February 2014 Newsletter - Making Valentine's Day safe for your allergic sweetie!

It's Valentine's Day, the perfect opportunity to show your romantic partner that you care about him or her. But what if your sweetheart has allergies? There are many different kinds of allergies, and some - particularly food allergies - can be life-threatening.

Food allergies are especially problematic on holidays when candies may have been cross-contaminated with nuts and peanuts processed in the same food plant and when restaurant staffers may be too busy to remember to honor special dietary needs. It's natural to feel anxious about trying chocolates of unknown origin or a new eatery if even a tiny piece of nut could send you to the emergency room.

As the significant other, you have the opportunity to be an "allergy hero." Your job is to minimize risk and create a safe and supportive environment for your loved ones, on Valentine's Day and in everyday life.

Here are some tips for keeping romance alive and keeping your partner healthy:

Reconsider flowers

Certain plants are more likely to induce sneezing than others. The scents of roses, star jasmine, narcissus and gardenia are some of the most common plant sources of nasal reactions. Also be cautious of arrangements with citrus and eucalyptus leaves as these can also cause reactions.

Know what's in the sweet stuff

Life may be like a box of chocolates--but with food allergies you need to know exactly what you're getting. Depending on the severity of the food allergy, a box of chocolates that is made on shared equipment or even in the same facility as nuts may be hazardous. If you buy a heart-shaped box where some chocolate cubes are filled with almonds and others are not, this may be a bad choice for a nut-allergic person; instead, get the “nut-free” assortment.

Beware of scented creams and oils

Massage oils, lotions and fragrances can all have ingredients that make people break out into rashes; ask ahead of time if there are particular chemicals or essential oils that cause problems. Almond and macadamia nut oils, for instance, may be present in many beauty products. If your sweetie is allergic to a certain food which is commonly used in “natural” lotions and personal care products, it will probably be best if he/she does not use this product.

Is It Really 'Gluten-Free'? FDA Sets New Limits

Celiac disease is a condition in which the body's defense system reacts to gluten by attacking the lining of the small intestine, and currently has no cure, except for avoidance. The symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

People with celiac disease can now trust that foods labeled "gluten-free" are safer for them to eat, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says. The agency issued a statement on Aug. 2 that foods with "gluten-free" labels limit their gluten levels to less than 20 parts of gluten per million parts of food. This new rule also says that gluten-free foods cannot contain any wheat, rye or barley, or any of their crossbreeds. If any ingredients derived from these grains are used, they have to be processed to reduce their gluten to amounts less than the new limits, according to a statement from the FDA.
"This standard 'gluten-free' definition will eliminate uncertainty about how food producers label their products, and will assure people with celiac disease that foods labeled 'gluten-free' meet a clear standard established and enforced by FDA," said Michael R. Taylor, deputy FDA commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.

The Truth about Pet Allergies

Pets provide companionship and fun, but for some people a dog or cat can also trigger sneezing, sniffles and even worse.

Does an animal allergy mean a life without Fido? Not necessarily. There is a myth that pet allergies are triggered by animal hair, they are actually caused by a protein found in pet skin (or dander), saliva and urine. Some breeds are labeled “hypoallergenic”, as they shed less, but no cat or dog is 100% hypoallergenic—even hairless ones can still cause symptoms.

Each animal is different, and a particular pet allergy sufferer may do better with one breed than another.

If you’re allergic and want to get a dog or cat, consider looking for breeds with shorter hair and less shedding, although there isn’t real scientific evidence this will help. Some allergists have suggested that a dog that tends to keep its coat throughout the year may be better for allergy sufferers. Other factors, such as your pet’s disposition, might make frequent bathing more feasible.

Things you can do to reduce suffering from pet allergies:

  • Make your bedroom a pet-free zone.
  • Use a HEPA air purifier to trap dander.
  • Clean carpeting frequently, or opt for wood, tile or linoleum flooring.
  • Speak with your vet about a balanced diet for your pet, which can prevent dry skin and excess shedding.
  • Keep your pet off the furniture—cover upholstered chairs with towels and sheets and wash them on a regular basis.
  • If your dog rides in the car, use covers on the seats and wash them frequently.
  • There’s no guarantee that someone who is truly allergic to pets will tolerate living with a dog or cat. If you’re thinking about getting a pet, but are concerned about allergies, make sure you get allergy tested first and then consider trying one out on a trial basis. You can also begin allergy treatment before getting a pet, including allergy shots or drops which are very effective in making most patients much less allergic to these animals.
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