Monthly Archives: August 2016

How to Handle Hives

HivesSometimes allergic reactions manifest as red, itchy or stinging bumps on top of the skin. The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) states that 20 percent of people will experience these hives, or urticaria, at least once in their lives. The condition is easy to spot, but the ACAAI lists some things about hives that you should be aware of:

  • An actual hive usually lasts under 24 hours, but the reaction can last for weeks. This is because as the bumps fade, new ones can take their place.
  • Hives can appear on the skin anywhere.
  • During a reaction, it’s possible that not all hives will be the same shape or in the same area.
  • If you apply pressure to the bumps, they will turn from red to white (blanching).
  • The overall reaction is usually acute (lasting under 6 weeks), however may be chronic (lasting over 6 weeks).

Hives can be caused by a number of different things:  

  • Some food (especially peanuts, eggs, nuts and shellfish)
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Some plants, such as poison oak and poison ivy
  • Medications, such as antibiotics (especially penicillin and sulfa), aspirin and ibuprofen
  • Insect stings or bites
  • Physical stimuli, such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise or sun exposure
  • Latex
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and strep throat
  • Viral infections, including the common cold, infectious mononucleosis and hepatitis

Fortunately, most cases of hives, while uncomfortable, pose no real health threat. However, chronic hives can be a sign of an immune disorder and can lead to health problems down the road. So if you are experiencing this reaction, you should get checked out. Also, people often incorrectly self-diagnose their condition as hives when it is really angioedema, a swelling under the skin. The symptoms of angioedema are a little different and include:

  • Swelling in the eyes or mouth
  • Swelling of the hands, feet or throat
  • Difficulty breathing, stomach cramps or chemosis (swelling of the lining of the eyes)

With either hives or angioedema, severe reactions need immediate medical attention.

And as we said above, even if you have mild symptoms, you should see an allergist to determine exactly what is causing your reaction — because why suffer if you don’t have to.

With state-of-the art diagnostic practices and tools, such as those used in food allergy testing, the expert physicians at CT Sinus Center will be able to pinpoint your triggers and devise an individual treatment plan. Whether that plan includes medications or avoidance practices, we will make sure that it keeps you safe and comfortable

Call us today at 860-BALLOON to schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices

And for all things sinus– and allergy-related, visit the CT Sinus Center website and blog.

Is Honey The Bee’s Knees of Allergy Treatments?

HoneyFor years, people have been raving about the relieving effects that local, raw (unprocessed) honey has on allergies. But does it really work as well as they allege it does? While we would like to say “yes,” especially as incentive to help end the ongoing bee crisis, unfortunately, these claims are unfounded.  

The reasoning behind this myth is similar to the reasoning behind why allergy shots (immunology) work: When the allergens are introduced a little at a time over time, the body builds an immunity to them. So if you consider it in this way:

  1. Bees collect nectar and pollen from flowers that the person is exposed to daily.
  2. The nectar and pollen are converted into honey.
  3. Person ingests the local honey over a period of time.
  4. The exposure to the honey causes immunity.

In theory, this makes sense. Unfortunately according to major medical sources (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Mayo Clinic and WebMD, the theory is a little sour. Here’s why:

  1. There is no way of telling how much pollen, if any, is in the honey.
  2. While you can control allergen dosage and its progression with allergy shots, you have no way of knowing how much is actually in the honey.
  3. Bees mostly collect nectar and pollen from the type of flowers that don’t typically cause allergies. Most allergies come from tree and grass pollen, which is actually airborne.

In fact, ingesting raw honey can actually be harmful under the following conditions:

  1. In a child under 12 months old, it can cause infant botulism.
  2. It can cause a mild to severe allergic reaction.

In processed commercial honey, bee parts, mold spores, pollen and bacteria are all removed because they are considered the “junk” parts.

Does this mean that honey just has placebo effects or that you shouldn’t ingest it at all?

Actually, no. Honey, aside from being delicious, has many beneficial properties, for example, anti-inflammatory effects. So if you think honey is working to make you feel better, you’re right. So go ahead and get some of that fresh local honey that they’ll be selling during the upcoming fair season, and for more information on the great qualities of honey, visit “Benefits of Honey.”

The debunking of the myth does mean, however, that you need another solution for your allergies, and at CT Sinus Center, we have a permanent one. Call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our expert physicians to see what we can do for you. When you come in, we’ll take the time to sit down with you and discuss your symptoms before doing thorough diagnostic testing to see exactly what is triggering your allergies. Next, in easy-to-understand language, we’ll explain our findings and treatment options. Finally, we’ll develop an individualized treatment plan that will bring sweet relief from allergies in no time. You may even be a candidate for one of our two outpatient procedures, both of which will end your suffering in around an hour:

  1. Balloon Sinus Dilation, which will reshape your nasal passages, promoting draining and natural healing
  2. Turbinate Reductions, in which the tissue in the nose that supports the nasal passages is decreased, decreasing the size of the turbinate and quickly increasing airflow

Call 860-BALLOON to schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices, and let us help you “bee” free from allergies.

For more information on sinus– and allergy-related conditions and treatments, visit the CT Sinus Center website and blog.

Should You Thumb Your Nose at Nasal Sprays?

Nasal SprayFor many sinus and allergy sufferers, nasal sprays are a godsend when their symptoms are acting up. In fact, it is quite an effective remedy when used properly. However, when using nasal spray, it’s important to understand the different classes and the risks associated with each one.

Why do nasal sprays work? First and foremost, they provide moisture to your nasal passages, and second, they open them up so that air flows freely. This is important because:

  • When the membranes in your nose become dry, they become irritated. In addition, the mucus gets dry, and, in turn, gets thicker. The thicker the mucus, the more clogged your sinuses.
  • Allergens, bacteria and viruses can also build up in your sinuses when the mucus is blocking airflow, which in addition, causes the mucus to become thicker. And although this is your body’s way of guarding itself against the irritants, again, the thicker the mucus, the more congested you become and the more chance of infections.

There are different types of nasal sprays and for a guide to the different brands and their usage, visit the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Here, we are going to take a quick look at the different classes.

Antihistamines: In “The Anti’s of Antihistamines,” we explained that antihistamines “prevent the effects of histamine, the substance your body releases when you are exposed to an allergen. The histamine is what causes you to sneeze as well as have a runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Therefore, antihistamines are designed to give you relief from these symptoms.” Antihistamines are best taken before exposure to the allergen, which is not always possible.

Corticosteroids: These sprays contain the man-made hormone cortisol, which is designed to block histamine much like an antihistamine. They also decrease the inflammation in the nasal passages, allowing them to drain and the airflow to increase. As you can see in “Are Corticosteroids Safe for Long-Term Use,” there are serious risks associated with this type of medication.

Decongestants: WebMD explains that this type of nose spray works by “narrowing blood vessels in the lining of your nose, which shrinks swollen tissues,” thereby allowing air to flow more freely. However, your body will only respond positively to the medication for about three days and they are not safe for people with certain medical conditions.

The other problem with decongestant nasal spray is that if used for an extended period of time, they can actually make your symptoms worse. This condition is called “rebound,” or technically, rhinitis medicamentosa, and if not addressed, can lead to serious long-term problems.

Saline/Salt Water: As the name suggests, these over-the-counter nasal sprays are a mix of salt and water and contain no medication. They are very effective in loosening mucus and restoring moisture to your nasal passages and can be used daily. However, for chronic sinus issues, you’ll probably need additional medication.

While each type of nasal spray has its benefits, it also has its risks, including side effects. One of nasal spray’s greatest disadvantages is that it is only a temporary solution to the problem, so if you suffer from chronic allergies or sinusitis, the cost and commitment of treating your symptoms in this way will well outweigh the benefits.

At CT Sinus Center, in just about one hour, we can put an end to your sinus suffering permanently through one of our non-invasive, innovative, outpatient procedures: Balloon Sinus Dilation and Turbinate Reductions. To find out how we can help you, schedule a consultation today with our expert physicians at one of our four conveniently-located offices. With our patient-centered approach, we will walk you through everything from the initial consultation to thorough diagnostic testing to a diagnosis to a specific, individualized treatment plan that is right for you.

Call 860-BALLOON today to schedule your appointment and get help from those who “nose” how to end sinus suffering.

For more information on allergies and other sinus conditions, visit the CT Sinus Center website and blog.

Knocked Out by Allergies: Allergic Shiners

allergic shinerMost of us recognize dark circles under the eyes as a sign of exhaustion or a fight (you should see the other guy). However they are also a symptom of allergies. While the discoloration is harmless, having them or seeing them on someone you love, especially a child, can be very worrisome.

“Allergic shiners” occur when congestion in the sinus cavities causes vascular congestion in the small veins under the eyes. In other words, when the sinuses are blocked, nothing around your face drains well. Therefore where usually blood will flow freely through the capillaries under the eyes back to the heart, when there is congestion, the blood pools, creating dark circles and sometimes puffiness. Combine these symptoms with the itchy eyes that are often associated with allergies and the rubbing that accompanies the itch, and you have a recipe for very irritated-looking eyes.

How are allergic shiners different from black eyes?

In the allergic shiner, the blood pools in enlarged veins, where in the other kind caused by impact, there is actually bleeding under the skin due to broken or leaked veins or capillaries. Both types are very visible because the skin under your eyes is extremely thin. In addition, the older you get, the thinner the skin gets, making shiners of any kind seem more prominent.

How do I treat an allergic shiner?

The treatment for allergy-induced under eye circles is the same as for the other symptoms of allergic rhinitis because the goal is to unclog the sinus cavities, therefore releasing any blockage preventing the blood from flowing freely. These treatment methods include:

Or, you can make an appointment with us at CT Sinus Center to find out more information about how through our one-time, innovative procedures, we can put an end to your allergy suffering forever. When you come in, our expert physicians will take the time to sit down with you to discuss your symptoms and then proceed with thorough state-of-the art diagnostic tools to diagnose your condition. Next, they will come up with an individualized treatment plan that is the perfect match for you. You may be eligible for Balloon Sinus Dilation, which will reshape your nasal passages, effectively eliminating the chances of continued problems. Or perhaps Turbinate Reductions, in which the tissue in the nose that supports the nasal passages is decreased, decreasing the size of the turbinate and quickly increasing airflow, is your best bet.

Stop going round for round with your allergies. Call 860-BALLOON today to schedule an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices.

For more information on allergies and other sinus conditions, visit the CT Sinus Center website and blog.

Food for Thought: Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Food IntolerancePeople often say that they can’t eat certain things because they are allergic to them, but in many cases, what they mean is that they have an intolerance to it. However, it is very important to understand the differences between a food allergy and a food intolerance, because that knowledge can literally save your, or someone else’s, life.

According to WebMD, the two conditions share the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

But that is where the similarities end.

Now let’s take a look at the differences.

This chart from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital breaks them down clearly:

Food Intolerance

What causes food intolerance?

A food intolerance occurs when there is a problem in properly breaking down food in the digestive system. The most common intolerance is to lactose, and there are a few conditions that can provoke an intolerance reaction. Mayo Clinic cites the following triggers:

  • Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Food poisoning
  • Sensitivity to food additives
  • Recurring stress or psychological factors
  • Celiac disease

What causes food allergies?

A food allergy takes place in the immune system and, like seasonal allergies, occurs when your body determines something is harmful and produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) explains, “These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. Each type of IgE has a specific ‘radar’ for each type of allergen.”

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE):

  • Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies and the number of sufferers is on the rise for no known reason.
  • This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S.
  • The economic cost of children’s food allergies is nearly $25 billion per year.

The following is a list of the most common allergens, with links to their descriptions on the FARE website. The site also discusses some of the less common, but equally as dangerous, food allergy triggers.

If you have a reaction, whether severe or mild, it is extremely important that you see a doctor in order to find out if you have an intolerance or an allergy and what has caused it. Through patient-centered care, our expert physicians at CT Sinus Center will use up-to-date diagnostic knowledge and tools to find out exactly what is triggering your reaction. And once that is determined, they will set up an effective, individualized treatment plan to keep you safe and feeling great.

To make an appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices, call 860-BALLOON today. Food is one of the great pleasures of life; you deserve to enjoy it without anxiety.

For more information on food allergies, download the National Institution of Allergies and Infectious Diseases helpful guide for families.   

For more information on all things sinus and allergies, visit the CT Sinus website and blog.