Allergies

Will giving my baby peanut products increase or decrease his risk for a peanut allergy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My baby has an egg allergy. His doctor says this increases his risk of developing a peanut allergy. She recommends avoiding peanut products for now. But another doctor gave me the opposite advice. What should I do?

DEAR READER: If your child has a food allergy, you may well agonize over the safety of his every meal and snack. And no wonder. Food allergies can cause severe -- even deadly -- allergic reactions. Peanut allergies can cause bad rashes, severe difficulty breathing, a dangerous drop in blood pressure and other dangerous results. But a study recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine offers some hope for parents of infants who may be headed toward a peanut allergy. That hope is peanuts.

Does long term use of antihistamines cause dementia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been taking over-the-counter antihistamines for years to control my allergies. Now I hear I may have to worry about dementia. How real is the concern?

DEAR READER: Antihistamine drugs have "anticholinergic" (an-tee-cole-in-ER-jik) effects. That means that they have some tendency to block the action of a natural substance called acetylcholine. This substance transmits messages in the nervous system. In the brain, it is involved in learning and memory; in the rest of the body, it stimulates muscles to contract.

What can I do to minimize the mold in my home?

DEAR DOCTOR K: We just found out that my son is extremely allergic to mold. What can I do to minimize the mold in my home?

DEAR READER: Even if your son is getting allergy shots or taking medications, the best way to control his allergy is to reduce his exposure to mold. Mold, along with mildew and yeasts, are the spores of fungi. Spores are very light and travel in the air. Because spores are capable of surviving in dry, unpleasant conditions, they can live a long time. But they especially thrive in damp, warm environments.

What is an asthma action plan?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son was recently diagnosed with asthma. His doctor wants to put together an asthma "action plan." What is that?

DEAR READER: Asthma is a complicated and serious disease. It can behave differently from hour to hour and from day to day. A person with asthma needs a plan for what to do at each stage of the disease. I'll describe the elements of the plan in a minute, but first a little background on asthma itself.

What’s the difference between celiac disease and a gluten sensitivity?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Many people I know are going gluten-free. When I ask them why, I hear about gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. What do these terms mean?

DEAR READER: Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease are two separate conditions with one thing in common: gluten. Gluten is a protein found in anything made with grains such as wheat, rye or barley. Gluten is what makes breads chewy. Celiac disease is a disorder in which the body can't tolerate gluten.

My eyes are affected the most by allergies, what can I do for relief?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have allergies, and my eyes are affected the most. They're puffy, red and itchy. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Pollens, animal dander, dust mites and mold: The same allergens that cause sneezing and an itchy nose and throat can trigger allergy symptoms that affect your eyes, too. If your eyes are red and itchy, you may also have tearing, mucous discharge and swelling of your conjunctiva (the inside of your eyelid). This constellation of symptoms is known as allergic conjunctivitis. It can be uncomfortable, but it is not a threat to vision.

What will help my sinus headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my 30s who has suffered from sinus headaches for years. Allergy medications haven't helped. What else can I try?

DEAR READER: Seasonal allergies can cause sinus congestion, sneezing and a runny nose. But when you experience pain and pressure in your head, it may be time to consider other causes. That's because sinus problems do not usually cause headaches. At least, they don't cause what most people refer to when they use the term "headache." Most people with sinus congestion refer to "head congestion," not headache.

My child suffers from allergies every spring and fall — What can I do?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 7-year-old daughter suffers from allergies every spring and fall. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Spring and fall are my favorite seasons, as is true for many people. But for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, spring and fall can be very unpleasant. Weeks of sniffling, sneezing, head congestion, red eyes and scratchy throats make it hard to appreciate the beauty and mild weather.

Have I developed food allergies as an adult?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've always had seasonal allergies. But over the past few years, I've noticed that my lips swell and my mouth gets irritated when I eat certain fruits and vegetables. Have I developed new food allergies as an adult?

DEAR READER: I suspect you've developed a type of adult-onset food allergy known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS). People with OAS suffer from hay fever and experience an itchy mouth, scratchy throat, or swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue and throat after eating certain raw fruits, vegetables or some tree nuts.

Why does my doctor want me to do a food challenge when my blood test showed negative for a shellfish allergy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Last month I broke out in hives after eating oysters. I had a blood test, which came back negative for a shellfish allergy. Why does my doctor still want me to do a food challenge?

DEAR READER: Allergic reactions occur when your body's immune system overreacts against a harmless substance -- in your case, possibly, shellfish. Food allergies can cause a variety of symptoms that range from mild to life-threatening.