34041 US HWY 19 N, Suite D, Palm Harbor, FL 34684, US

Appointments: (727) 787-6744

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Adult & Pediatric Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

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Patient Education

At Sunshine Allergy

Our team understands that the first step to treating a patient’s allergy and asthma needs is educating them in the causes of their symptoms and the treatments available to them. Allergies and asthma symptoms are unique to each and every patient, and every patient is affected by their symptoms in different ways. Becoming informed as to your individual allergy or asthma trigger is a vital step towards living easier with that allergic or asthmatic condition.

Sunshine Allergy is here to guide the patients through their allergic and asthmatic education, and to alleviate the stress that allergy, asthma, and immunology illnesses cause in a patient’s life. Whether you suffer from hives or rashes, an itchy throat or a gluten allergy, Sunshinie Allergy will be there to walk you through the process of understanding and treating the symptoms and causes of your allergy or asthma disorder. Please contact our office in Palm Harbor, FL if you have any questions at all regarding your allergenic or asthmatic symptoms.

FAQ's

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What is an allergist/immunologist?

Allergist / immunologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies, asthma and other diseases of the immune system. Allergists practicing in the United States have completed medical school, at least three years of residency in pediatrics or internal medicine, then at least two years of specialized training in allergy and immunology. To be board certified, they must pass an examination and regularly attend continuing medical education programs in allergy and immunology.

Many people with untreated allergic symptoms aren't aware of how much better they can feel once their symptoms are properly diagnosed and managed by an allergist / immunologist.

An allergist's approach is personal. Your allergist typically asks about your medical history, does a physical examination, and performs specific allergy and/or breathing tests. The results guide a personalized treatment plan which typically includes measures to avoid or eliminate triggers, recommendations for medications, and education to help you take an active role in treating your disease.

The right care can make the difference between suffering with an allergic disease and feeling better. By visiting an allergist, you can expect an accurate diagnosis, a treatment plan that works and educational information to help you manage your disease.

What are some causes of allergies?

Allergies are the result of a chain reaction that starts in the immune system. Your immune system controls how your body defends itself. For instance, if you have an allergy to pollen, your immune system identifies pollen as an invader or allergen. Your immune systemcoverreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. The Tampa Bay area and Southern climates in particular are susceptible to enhanced allergic conditions. 

What are some common allergic conditions?

Allergic rhinitis may be seasonal or year-round. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) typically occurs in the spring, summer or fall. Symptoms include sneezing, stuffy or runny nose and itching in the nose, eyes or on the roof of the mouth. When the symptoms are year-round, they may be caused by exposure to indoor allergens such as dust mites, indoor molds or pets.

Allergy tests give very specific information about what you are and are not allergic to. For instance, if you wheeze when you're at home and don't know why, you don't have to get rid of your cat if your allergy testing shows you are allergic to dust mites but not cats. With this information, you and your allergist can develop a treatment plan to manage or even get rid of your symptoms.

Asthma is an allergic disease that causes frequent episodes of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness. It is common for people with asthma to also suffer from allergies, so your allergist may conduct thorough allergy and breathing tests to find the causes of your asthma. Studies have shown that care by an allergist can decrease the number of asthma flare-ups and the need for emergency care. You and your allergist can work together to ensure that your asthma is well-managed, so that you can participate in normal activities.

Allergists are helpful in treating recurring sinus and ear infections. People with asthma are more prone to sinus infections (rhinosinusitis) which can, in turn, make the asthma worse. Sinus infections are also common in people with allergic rhinitis. Although pediatric patients are expected to have more ear infections, it is important to monitor children with very frequent or severe infections. This is because the most serious immunodeficiencies usually become apparent during the first years of life.

If you have a food allergy, even a tiny amount of the food you're allergic to may cause a reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction are generally seen on the skin or involve the stomach and intestines. These include swelling, hives, eczema (itchy, red scaly rash), vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping or a stomach ache. Allergy tests performed by an allergist can determine which foods, if any, are triggering the symptoms.

Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a skin allergy causing a red, dry, itchy rash on the face, elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. Atopic dermatitis is treatable but not curable. Urticaria (hives) are red, itchy, swollen areas of the skin that can range in size and appear anywhere on your body and seem to move around. Angioedema is a swelling of the deeper layers of the skin such as the eyelids, tongue or lips. An allergist can determine which allergic skin condition you have and help you take steps to treat it.

Anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis) is a serious allergic reaction that happens very quickly. Without immediate treatment – an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and expert care – anaphylaxis can be fatal. Follow-up care by an allergist is essential.

Many people don't realize they have an allergy until they suffer an anaphylactic reaction. It is usually caused by foods, medicine, latex or insects, and at times without an obvious cause. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include hives, flushing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, throat tightness, nausea and dizziness or faintness.

Immune system problems may cause repeated infections such as bronchitis, ear infections or pneumonia. People with inherited immune system disorders (primary immunodeficiency disorders) are less able to fight infections and are more susceptible to complications. While these disorders are rare, there are about 100 different types, making diagnosis and treatment by an allergist / immunologist very important.

How can I find out if I have allergies?

Allergies often heat up in the summer, when allergens such as grass, mold and ragweed pollen bring on symptoms like watery eyes and sneezing. Outdoor picnics and activities can pose more serious dangers for people who are allergic to certain foods or stinging insects. It may seem that discovering what you are allergic to is a guessing game. However, testing performed by an expert can diagnose what does and what does not trigger your symptoms. For example, you don’t have to get rid of your cat if it is actually mold that is causing your itchy eyes and throat. Once you know exactly what you are allergic to, you and your doctor will be able to develop a treatment plan to reduce or eliminate your allergy symptoms.

Your initial visit with the doctor will consist of a comprehensive medical examination, including a complete medical history and physical examination. You will have plenty of time to discuss any questions that arise from your visit with the physician.

Should I be tested for allergies?

Many people with untreated allergy symptoms aren’t aware of how much better they can feel once their symptoms are properly diagnosed and managed. In St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay area, people should be more aware of any allergic problems they may have, or that may be lying dormant within the body. If you are troubled by any of these nagging symptoms, ask your doctor for a referral to an allergist:

  • Itchy eyes, nose, or throat
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Hives, itchiness, or other skin condition
  • Abdominal pain or diarrhea after eating certain foods
  • Severe reactions to insect stings

How do you test for allergies?

Allergy skin testing provides a fast, safe and reliable means for identifying allergic sensitivities to inhalant allergens (e.g., pollens, molds, dust mites and animal dander) and is also used sometimes to diagnose allergic sensitivity to stinging insects, certain drugs, and foods.

Based on the clinical history that is provided, and if testing is indicated, we can perform any combination of skin prick testing, intradermal testing, and/or blood testing.

The physician will discuss the pros/cons of all the testing options available.

  • Skin tests: This is the most common kind of testing. In this test, a small amount of allergen is placed on your skin, and this area is pricked or scratched. If you are allergic, you will experience a little swelling at the site of the prick test. Results of this test are usually available within 15 minutes.
  • Intradermal tests: Intradermal tests are more sensitive than prick tests, and may be used when prick test results are inconclusive. In this test, your allergist will use a syringe and small needle to inject some allergen under your skin.
  • Challenge tests: Challenge tests are sometimes used when a doctor suspects you have a food or drug allergy. In this test, patients eat or inhale a very small amount of possible allergens under the close supervision of an allergist. Do not try this test at home!
  • Blood tests: For this test, blood is drawn and then tested for allergies. This test costs more than some other tests. It will also take longer to receive your results.

An allergist has specialized training to perform and interpret allergy testing. Once you receive your test results, your allergist can work with you to develop a treatment plan to manage your allergies.

FAQ's

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How can I prepare for my skin test appointment?

In order to make your allergy testing appointment as productive as possible, please review the following instructions prior to your appointment:

  • Please allow a total of 2-3 hours for complete allergy testing. Although the testing itself may be completed in about one hour, additional time may be needed to discuss your results and treatment options.
  • If skin prick tests are negative, the doctor may request intradermal injections under the skin for further evaluation.
  • The medications listed below will interfere with allergy skin testing and should be avoided for one week prior to your test. If you have a medical condition or severe allergic symptoms, which might worsen without these medications, please consult us prior to stopping these medications. If you have forgotten to stop these medications by the specified time, please consult Sunshine Allergy to determine whether or not you need to reschedule your allergy testing appointment. 
  • DO NOT STOP your asthma or other respiratory medications unless instructed by your primary care physician or our medical staff.

DO NOT TAKE THE FOLLOWING MEDICATIONS 7 DAYS PRIOR TO YOUR TEST

  • Azelastine (Astelin, Optivar)
  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Chlorpheniramine
  • Cimetidine (Tagamet)
  • Cyprohetadine (Periactin)
  • Desloratadine (Clarinex)
  • Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • Doxepin (Sinequan)
  • Epinastine (Elastat)
  • Famotidine (Pepcid)
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)
  • Hydroxyzine (Atarax)
  • Ketotifen (Zaditor)
  • Levocetirizine (Xyzal)
  • Loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac)
  • OTC Cough/Cold/Allergy meds

How can I treat my allergies? What are my options?

The information obtained from allergy testing provides guidance for avoidance of allergens; the most important and first step in the treatment of any allergic disorder. Test results may also be used to formulate vaccines for immunotherapy (allergy shots). 

What are allergy shots?

Allergen immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, is a form of long-term treatment that decreases symptoms for many people with allergic rhinitis, allergic asthma, conjunctivitis (eye allergy), or stinging insect allergy. Allergy shots decrease sensitivity to allergens and often leads to lasting relief of allergy symptoms even after treatment is stopped. This makes it a cost-effective, beneficial treatment approach for many people. 

Who can benefit from allergy shots?

Both children and adults can receive allergy shots, although it is not typically recommended for pediatric patients under the age of five. This is because of the difficulties younger children may have in cooperating with the program and in articulating any adverse symptoms they may be experiencing. When considering allergy shots for an adult, medical conditions such as cardiac disease should be taken into consideration and discussed with your allergist / immunologist first.

You and your allergist / immunologist should base your decision regarding allergy shots on:

  • Length of allergy season and severity of your symptoms
  • How well medications and/or environmental controls are helping your allergy symptoms
  • Your desire to avoid long-term medication use
  • Time available for treatment (allergy shots requires a significant commitment)
  • Cost, which may vary depending on insurance coverage

Allergy shots are not used to treat food allergies. The best option for people with food allergies is to strictly avoid that food.

How do allergy shots work?

Allergy shots work like a vaccine. Your body responds to injected amounts of a particular allergen, given in gradually increasing doses, by developing immunity or tolerance to the allergen.

There are two phases:

Build-up phase. This involves receiving injections with increasing amounts of the allergens about one to two times per week. The length of this phase depends upon how often the injections are received, but generally ranges from three to six months.

Maintenance phase. This begins once the effective dose is reached. The effective maintenance dose depends on your level of allergen sensitivity and your response to the build-up phase. During the maintenance phase, there will be longer periods of time between treatments, ranging from two to four weeks. Your allergist / immunologist will decide what range is best for you.

You may notice a decrease in symptoms during the build-up phase, but it may take as long as 12 months on the maintenance dose to notice an improvement. If allergy shots are successful, maintenance treatment is generally continued for three to five years. Any decision to stop allergy shots should be discussed with your allergist / immunologist.

How effective are allergy shots?

Allergy shots have shown to decrease symptoms of many allergies. It can prevent the development of new allergies, and in pediatric patients it can prevent the progression of allergic disease from allergic rhinitis to asthma. The effectiveness of allergy shots appears to be related to the length of the treatment program as well as the dose of the allergen. Some people experience lasting relief from allergy symptoms, while others may relapse after discontinuing allergy shots. If you have not seen improvement after a year of maintenance therapy, your allergist / immunologist will work with you to discuss treatment options.

Failure to respond to allergy shots may be due to several factors:

  • Inadequate dose of allergen in the allergy vaccine
  • Missing allergens not identified during the allergy evaluation
  • High levels of allergen in the environment
  • Significant exposure to non-allergic triggers, such as tobacco smoke

FAQ'S

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Where should allergy shots be given?

This type of treatment should be supervised by a specialized physician in a facility equipped with proper staff and equipment to identify and treat adverse reactions to allergy injections. Ideally, immunotherapy should be given in your allergist / immunologist's office. If this is not possible, your allergist / immunologist should provide the supervising physician with comprehensive instructions about your allergy shot treatments. Sunshine Allergy is equipped to offer allergy shots to patients. 

What are the risks of allergy shots?

A typical reaction is redness and swelling at the injection site. This can happen immediately or several hours after the treatment. In some instances, symptoms can include increased allergy symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion or hives.

Serious reactions to allergy shots are rare. When they do occur, they require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction can include swelling in the throat, wheezing or tightness in the chest, nausea and dizziness. Most serious reactions develop within 30 minutes of the allergy injections. This is why it is recommended you wait in your doctor's office for at least 30 minutes after you receive allergy shots.

What is allergic asthma?

Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same but the triggers may be different.

Allergic asthma, or allergy-induced asthma, is the most common form of asthma. If your asthma is allergic, your symptoms are most often triggered by inhaling allergens. An allergen is a typically harmless substance such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen or mold.

If you are allergic to a substance, this allergen triggers a response starting in the immune system. Through a complex reaction, these allergens then cause the passages in the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen. This results in coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.

Exposure to allergens may trigger the symptoms, but the real culprit in allergic asthma is the IgE antibody. The IgE antibody is produced by the body in response to allergen exposure. The combination of the antibody with allergens results in the release of potent chemicals called mediators. The mediators cause inflammation and swelling of the airways, resulting in symptoms of asthma.

Some people with asthma do not have allergies. Asthma symptoms may also be triggered by exercise, viral or bacterial infections, cold air or by related conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Knowing if your asthma is allergic is essential for taking control of your condition. Given the relationship between allergies and asthma, an allergist / immunologist is the best qualified physician to diagnose your symptoms and help you manage your asthma. The doctors at sunshine allergy will gladly help you get to the bottom of your allergy and asthma symptoms.

What is an immune deficiency?

Recurrent infections may signal immunodeficiencies. Your immune system is constantly on the defense fighting germs that could cause infections. Sometimes the “germ” wins but what is the difference between losing an occasional battle and having recurrent infections?

How many are too many?

Do you or your children…

  • Need more than four courses of antibiotic treatment per year (in children) or more that two times per year (in adults)?
  • Experience more than four new ear infections in one year after 4 years of age.
  • Develop pneumonia twice over any time?
  • Have more than three episodes of bacterial sinusitis in one year or the occurrence of chronic sinusitis?
  • Need preventive antibiotics to decrease the number of infections?
  • Develop unusually severe infections that started as common bacterial infections?

If so, these recurrent infections may be a sign of an immunodeficiency disorder.

The immune system is smart and has the ability to learn the “face” of a germ and remember it. Once your immune system has successfully battled it, most people are less susceptible to recurring infections caused by that germ.

An immunodeficiency happens when your body lacks the ability to produce antibodies which attach to germs and destroy them. Secondary immunodeficiencies result from various conditions including cancer therapies, bone marrow transplantation and immune-modulating drugs used to treat a variety of autoimmune conditions.

Primary Immunodeficiency Diseases (PIDD) comprise a group of more than 100 diseases which are due to defects in the body’s immune system. These diseases affect thousands of infants, children and adults in the United States.

Most PIDD are inherited in our genes, so they are present at birth. Yet they may not become apparent or diagnosed until late in childhood, or even in adult life. It often takes time for a pattern of recurrent infections or other symptoms to develop before a PIDD is suspected.

If you think you have a PIDD, talk to an allergist/immunologist (a pediatrician or internist with two to three years of additional training to manage allergies, asthma and immunodeficiencies). Some PIDD can mimic other conditions including allergies, asthma, or eczema and vice versa, so evaluation by an allergist/immunologist is extremely helpful for reaching a diagnosis and developing an effective treatment plan.

The most common forms of immunodeficiency are often treated with infusions of antibodies called intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG). IVIG replaces the antibodies that your body is unable to produce. For detailed information on various forms of PIDD, visit www.aaaai.org.

Did you know?

  • The first lines of defense against infection are your skin and the membranes lining the respiratory and digestive system.
  • If you have year-round allergies to dust mites, pollen and mold, you may have some damage to your mucus membranes which can increase your chances of infection.
  • The average child between the ages of 1 and 3 may catch up to 12 colds a year. Once a child's immune system learns the germs that cause colds, the child should be healthier.