

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment.  Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans.  If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

Please follow our web page “Intermountainallergy.com” or Facebook page “Intermountain Allergy and Asthma – Draper, UT”, for the daily pollen count.  My prediction is that we will see grass really start to climb in the next two weeks, and tree pollen will start to decline.

Thank you for allowing Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

2018: Expect Early Pollen Season this Year

Those with spring allergies should be prepared for the onset of symptoms at any time!

Early spring is the time that the trees pollinate. If you have early or mid-spring allergies, it is most likely due to tree pollen.  In a typical year, this pollination starts in late February or early March.  In past years, when there has been a mid-January thaw, we have occasionally noticed tree pollen starting earlier, in mid-February, sometime after things have thoroughly frozen again, and with snow on the ground.  This year, there wasn’t just a mid-January thaw, but almost an entire January thaw — we expect to see early pollen. 

Pollen Count Check

At Intermountain Allergy and Asthma, we will start checking for pollen at the latest by the 12th of February.  The first tree pollen that we expect to see is Elm, followed quickly by Cottonwood, and then a wide variety of assorted tree pollens.  In a ‘typical’ spring, the tree pollen season will be at its peak from late March through mid-April, but that can be quite variable.  Be aware that the trees from the St. George (Southern Utah) area may start pollinating several weeks earlier than in Northern Utah. Those who like to go to Utah’s Dixie in the early spring may have significant problems with trees or plants that are not active yet in this area. 

When Should I Start Taking My Allergy Medication or Seek Treatment?

For those with spring allergies, we recommend having allergy medicines on hand, and consider starting them now.  Some medicines (nasal steroids) take several days or even a few weeks to reach full effect.  Don’t wait until your allergy symptoms are full blown and you are miserable to start using them.  If you use any prescription allergy medications, now is the time to get in to see your allergist for refills.  Once the allergy season is here in full force, it gets very busy here at Intermountain Allergy and Asthma and it can take longer to be seen.  If you are an allergy patient of Dr. Harris in Draper, please call (801) 553-1900 to schedule an appointment.  If you are an allergy patient of Dr. Anderson in Ogden, please call (801) 476-0052 to schedule an appointment. 

New to Intermountain Allergy and Asthma?

If you suffer from allergies and have never seen an allergist, now is a great time to consider starting professional allergy treatment.  Dr. Harris and Dr. Anderson accept new allergy patients of all ages and most insurance plans. If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact Intermountain Allergy and Asthma at (801) 553-1900 (Dr. Harris) or (801) 476-0052 (Dr. Anderson) and we will be happy to assist you.

We are aware that the insurance plans currently offered in the health care market have high deductibles and patients pay more money out-of-pocket for medical care than ever before.  Intermountain Allergy and Asthma offers monthly payment options for balances that insurance doesn’t cover.  If you don’t have insurance we offer a 20% discount and monthly payment options. It is Intermountain Allergy and Asthma’s goal to provide the best medical treatment for Dr. Harris’ and Anderson’s patients while working with insurance companies and patients to keep costs and payments reasonable.

Thank you for allowing Intermountain Allergy and Asthma to be part of your health care team – we look forward to seeing you!

Check our website regularly – intermountainallergy.com – we will start posting the pollen count as soon as we see significant amounts of pollen.

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