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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Why Are My Lips Itchy and Dry?

Cold temperatures and harsh winds can bring about dry itchy skin and peeling lips.  Lip balm usage is on the uptick this holiday season.  More are looking for protection and treatment for delicate skin, covering lips so they look their best at holiday parties and date nights.  

For some, the entire answer to why their lips peel and itch isn't just the extreme weather.  Is it possible that an allergy can make your lips peel and itch?  Of course!

Chemicals we use on our face and hands is a common cause of itchy, dry and irritated lips. This condition is called lip contact dermatitis.  Often people think they just have "dry" lips and continue using the products that are actually the source of the problem.  Chemicals in lipsticks, lip balms and nail polish are common sources of the irritations to lips.

What causes lip contact dermatitis?
  •  Inflammation and irritation of the lips caused by common chemicals in make-up , toothpaste, lipstick/balm, facial wash, and products we use our hands.
  • Repeated application of chemicals causes allergic sensitization
  • Common chemicals that cause lip contact dermatitis include:
    • shellac- commonly found in lipsticks/lip balms
    • fragrance- commonly found in most personal care products, gum, mouthwash and toothpaste
    • nickel- contamination in some make-up or transferred from lip product container
    • sunscreen
    • varnish found in nail polish
    • preservatives- commonly found in all personal care items.
  • Irritants from toothpaste, lip balms and licking lips can also cause a non-allergic dermatitis 
What is the treatment for lip contact dermatitis?
  • Identification of the chemical allergy and avoidance will cure the dermatitis.
  • Evaluation by an allergist will help determine if the irritation, infection or is caused by an chemical allergy or a irritant reaction.  
  • Patch testing for common chemicals used in the personal care products will help determine what to avoid.
Need more help?  Call the office or schedule appointment here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

How To Deal With Food Allergies When You're A Guest At Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  There's always space at the table for unexpected friends or family members to join in a huge communal feast.  If you have food allergies, getting the invite to go a  new home is scary.  You have to confide in your friends information about your health and potentially something that can make you very sick.  Having food allergies shouldn't stop you from enjoying the generosity of others.

Here are 5 easy tips to deal with food allergies at Thanksgiving:

1) Communicate
  • Give your host ample time to make substitutions to the menu by telling them clearly your allergies. Bring it up one time and then avoid constant reminders about your allergy
  • Find out what the menu will be and if they are planning on cooking with something that causes a food allergy
2) Offer to help
  • Offer to bring the salad, stuffing or dessert.  This are foods that often have multiple ingredients that can be difficult to identify.
  • If your allergy is especially difficult to avoid, then offer to bring food for yourself.
  • There are easy substitutions for milk, eggs, and nuts available.  
    • Milk- any of the milk substitutes (coconut milk, rice milk, soy milk, almond milk, oat milk etc) can be used 1:1 in any recipe.
    • Eggs- applesauce and banana's are great substitutes for cookies and cakes.
    • Nuts- keep them on the side, or make 2 dishes 1 with and 1 without.
    • Here's a great website for more information Cooking with Food Allergies
3)  Educate yourself
  • Sit down with your allergist and put together a specific plan on what to do if there's an accidental ingestion.
  • Consider foods that might have hidden ingredients (cocktails, baked goods, stuffing, mashed potato etc..)
4) Be prepared
  • Be sure to have an epinephrine auto-injector in your bag along with an anti-histamine.
  • Consult with your allergist about recipes and ideas on how to approach the situation.
  • Know where the closest hospital is in case there is an accidental ingestion.
5) Enjoy yourself
  • Trust those around you to take your allergy seriously.  
  • Don't let your food allergies spoil the holidays. 
  • Here's to your good health and those around you 
Need more specific help?  Please call the office or click here to schedule an appointment


Friday, November 7, 2014

What's New in Skin Allergies? D-Day for Skin Deep Allergies

Being itchy and scratchy all over is one of the worst things to experience.  Symptoms interfere with sleep, work, and your life.  Scratching can leave your skin scarred and damaged.   Many of my patients come to me with difficult to treat rashes.  They've gone from doctor to doctor and treated with topical steroids without anyone finding the cause of the itch.

 Did you know on an average day we are exposed to over 128 chemical in our personal care items (shampoo, cosmetics, deodorants, etc)?  These rashes are called allergic contact dermatitis.  Over 14.5 million people have chemical allergy & many of these are children!  I love trying to find the cause of why my patients are itching- it is one of my favorite puzzles to solve.   Anyone who's read my blog in the past knows I often write about these allergies- shellac allergy, formaldehyde resin allergy, and; methyldibromo glutaronitrile

Chemicals like preservatives and additives in our products trigger difficult to treat rashes like lip, eye lid, and foot rash.   I do extensive chemical & environmental allergy testing in my office in the hopes of identifying the trigger for the itch.  This is a huge win in any of my patients care.  Avoidance of the offending chemicals can lead to complete resolution of the rash- without medications.  Common chemicals that cause contact dermatitis include fragrance, cocamidopropyl, formaldehyde, nickel and so many more.  

Today, I attended D-Day for Skin Deep Allergies and Patch Testing a full day conference put on by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Atlanta, Georgia.  The room was filled with over 100 other Allergists/Immunologist just as excited as I am about finding the cause of a rash.  
I'm spending the entire weekend in Atlanta at the College's meeting and will bring my expanded knowledge base back to New York to help my patients.  
  • Why do my lips itch?
  • What's the cause of my foot rash?
  • How much nickel can I eat if I'm nickel allergic?
  • What's the cause of eye lid rashes?
  • Why am I itchy all over?  
Stay tuned- I'll be writing more on these and other topics I learn at the American College of Allergy Asthma, and Immunology's 2014 conference!

Need help with a difficult to treat rash?  Suspect you have contact dermatitis?  Call the office 212-679-3574 or click Gramercy Allergy & Asthma to schedule an appointment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

How to Prevent Colds this Winter....

This time of the year temperatures are all over the place.  The drop in temperature also brings out activities of cold virus.  Colds cause for significant disruption to our lives, work, and social interactions.

Everyone's goal during cough and cold season is to keep healthy. As an immunologist, I'm often asked about natural ways to prevent viruses from taking hold and to reduce the time of a cold.

Here are my 5 top tips.  I hope they keep you cold free this year!
1) Wash your hands! 
  • You've heard it before and you'll hear it again.  Frequent hand washing is the number one way you can prevent colds.  Your hands bring germs and viruses to your nose, mouth and eyes where they gain entry and cause illness. Keeping your hands germ free will help keep you germ free.  Wash or use portable hand disinfectants after riding the subways, before eating, after shaking hands, or anything you think of it.  Aim for 20 seconds at least with warm soapy water. 
2) Eat a rainbow of foods each day!
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seed and lean proteins will ensure you are getting enough essential vitamins and nutrients to keep your immune system working at maximum potential!   Critical vitamins involved in the immune reaction are Vitamin A (think anything orange like pumpkin and squash), Vitamin C (oranges and grapefruits), Vitamin D (the sun!),  Vitamin E  (nuts and sunflower seeds) and Zinc (oysters & chickpeas). Vitamins, anti-oxidants and bacteria are natural ways to maintain this balance. 


3)  Keep your fluids up!
  • Water helps keep your skin and outer mucosal functioning at it's best.  These surfaces are the first line defense against germs and viruses. 
  • Shoot for 4-5 8 ounces of water per day.  Live in a dry apartment?  Drink at least an 1-2 glasses more.
4) Maintain regular exercise and sleep program!
  • Did you know that regular exercise helps boost the activity of critical immune cells in fighting off germs and viruses? 
  • Even if you're getting sick low intensity exercise will reduce the time of the illness.
  • Sleep is when your body repairs and rejuvenates itself.  As we enter the holiday season, increased parties and plans often infringe on our time for sleep, but shoot for 7-8 hours a night to keep your body in it's best form. 
5) Disinfect Germ Magnets!
  • The phone- Your home, office and personal phone are way stations for viruses.  They can survive on them for a few hours to days.
  • Remote controls- touched by everyone in the family, but least cleaned.  During cold season, try and wipe off at least once a day.
  • Keep boards and computers- we sit at them for hours a day sneezing and breathing on them.  Make sure to wipe them off several times a week to keep yourself healthy
  • The bathroom- yuck...faucets and door knobs are touched by everyone in the house and office.  This is the perfect place to pick up viruses.  Make sure faucets and knobs are getting disinfected frequently.   
Hopefully these tips will keep you cold free this season!


Need more personalized care?  Call the office or  schedule an appointment here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How To have Fun on Halloween When You Have Allergies!


Haunted houses, witches, goblins and super-hero costumes  bring smiles and scares during Halloween.  It's a wonderful time of the year to allow your imagination to go wild and have fun!
For parent's of children with seasonal allergies, food allergies and asthma there are potential dangers lurking in trips to the pumpkin patch, makeup, Halloween candy, and party treats.


What are some tips so you can enjoy all the Halloween fun when you have food allergies and asthma?

1) Do your kids have food allergies?  Don't be Scared, Be Prepared!
  •  Feed your kids dinner before going trick-or-treating.  That way they won't be tempted to eat candy before you have a chance to check it for potential allergens.
  • Talk to your neighbors.  Provide them with "safe" treats specifically for your children. 
  • Throw your own Halloween party so you can "control" the types of treats provided.
  • Talk to you kids about not eating candy until you've had a chance to inspect it.
  • Make sure they have emergency medication  including auto-injectable epinephrine & a cell phone when they are trick or treating just in case there is an accidental exposure. 
2) Heading to a Pumpkin Patch, don't let asthma & allergies get in the way of the fun!
  • Make sure your children take there maintenance medication before they head out to the farm.  Hay, leaves, and mold can often trigger an attack. 
  • Bring albuterol and extra anti-histamines along with you.
  • Use scarfs to warm up cold fall air to help prevent asthma
  • Listen for warning sounds- sneezing, runny nose, and coughing are signs that a reaction is happening. 
3) Choose Wise Costumes When Your Kids have Allergies and Asthma
  • Use care with Halloween make up if your child has eczema.  Harsh chemicals and dyes can often trigger an eczema flare.
  • Masks are great a great addition to a costume, but also mask if you're child is having an allergic reaction.  They can also make it difficult to breath if your child has asthma.  Use costumes with glasses, wigs, hoods, and funny hats instead.
  • Is your child sensitive to latex?   Be sure to read the costume labels carefully to avoid potential exposure.
Want more tips?  Check out the American College of Allergies website


Want more tips- call the office 212-679-3574 for an appointment or book on line.


Most of all Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 3, 2014

What Is Propolis Allergy?

What is Propolis?
Propolis, bee glue, is an increasingly important contact allergy because of it's increased use in "natural products". Just because it's natural doesn't mean you can't have an allergic reaction to the substance.


Benefits of propolis - propolis health (3)
  • Propolis is a glue made by hone bees to build, repair and protect their hives.
  • It's made up of digested resins (natural glues), buds from trees, and bark that bees mix with bee wax.
  • It becomes a mixture of balsams and resins, waxes, essential oils, pollen and cinnamyl alcohol, vitamins A, B, C and E, flavanoids and minerals.
  • Overall, the chemical composition of propolis is highly variable depending on where the bees live and the types of trees they use to manufacture their glue.
  • It can be listed on an ingredient list as propolis, cera flava, and cera alba.
What is Propolis Used For?
  • For 1000s of years propolis has been used by humans to treat infections, wounds, and as a varnish.  It's believed to possess antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.  Given these properties, propolis is a common additive in many "natural" products.  The increased exposure to propolis has increased our sensitivity and allergic reaction to it. 


In modern times, propolis is used as:
  • Emulsifying and thickening agent in many cosmetics.
  • Food additive for coating and glazing candy and fresh fruit
  • Natural over the counter sprays for sore throats, mouth lozenges, cough syrups, ointments, lotions, drops and oral pills.
  • Anti-septic agent in many homeopathic and natural medicine
  • Varnish for violins
How Do you Know If You Are Allergic To Propolis?
  • Many people with propolis allergy will have a rash on/or around mouth (from using topical ointments with propolis), or rash at the site of application (typically face, arms and legs).
  • Propolis is used in many "natural" cosmetics and homeopathic remedies.  Exposure from these products can cause a rash at the site of application.
  • Many people with allergy to propolis are also allergic to balsam of peru, colophony, beeswax, clove oil, and tree buds
  • Bee keepers, violin makers, and persons who make handmade boots are at increased risk for developing propolis allergy.
  • If you suspect propolis allergy, see an allergist for patch testing to determine the specific cause of your rash
Need more help or have questions?  Reach out to the office at 212-679-3574 or our website gramercyallergy.com to schedule an appointment. 



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Can You Be Prepared for Ragweed Season?

Fall is in the air and with it brings ragweed pollen! 

Did you know?
  • Ragweed pollen, considered to be one of the most allergenic pollens begins pollinating in mid August and goes through mid fall. 
  • One in 10 Americans suffers from sensitivity to ragweed pollen- runny nose, sneezing, itchy watery eyes, coughing, and asthma attacks are just some of the symptoms you might experience if you're allergic to ragweed. 
  • One plant alone can produce up to a billion pollen grains.  The grains travel over 100 miles! 
  •  Ragweed was so prevalent in NYC in the early 1900's that there was a movement to remove it from the streets.  Despite their efforts ragweed still grows in the city. 
Below is what ragweed looks like. 
Common ragweed vegetative plants

What Can you Do to Be Prepared for Ragweed Season?  Here are 5 Easy Tips to Keep you Feeling Healthy!


1) Get a jump start- Mid-August is when ragweed starts to bloom.  Mark your calendars so you can start your medications before the plants get into full swing.

2) Keep pollen outside- shower if spending the day in the park, wipe dogs down with a wet wash clothe and keep your windows closed to prevent the pollen from entering your home.

3) See an Allergist-
an allergist will test you to identify what you're sensitive to and create a personalized plan for you and give you advice on how to prevent symptoms.

4) Consider a cure- if non-prescription medication isn't controlling your symptoms, consider allergy shots and/or sublingual treatment for allergies.  Recently released there are now pills you can take to orally desensitize yourself to ragweed pollen called Ragwitek.


5) Don't stop your medications- Because the nasal and eye symptoms of associated with ragweed allergies can linger after the pollen can no longer be detected in the air , don’t stop your allergy medication immediately.


Need personalized help from Dr. Jennifer Collins?  We are glad to help- visit our website Gramercy Allergy & Asthma to book an appointment or call the office- 212-679-3574.