I’m a 41-year-old man and new immigrant from Florida. I always suffered from seasonal allergies, especially in the spring, but like to be out in nature. I prefer to not to take medications if possible. Can you give me advice on coping with allergies in my country? M.G., Jerusalem
Dr. Menahem Rotem, an allergy specialist and clinical immunologist at Emek Medical Center in Afula, comments: One out of every five Israelis suffer from allergies, and the prevalence increases from year to year. Going out to nature spots, streams and lakes, zoos, animal corners and even the beach is often accompanied by an unpleasant souvenir if you have a sensitive immune system.
There are a number of factors involved – insect bites, walking among allergenic grasses and plants, sitting or lying on the grass, or otherwise being exposed to plants that you have not encountered before.
Identifying them as seasonal allergies is usually easy because you are not affected year-round, and if you develop a runny nose, shortness of breath, repeated and strong headaches, difficulty sleeping, asthma, sinusitis, infections, redness on the skin and irritation in the eyes.
In children, if the runny nose continues for more than a month and involves clear liquid, an allergist should conduct tests so the condition can be treated. If there is difficulty breathing, it is defined as asthma if the child suffers from more than two attacks during a day over the course of a week, or at night over the course of a month.
You should try to avoid exposure to flowering trees, plants and grasses as much as possible in the spring. At home, put pillows, blankets and even mattresses in special cloth covers to prevent tiny dust mites from getting to you; it is their excretions that cause allergic symptoms. You can try sprays that kill dust mites.
Wash clothing and sheets that have been in the closet for more than a few weeks without being worn or used. Opt for a bare floor rather than carpets and rugs. To wash the floors, use cloth that do not collect dust. Vacuum drapes, sofas and chairs two to four times a month, or send cloth items to the dry cleaners if they can’t be washed.
It’s worth consulting an allergy expert in your new country about taking second-generation antihistamines if preventive measures don’t help you.
Some of them are over-the-counter drugs and don’t require a prescription.
If you try these and they don’t ameliorate your allergic symptoms, you can get injections of allergens so that your body can gradually become used to them. In the event of severe shortness of breath, an individual with asthma needs a steroid inhaler to open the airways.
I am three months’ pregnant with my first baby. I read somewhere that many young children have allergic reactions to peanuts, and that even though most Israeli children are fed Bamba snacks made of peanut butter from a young age, they should not eat them. Someone told me that I should avoid eating peanut butter or Bamba during pregnancy. I enjoy peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, especially now when I’m pregnant. Would they affect the fetus or the baby after it is born? Should I avoid eating them? R.A., Ma’aleh Adumim
Prof. Meir Shalit, director of the clinical immunology and allergy unit at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, comments: There is no proof that avoiding eating peanuts during pregnancy reduces the risk of peanut allergy in the child who is born. But there are researchers who think that in families with a significant history of allergies – with children who have already developed a peanut allergy – it might be well-advised to avoid eating peanuts during pregnancy.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich adds:
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics reversed its statement – in place since 2000 – that all pregnant women were best advised to avoid eating peanut products. The AAP said: “There is not enough evidence that maternal dietary restrictions during pregnancy play a significant role in preventing atopic disease in babies. An atopic condition is one that includes asthma, allergic rhinitis (also known as hay fever), food allergies or eczema. There is also a lack of evidence that avoidance of allergy-causing foods during breastfeeding prevents atopic disease, with the possible exception of eczema.”
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting.
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