Staying Healthy this Halloween

SRxA’s Word on Health wishes all of our readers a Happy and Healthy Halloween.  For the 50 million or so people living on the Atlantic Seaboard of America affected by Mondays’ Frankenstorm we hope you are staying safe and recovering from the devastation wreaked by Sandy.

Although the United States experiences hurricanes almost every year and most people have a rudimentary knowledge of the dangers, there are a number of health risks that people seem to forget about in every storm. And frequently, it’s these things that cause unnecessary deaths, injuries, and illnesses.

While many people believe that high winds are the greatest risk from a hurricane, that’s simply not true. According to Ready.gov the majority of deaths are from flooding.   Flooding deaths often result from people trying to wade or drive through moving water or water of unknown depth.  Six inches of water will stall most vehicles – a foot of water may float a vehicle. Sadly, many flood deaths happen as a result of misadventure. Victims who chose to ignore warnings and drive around barricades set up to restrict travel in flood danger areas.

Other deaths happen when people walk or drive through flood water and discover that the ground has been washed away or the water is too deep to cross. Falling trees and tree limbs are another cause of hurricane deaths and injuries. Wait until the storm passes to begin any work on these hazards, even if they have fallen on a house or car. And even then take extreme care.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that tree parts can move without warning by a mistaken cut of a saw.  If in doubt call your local fire department or check out the CDC’s advice on preventing chain saw injuries.

High winds and flood produces power outages and electrical dangers. Electrical providers suggest that all downed wires should be considered as live. Stay ten feet away, at minimum. And remember don’t touch tree limbs, fences or other objects that a power line is touching since they can conduct electricity, sometimes for hundreds of feet.

Flooded homes and flooded appliances inside homes represent another electrical hazard. Don’t use power outlets or lights in a building that was flooded until the electrical system has been inspected by an electrician. Carbon monoxide poisoning is another oft overlooked danger after a hurricane. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless and exposure can be deadly. Please remember that generators, charcoal grills, hibachis and other similar cooking methods should only be operated outside.

And even when the worst of the storm is over, as things start to dry out, those that got wet in the flooding will begin to mold. The CDC offers a web page about how to reenter a flooded home and another on dealing with the dangers of mold. You should also keep in mind that any surface that was flooded, especially basements may be contaminated with sewage.

Also consider the dangers from food spoiled by loss of power. If the power is out for less than 2 hours, then the food in your refrigerator and freezer should be safe to consume. However, if the power is out for longer than 2 hours, then you should remember the following:

A freezer that is half full will only hold food safely for up to 24 hours. A full freezer will hold food safely for 48 hours. Beyond that you will need to toss the contents.

So whether you hunkering down, bailing out or trick-or-treating today, please stay safe and healthy.

Nightmare on Allergy Street?

With Halloween rapidly approaching, do you have more than ghosts and ghouls and things that groan in the night to worry about?  If you suffer from seasonal allergies then your answer is almost certainly yes.

Seasonal allergies occur when outdoor allergens such as mold spores, tree, grass and weed pollen are inhaled and cause an allergic reaction.

This year allergy sufferers were subjected to the “perfect storm” of a mild winter, including an unseasonably warm February, and an early spring caused trees to pollinate earlier than normal.

This has been a very strange year for allergies,” says Dr. David Chudwin, an allergist from Crystal Lake, IL. “It’s been the strangest year in the 30 years that I’ve been practicing.”

The early spring was followed by a hot dry summer that kept pollen counts high, day after day.  Then in late summer and early autumn, record-breaking mold counts resulted in county wide air-quality alerts that resulted in even mild allergy sufferers dreading the outdoors.  Although mold is typically associated with dampness, mold spores also are associated with dying vegetation.

Many molds grow on rotting logs and fallen leaves, in compost piles and on grasses and grains. Unlike pollens, molds do not die with the first killing frost. And mold counts can change quickly, depending on the weather. Certain spore types reach peak levels in dry, breezy weather. Some need high humidity, fog or dew to release spores. This group is abundant at night and during rainy periods.

To makes things worse, retreating indoors may not be the answer. For, those bothered by indoor, as well as outdoor, allergens, the season of suffering is just beginning.  As we start to run furnaces and our pets elect to curl up in front of the fire, dust and dander levels start to rise.

According to most of the country’s leading expert on allergies, more Americans than ever are sneezing, sniffling and itching. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, estimates 450 million Americans suffer from allergies.

As previously reported by SRxA’s Word on Health, our squeaky clean lifestyle is probably to blame for the rising numbers.  According to the hygiene hypothesis – Children that lead too clean a life are not exposed to enough germs to properly adjust their immune system.

People who are less prone to allergies include children from large families, children who live on farms, children in underdeveloped countries,” Chudwin said.

If you don’t fall into any of these categories, we suggest a trip to your local allergist, who can help prepare you for sneeze-free trick-or-treating and the other joys of fall and winter.

Survey Reveals Unmet Needs Among Patients with Allergic Rhinitis

SRxA’s Word on Health team spent the last week attending the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting in San Francisco. In addition to spending quality time with many of our KOL Allergy Advisors and pharmaceutical clients, we were able to catch up with some of the latest research on allergic rhinitis (AR).

Allergic rhinitis is an allergic reaction that happens when the immune system overreacts to inhaled, such as pollen. This causes release of a type of antibody, known as IgE, into the nasal passages, along with inflammatory chemicals such as histamines. The two types of allergic rhinitis are seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and perennial allergic rhinitis, which occurs year-round. Hay fever is caused by outdoor allergens. Perennial allergic rhinitis is caused by indoor allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold.

Results from a recent pivotal AR satisfaction survey assessing patient and healthcare provider perspectives on AR reveal that symptoms like nasal congestion and post-nasal drip continue to impact patients’ daily activities.

Findings from the Nasal Allergy Survey Assessing Limitations (NASL) 2010, highlight the continued unmet need for more effective treatment options to help reduce symptoms and overall disease burden of AR.

The prevalence of AR in the U.S. has increased during the past three decades.  It is now estimated that 20% of the general adult population and almost 40% of children have the condition.  Of the estimated 60 million Americans affected with AR, approximately 20% have seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR), 40% have perennial allergic rhinitis (PAR), and 40% have a combination of the two (i.e., PAR with seasonal exacerbations) depending on the allergen sensitivity.

In other words, one in 5 adults and almost half of children suffer from symptoms including:

  • Stuffy, runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Red, itchy, and watery eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Itchy mouth, throat, ears, and face
  • Sore throat
  • Dry cough
  • Headaches, facial pain or pressure
  • Partial loss of hearing, smell, and taste
  • Fatigue
  • Dark circles under the eyes

According to NASL 2010, nasal congestion, post-nasal drip and repeated sneezing continue to be the most frequently reported nasal allergy symptoms among patients. Beyond physical symptoms, AR patients experience emotional burdens, like feeling tired and miserable. When assessing the impact nasal allergies have on productivity, the survey revealed that patients are less productive when their nasal allergies are at their worst, limiting them from doing well at work.

It’s clear from the NASL 2010 findings that the estimated 60 million people living with allergic rhinitis in the U.S. are still significantly affected, both physically and emotionally, by symptoms,” said Gary Gross, M.D. FAAAAI, Dallas Allergy & Asthma Center, Dallas, Texas. “This is a continuing trend we’re seeing in patients having allergic rhinitis as these findings are similar to those released in a past survey evaluating disease burden on patients. The NASL survey results further support the need for more effective treatment options that address these specific issues for patients living with allergic rhinitis.”

Nasal allergies can make it difficult for people to take part in both indoor and outdoor activities if their symptoms are not well controlled. According to NASL 2010, less than 20% of surveyed patients felt their nasal allergies were completely controlled over a one week time period. The vast majority of allergists, otolaryngologists and primary care providers interviewed in the survey stated intranasal corticosteroid sprays as their preferred treatment of choice for adults with moderate to severe persistent nasal allergies.

Because of its prevalence and health effects, AR is associated with considerable direct and indirect costs.  Latest estimates suggest that AR alone results in a staggering  $11.2 billion in healthcare costs, 12 million physician office visits, 2 million days of school absences and 3.5 million lost work days per year. In addition, the presence of co-morbidities such as asthma and sinusitis further increase AR-related treatment costs.

Word on Health will be bringing you more from AAAAI in the coming days, including some exciting new treatment options being developed for allergic rhinitis.

Hot Tips for Cold Weather

While the blizzard of Christmas 2010 may have brought misery to many, it probably brought much-needed relief  to hayfever and outdoor allergy sufferers.

However, winter brings with it a whole new set of allergy and asthma triggers including dust, pet dander and mold. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) offers tips on how to stay sneeze and sniffle free indoors this winter.

  • Reduce moisture in your home to keep dust mites in check. Maintain humidity below 55%, and don’t use a humidifier or a vaporizer.
  • Filter out dust and other allergens by installing a high efficiency furnace filter with a MERV rating of 11 or 12, and be sure to change it every three months.
  • Banish allergens from the bedroom. Keep pets and their dander out, and encase mattresses and pillows with dust-mite proof covers. Limit curtains – use blinds that can be washed instead.
  • Keep it clean. A clean home is especially important for allergy sufferers, who should wear a NIOSH-rated N95 mask while dusting, a chore that should be done regularly.
  • Wash bedding and stuffed animals in hot water every 14 days and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Turn on the fan or open the window to reduce mold growth in bathrooms (while bathing) and kitchens (while cooking). Wear latex-free gloves and clean visible mold with a five-percent bleach solution and detergent.
  • Don’t overlook the garage. Noxious odors or fumes can trigger asthma, so move insecticides, stored gasoline and other irritants to a shed, and don’t start the car and let it run in the garage.
  • Box up books and knick-knacks and limit the number of indoor plants. When you are buying new furniture, like chairs or sofas, opt for leather or other nonporous surfaces to make cleaning easier.

Need more advice on allergies?  Want to get the word out about your allergy brands?  SRxA’s team of world-class allergy advisors can help.