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Allergies and Asthma

POSTED: Thursday, May 30, 2013, 6:00 AM

Before you rush out to get these vitamins for your kids suffering from allergies, what you should know is that there isn’t much clinical evidence which demonstrates vitamins having a significant impact on allergies.

Some preliminary studies do suggest that certain vitamins may have effects on our immune systems, but we have to be careful not to be too eager to make the leap from what goes on in the lab to what happens in patients. The true effect of these substances in patients needs to be demonstrated using well designed, peer reviewed and reproducible clinical trials.

Here’s one example: In the 1960s, Linus Pauling, the famous chemist, became convinced that vitamin C could prevent the common cold. He advocated taking three grams of vitamin C every day for this purpose. He also promoted it as a cancer therapy, even writing a book about its curative properties. Later, rigorous clinical trials showed vitamin C had no effect in preventing colds or treating cancer. Yet even today, the notion persists that vitamin C will help to “ward off” a cold. The same is true of zinc. People swear it keeps them from getting a cold, yet there is no conclusive evidence that taking zinc benefits a cold or other immune system conditions.

POSTED: Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 6:00 AM
General view shows polluted weather in Cairo, Egypt Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Cairo has air pollution levels from 10 to 100 times higher than the World Health Organization standards. High vehicle fuel emissions, polluting urban industries, and a hot and dry desert climate are causing havoc to the occupants of this city. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

It’s time to take some action when it comes to cleaning up our air. Sensible regulation is needed to avoid the current situation in Chinese cities  – air pollution so bad that people are actually afraid to go outside at times.  Johnny Carson used to joke that he was uncomfortable leaving Los Angeles because he did not trust air that he could not see. But air that you can see is a disaster – especially for people with chronic lung conditions, such as asthma in children and emphysema in older people.

I was asked last month by the American Lung Association to speak in front of the Environmental Protection Agency on their proposals to reduce air pollution, especially in regards to stiffening regulations of car exhausts and fuel use. 

When I spoke to the EPA, I concentrated on some fairly simple ideas that the average citizen can help improve our air quality. 

POSTED: Monday, May 6, 2013, 10:02 AM

Children born outside the United States have significantly lower odds of developing allergic disorders, including asthma, eczema, hay fever, and food allergies, according to a recent study in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study also found kids born outside the U.S. who lived in the U.S. for longer than 10 years when compared with those who resided for only 0 to 2 years had significantly higher odds of developing any allergic disorders, including eczema and hay fever, but not asthma or food allergies.

For the study, researchers at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City examined data from the National Survey of Children's Health, a group of more than 91,600 children between the ages of 0 and 16 who have been tracked since 2007-2008.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 5:55 AM

It’s time to dispel some allergy myths that I often encounter:

Hypoallergenic dogs. Is your child allergic to dogs, but really wants one as a pet? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. At some point the notion was put forth, possibly by dog breeders, that certain short-haired breeds were hypoallergenic because they had hair, not fur. Another perpetrated myth is that you can become sensitized and therefore not allergic to your own pet, while still having symptoms when you’re around other dogs.

There is no evidence to support either of these theories. The proteins that cause people to react to dogs are present in all dogs, albeit possibly in varying amounts. If you do become tolerant to these proteins where you no longer have symptoms, your tolerance will be to all, not just one or some dogs. Some breeds do exhibit slightly more allergenic response on analysis, but it’s not a very significant difference compared to other dogs.

POSTED: Friday, March 15, 2013, 9:49 AM

With allergy season right around the corner, a child could easily be taking multiple medications for allergies, and a cold or cough. Parents need to check for a medication’s active ingredient because a child could experience a reaction if those medicines have the same active ingredient, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Many medicines have just one active ingredient. However, combination medicines may have more than one, such as those for allergy, cough, or fever and congestion. More than one combination medicine may be one too many, and a child could get a double dose of the same active ingredient.

Active ingredients are listed first on a medicine's drug facts label for over-the-counter products. For prescription medicines, they are listed in a patient package insert or consumer information sheet provided by the pharmacist.

POSTED: Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 5:55 AM

Has your child ever told you that certain foods cause tingling and itching in and around the mouth and the back of the throat? Does this occur within minutes of eating the food?

If your child also has seasonal allergies, it’s likely that this reaction is oral allergy syndrome. These symptoms occur because the proteins in some fruits and vegetables are similar to proteins in some pollens. These proteins can confuse the immune system and cause an allergic reaction or make existing symptoms worse.

People who are allergic to any type of pollen have a 50 percent chance of developing oral allergy syndrome. One of the most common types of cross-reactivity involves birch tree pollen and apple. Other food triggers associated with this pollen include peach, pear, kiwi, plum, coriander, fennel, parsley, celery, cherry and carrot. When one makes antibodies to the pollen, they also become sensitized to these fruits and vegetables. The Philadelphia area has an abundance of birch pollen and oral allergy syndrome is quite common here.

POSTED: Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 9:24 AM
Filed Under: Allergies and Asthma

Valentine’s Day usually means celebrations and exchanges with chocolate and other treats, and marks a popular time for parties and dates involving food. While it’s tempting to just dig in, children and teens with food allergies need to be aware that many of these foods contain common allergens.

Today’s guest bloggers Terri Brown-Whitehorn, M.D and Lynda Mitchell answer questions about the risks associated with food allergies on Valentine’s Day, as well as the precautions families should take to keep their children safe.

Brown-Whitehorn is an allergist/immunologist in the division of allergy & immunology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an associate professor of clinical pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. Mitchell is the president and founder of Doylestown-based Kids With Food Allergies, one of the largest nonprofit organizations for parents of food-allergic kids with more than 22,000 members.

POSTED: Tuesday, February 12, 2013, 6:05 AM

Rice cereal first and then vegetables? What about fruit? I get these questions often from my patients. The timing of when to introduce solid foods to infants can be confusing for parents, and the recommendations can vary slightly from doctor to doctor.

The research is ongoing, but there is a growing body of evidence which suggest introducing solid foods early may increase tolerance and reduce incidence of allergies.

In one recent study, researchers followed 3,781 Finnish children for five years to examine the association between duration of breastfeeding and timing of introduction of complementary foods and the development of allergic disease and specific IgE sensitization to foods and inhalants. (IIgE is an antibody involved in immune system response and allergic reactions.)

About this blog
The Healthy Kids blog is your window into the latest news, research and advice around children's health. Learn more about our growing list of contributors here.

If you have questions about your child's health, ask them here.

Anna Nguyen Healthy Kids blog Editor
Stephen Aronoff, M.D., M.B.A. Temple University Hospital
Christopher C. Chang, M.D., Ph.D Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Mario Cruz, M.D St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Drexel University College of Medicine
Katherine K. Dahlsgaard, Ph.D. Lead Psychologist - The Anxiety Behaviors Clinic, CHOP
Gary A. Emmett, M.D. Director of Hospital Pediatrics at TJU Hospital & Pediatrics Professor at Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Lauren Falini Bariatric exercise physiologist, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
Hazel Guinto-Ocampo, M.D. Nemours duPont Pediatrics/Bryn Mawr Hospital
Rima Himelstein, M.D. Crozer-Keystone Health System
Anita Kulick President & CEO, Educating Communities for Parenting
Janet Rosenzweig, MS, PhD, MPA VP for Programs & Research for Prevent Child Abuse America
Beth Wallace Smith, RD Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
W. Douglas Tynan, Ph.D. Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Jefferson Medical Colg
Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD Scientific Director of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention
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