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Allergies and Lifestyle Factors

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There has been much interest in whether the way we live influences our chance of developing allergies. Two particular areas under scrutiny are diet and hygiene.

These are harmless micro-organisms that live in our bowel. Synbiotics are a combination of probiotics and special sugars called prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of probiotics.

Studies show allergy-prone children have fewer probiotics in their bowel than non-allergic children.

The probiotics Lactobacillus GG and Lactobacillus rhamnosus have been shown to improve eczema symptoms under the age of two and, if supplemented from early infancy, probiotics can reduce eczema attacks.

Probiotics don’t seem to benefit asthma, but may influence the immune system. They may reduce general allergies and have a beneficial affect on immunity.

For best results, pregnant women should take probiotics for the last few months of pregnancy and supplement the baby’s diet with probiotics and prebiotics. Caution should be taken if the child has a cow’s milk allergy, as cow’s milk residues may be present in supplements.

Hygiene hypothesis
Our contemporary clean lifestyles and reduced exposure to infectious diseases mean our immune systems are less occupied and more likely to react to otherwise harmless allergens.

Allergic sensitisation seems to occur mainly in the first year of life, when the immature immune system switches on TH2 white blood cells

There’s mounting evidence that low-dose allergen exposure seems to promote allergic sensitisation in infants, while early high-dose allergen exposure may induce immune tolerance and switch off allergies.

This can be demonstrated in children born into families with two or more pets. These children are less likely to develop allergies than if the family has one pet or no pets at all.


If traces of pet dander (skin flakes) are brought into a pet-free home on visitors’ clothing, these traces are enough to cause allergic sensitisation. A relatively higher allergen exposure is then needed to trigger an allergic reaction.

Some scientists believe peanut sensitisation occurs through traces of peanut allergen entering an infant’s skin from body creams or when they’re handled by people who have touched peanuts.

Livestock farmers’ children who play in stables and farmyards and are exposed to bacteria are far less likely to develop allergies than other rural or urban children.

Source : BBC News

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Health Alert

Sometimes We are Allergic to Some Food

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Sometimes, the food we eat leads to allergies, which are serious and dangerous. At the same time, highly restrictive diets can be tough on people.

For instance, there is food colouring even in some cheeses and gluten in soy sauce. They can also be unhealthy. To avoid malnutrition, fatigue or low bone density, doctors recommend people who start removing ingredients from their diets consult a nutritionist for advice.

What’s   food allergy ?
It is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body’s immune system. Allergic reactions to food can sometimes cause serious illness and death. The FDA estimates that two per cent of adults and up to eight per cent of young children have some form of food allergies. Childhood allergies are a common and growing problem. Sometimes, a reaction to food is not an allergy. It is often called “food intolerance”.

The exact reason behind the rise of allergies is unknown. But evidence suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is at the root of most allergies. Hence, it is advisable that a single new food should be introduced to a child rather than multiple new options.

“Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening and may include, hives, itching, swelling of the face, lips, tongue and/or eyes, diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps, itching and tightness of throat, difficulty in breathing, wheezing, in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock,” says Dr Richa Anand, dietician, Dr L H Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai.

In case you feel that you may be allergic to a certain food:
* Eliminate the food that you suspect from your diet and check if the reactions stop.
* Challenge the food by consuming it and check for adverse reactions.
* Do a skin allergy test.

Ensure that any of the above options are done after consulting a doctor. Also, once the allergic food has been found, make sure that the same is eliminated from your diet.

Some common food allergies :-

In adults, the most common foods to cause allergic reactions include: shellfish such as shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and crab; peanuts, a legume that is one of the chief foods to cause severe anaphylaxis, a sudden drop in blood pressure that can be fatal if not treated quickly; tree nuts such as walnuts; fish; and eggs.

In children, the pattern is somewhat different. The most common food allergens that cause problems in children are eggs, milk, and peanuts. Adults usually do not lose their allergies, but children can sometimes outgrow them. Children are more likely to outgrow allergies to milk or soy than allergies to peanuts, fish, or shrimp.
Peanuts: are the main source of severe allergic reactions. Peanut allergies can be so extreme that just being in the same room with one can cause someone to go into anaphylactic shock. Peanuts are found in so many items, as frying oils, flavoured nuts, etc.

Shellfish/fish: Allergy to shellfish is quite common and a number of different types of shellfish can cause reactions in people who are sensitive. For example, shrimps, prawns, lobster, crab, crayfish, oysters, scallops, mussels and clams. People who are allergic to one type of shellfish often find that they react to other types. Adults are more likely to have an allergic reaction to fish and shellfish than children, which is probably because adults will have eaten these foods more often. Shellfish allergy can often cause severe reactions, and some people can react to the vapours from cooking shellfish. Cooking doesn’t destroy fish allergens. In fact, some people with fish allergy can be allergic to cooked but not raw fish.

Milk: Lactose is a sugar found naturally in milk. It’s important to distinguish between lactose intolerance and milk allergy, because milk allergy can cause severe reactions. Lactose intolerance is actually an enzymatic problem where the enzyme lactase cannot split the milk protein lactose into glucose and galactose. This leads to digestive system pain more often than swollen or clogged airways. Milk products are obviously in and ice-cream, but can also appear in sauces and as butter on steaks and other meats. Adults with lactose intolerance can often have a small amount of milk without getting any symptoms.

Eggs: Egg allergy is more common in childhood and about half the children who have it will grow out of it by the age of three. In a few cases, egg allergy can cause anaphylaxis. Cooking can destroy some of these allergens, but not others. So some people might react to cooked eggs, as well as raw eggs. Occasionally, someone might react to egg because they have an allergy to chicken, quail or turkey meat, or to bird feathers. This is called bird-egg syndrome. Also, those with egg allergies should avoid most pastas and foamy products, as egg is occasionally used as a stabiliser for coffee foams, among others.

Soy: allergies are probably most difficult for vegetarians, as it is often used as a protein alternative in things such as tofu. One has to be especially careful about food cooked in soyabean oil or Chinese food cooked using soya sauce. It can also be found in peanut butters, soups, infant formulas, etc.

Wheat: For those with celiac, anything containing gluten, including wheat, can lead to adverse reactions. However, for those with wheat allergies, only wheat makes a person react. Wheat is often used as a stabiliser in everything — from soups to biscuits — and it can be difficult to dodge. People with wheat allergies need to abstain from everything — from wheat breads to soy sauce with wheat.


The Times Of India & Allergy related internet sites

News on Health & Science

Low Doses of Allergens May Cure Food Allergies ?

Researchers have found some success treating allergic children with very, very low doses of the allergenic substances such as milk or peanuts. One study had 33 children with peanut allergies eat peanut protein powder equivalent to one-thousandth of a peanut. Four of the children had to drop out because of allergic reactions, but six of nine children who stuck with the program for a few years are currently reaction-free regarding peanuts.
……..eating peanut butter sandwitch
Previous attempts to desensitize people to food allergies often triggered potentially life-threatening reactions. But the new studies use just the protein within foods such as milk and peanuts that trigger allergic reactions.

Researchers still consider this to be a very early and experimental method, and warn parents not to try it at home. There is still always the risk of triggering dangerous allergic reactions.

Live Science June 9, 2009
The Washington Post June 9, 2009

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News on Health & Science

Nasal Irrigation: Spring Cleaning for Your Nose

Before you reach for expensive over-the-counter or prescription allergy remedies, you might want to try an inexpensive alternative treatment that really seems to work: nasal irrigation, or washing out your nose once or twice daily with warm salt water. Most medical studies on nasal irrigation for allergies are rather positive, and there’s little risk and little expense in trying.


Spring marks the beginning of pollen season, and the same yellowish dust that coats your car also fills your nasal passages, causing enough irritation to trigger an allergic reaction. Nasal irrigation simply washes away the irritants causing the allergy symptoms.

Many medical institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic, advocate the use of nasal irrigation. The most recent study appeared in January 2009, with the 200 patients in the study reporting some relief of symptoms from twice daily irrigations.

To try it, you can invest two dollars in a bulb syringe. or you can buy a neti pot, which looks like a little oil lamp, often used by yoga devotees. Nasal irrigation is known as jala neti in the ancient Indian practice of Ayurveda.


Live Science April 16, 2009

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News on Health & Science

Vitamin B9 Treats Allergies, Asthma

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Folic acid, or vitamin B9, essential for the health of red blood cells and known to reduce the risk of spinal birth defects, may also  suppress allergic reactions and lessen the severity of allergy and asthma symptoms.

Johns Hopkins scientists, who conducted the first ever study examining the link between blood levels of folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid and allergies, said results add to mounting evidence that folate can help regulate inflammation.

Recent studies, including research from Hopkins, have found a link between folate levels and inflammation-mediated diseases, including heart disease.

Cautioning that its far too soon to recommend folic acid supplements to prevent or treat people with asthma and allergies, researchers emphasise that more research needs to be done to confirm their results, and to establish safe doses and risks.

Reviewing the medical records of more than 8,000 people aged between two and 85 years, investigators tracked the effect of folate levels on respiratory and allergic symptoms and on levels of IgE antibodies, immune system markers that rise in response to an allergen.

People with higher blood levels of folate had fewer IgE antibodies, fewer reported allergies, less wheezing and a lower likelihood of asthma, researchers report.

“Our findings are a clear indication that folic acid may indeed help regulate immune response to allergens, and may reduce allergy and asthma symptoms,” said lead investigator Elizabeth Matsui.

“But we still need to figure out the exact mechanism behind it, and to do so we need studies that follow people receiving treatment with folic acid, before we even consider supplementation with folic acid to treat or prevent allergies and asthma.”

The current recommendation for daily dietary intake of folic acid is 400 micrograms for healthy men and non-pregnant women. Many cereals and grain products are already fortified with folate. Folate is also found naturally in green, leafy vegetables, beans and nuts, said a Hopkins release.

The study appeared online in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology.

Sources: The Times Of India