Allergy Testing


Everything Under the Sun About Sunscreen Allergies

SunscreenThe days when no one thought twice about spending hours in the sun without skin protection — and maybe even applied baby oil for that deep-golden tan — are well over. Today, we are all aware of the correlations between sun exposure and skin damage (including cancer) and the benefits of applying sunscreen everyday. Unfortunately, we probably don’t apply it as often as we should, so if you’d like a reminder of why it’s important, visit the “Sunscreen Facts” page on the Melanoma Research Foundation.

For some people, however, sunscreen can cause an allergic reaction, doing more harm than good. “Are You Allergic to Sunscreen,” an article on Everyday Health explains:

Sunscreens work because they contain chemicals that absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation and keep them from penetrating your skin. Some of these chemicals, including oxybenzone, 4-isopropyl-dibenzoylmethane, PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), esters, avobenzone, and cinnamates, have been known to cause an allergic reaction in certain people.

There are two ways that a sunscreen allergy can present: contact allergy and contact photoallergy.

  1. A contact allergy, also known as contact dermatitis, occurs when your immune system reacts to something in the sunscreen, which can be any of the chemicals listed above, but also a fragrance or preservative. The reaction will affect an area where the sunscreen was applied, and may ever reach beyond.
  2. A contact photoallergy is a negative interaction between the sun and a chemical(s) in the sunscreen that triggers your immune system to attack. This type is pretty rare and will usually only appear on skin that has been exposed to the sun. It is also different from solar urticaria, which is a direction to the sun and doesn’t require additional chemicals.

Both reactions can cause itching, redness, swelling, hives or blisters, and there is no telling if the symptoms will occur immediately or a few days later. And like the allergies we talked about in last week’s blog, “The Comings and Goings of Allergies,” even if you have never had a problem with sunscreen, you can become allergic at any time.

What to do if you think you are allergic to your sunscreen:

  1. Stay out of the sun as much as possible.
  2. Wear protective clothing, including hats and sunglasses.
  3. Find a physical sunscreen, which is comprised of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and won’t penetrate your skin.
  4. Find a sunscreen that does not contain the element you are allergic to.
  5. Make an appointment with our expert team at CT Sinus Center for allergy testing in order to find out exactly what is causing your reaction.

When you come into one of our four conveniently-located offices, we will sit down with you to discuss your symptoms and medical history and perform a thorough exam in order to not only confirm that you do have a sunscreen allergy, but also to pinpoint what triggers it (making #4 much less of a trial-and-error process). Once the results are in, we’ll develop a treatment plan that is right for you and your lifestyle.

Don’t spend the summer in the shade, call 860-Balloon today and get back to enjoying fun in the sun with the confidence that your skin (and health) is protected.

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


The Comings and Goings of Allergies

AllergiesAllergies are one of the great wonders of the world, as in: We wonder where they come from, when they are going to develop and if we are going to grow out of them. One thing we do know is what an allergy is. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) explains:

If you have an allergy, your immune system mistakes an otherwise harmless substance as an invader. This substance is called an allergen. The immune system overreacts to the allergen by producing Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. These antibodies travel to cells that release histamine and other chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.

The actual way people react to these allergens can vary depending on the person. In fact, the allergies can vary within the person. For example, the intensity and presentation of your allergies can be different from season to season, although it’s difficult to tell if this is due to environmental or biological factors. In addition, you may react differently from allergens. For example, you may react to one type of pollen, but not another, or even one dog and not another.

Again, why this happens no one knows. To add to the mystery, in the article “Outgrowing Allergies” on the Everyday Health website, Clifford W. Bassett, MD, a clinical instructor in the division of infectious diseases and immunology at the New York University School of Medicine tells us: “In general, as kids get older they can grow out of allergies. But there’s a whole world where, for millions of people, that’s not the case. Some people even grow into allergies.”

Research has shown that most children will not grow out of seasonal allergies, however, food allergies are a different story. “Outgrowing Allergies” explains:

Until recently, most allergists thought that children with milk allergies would outgrow them by age 3 or 4. But a recent study by doctors at Johns Hopkins University showed that the majority of kids won’t outgrow milk allergies until much later, possibly as late as age 16.

Allergies to soy, eggs, and wheat will often be outgrown by the time the child is a teenager. However, if children are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts such as walnuts, pecans, and almonds, there is a good chance — about 80 percent for peanuts and 90 percent for tree nuts — that they will remain allergic as adults.

Some research has suggested that this coming and going of allergies occurs because every seven years, the cells in your body replace themselves, basically giving you a brand new system that reacts differently to allergens. However, this is only partly true. Your cells do die and replace themselves, but each type of cell has its own lifespan and with trillions of cells in your body doing their own thing, there is no set schedule.

So if you find yourself suddenly suffering from allergies or are waiting for that seven-year mark when they disappear forever, it’s time to be proactive. Whether it’s food, pets, or nature causing your symptoms, the expert staff at CT Sinus Center can help end them forever.

Call 860-BALLOON today and schedule your appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices for allergy testing and an individualized treatment plan that will make you wonder why you haven’t visited our office sooner..

For more information on allergies and sinusitis, visit the CT Sinus website and blog.


Nickel Allergy: A Reaction to Metal

Nickel allergyNickel is a prevalent material in the things that surround us. In fact, you can find it in almost everything including the kitchen sink, which can be a big deal if you suffer from a nickel allergy. According to LiveScience, “Nickel is a hard, silvery-white metal whose strength, ductility and resistance to heat and corrosion make it extremely useful for the development of a wide variety of materials.” Mayo Clinic’s extensive list of materials that contain nickel shows just how widespread its use is. Some of the things on this list may surprise you:

  • Jewelry for body piercings
  • Other jewelry, including rings, bracelets, necklaces and jewelry clasps
  • Watchbands
  • Clothing fasteners, such as zippers, snaps and bra hooks
  • Belt buckles
  • Eyeglass frames
  • Coins
  • Metal tools
  • Cellphones
  • Keys
  • Military “dog-tag” IDs
  • Chalk
  • Medical devices
  • Laptops or computer tablets
  • E-cigarettes

Some foods also contain small amounts of nickel that can cause a reaction. These include soy and certain fruit, vegetable, legumes and grains. For a more comprehensive list of foods that contain nickel, visit the Healthline website.

Fortunately, it’s rare to find something that is made purely of nickel, and items are usually a combination of nickel and other materials. LiveScience further explains, “Nickel is commonly used as a protective outer coating for softer metals.” This is called nickel-plating. Unfortunately, even a little bit of nickel can cause an allergic reaction, and some people are more at risk for developing the allergy than others.

A nickel allergy usually presents as contact dermatitis, the signs of which Mayo Clinic lists as:

  • Rash or bumps on the skin
  • Itching, which may be severe
  • Redness or changes in skin color
  • Dry patches of skin that may resemble a burn
  • Blisters and draining fluid in severe cases
  • Infection (increased redness, warmth, pus, pain)

If you are having recurring reactions to nickel or are not sure where your symptoms are coming from, you should see a doctor. After discussing the circumstances surrounding your reaction and performing patch testing, your doctor will likely prescribe a corticosteroid, nonsteroidal cream or a antihistamine. In severe cases, phototherapy, an exposure treatment, may be used.

Stop letting your nickel allergy meddle with your life. Contact CT Sinus Center today and let our expert physicians pinpoint the exact cause of your symptoms and create a treatment plan that is right for your individual lifestyle.

Call 860-BALLOON to schedule your appointment at one of our four conveniently-located offices today. You’ll leave feeling as good as gold.

For more information on all allergy and sinus conditions, visit the CT Sinus website and blog.


A Beauty Products Allergy: Not Just Skin-Deep

Beauty productsHave you ever tried some new beauty products for the first time and broken out into hives? Or maybe after a year or so, the body wash you’ve used every day began to make your skin itch. A well-cited survey conducted by the FDA states that “up to 25% of people said they had a skin reaction to at least one beauty product.” The reaction is called contact dermatitis, and the strange thing is that even if you have used a product for a long time, you can develop an allergy to it.

Contact dermatitis can occur in two ways:

  1. Irritant contact dermatitis is a skin reaction in which the substance has caused damage to your skin. This type of response manifests as burning, itching, redness and blisters.
  2. Allergic contact dermatitis affects your immune system and causes itching, redness, hives and even swelling. WebMD explains, “Your skin can get red and raw. You can get an allergic reaction on any part of your body, although it happens most often on the face, lips, eyes, ears, and neck.”

There are a few ingredients in beauty products that can make your skin look and feel not so beautiful. The best best is to always check the label before buying a product, especially if you know you are allergic to a particular chemical, and with some, such as hair dye or face cream, it’s best to do a spot check before you use it regularly. Even things that are labeled “non-irritating,” “hypoallergenic,” “for sensitive skin,” or “unscented” might contain something can trigger a reaction in some people. Instead, look for “fragrance-free” on the label of your beauty products.

WebMD has compiled a general list of the irritants found in many cosmetics. They include:

  • Fragrances in soaps, colognes, deodorants, body creams, cosmetics, detergents and tissues
  • Preservatives and antibacterials, added to many liquids to keep them from spoiling
  • Substances added to thicken, color or lubricate a product
  • Chemicals in permanent hair dyes and other hair products
  • Formaldehyde resin, an ingredient in many nail care products
  • Sunscreens, often found in cosmetic moisturizers, lip balms and foundations

Everyday Health provides a list of specific ingredients that includes:

  • Metals, such as aluminum; nickel; cobalt; chromium and lead, found in antiperspirants, hair dyes and makeup
  • Acid in products designed to remove dead skin cells, treat acne and oily skin, or normalize skin cell maturation and help promote collagen stimulation
  • Emollients, such as lanolin; coconut butter; cocoa butter; isopropyl palmitate; isostearyl isosterate; and myristyl lactate, found in moisturizers
  • Sulfates found in shampoo, body wash and soap
  • Essential oils found in shampoos, conditioners, body lotions and face creams

For more information on allergens in cosmetics, regulation and safe use, visit the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s “Consumers” pages under the “Cosmetics” tab.

What do you do if you think you may be allergic to one of your beauty products?

First, stop using it. Next, schedule an appointment with CT Sinus Center for thorough testing and a clear diagnosis on what is triggering your allergic reaction. Once the allergy is determined, our expert physicians will discuss all possible treatment options and put you on an individualized treatment plan that makes sure your personal hygiene routine won’t make you sick.

Call 860-BALLOON to schedule your appointment at one of CT Sinus Center’s four conveniently-located offices today.

For more information on all allergy and sinus conditions, visit the CT Sinus website and blog.


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.