Allergist/Immunologist Dr. David offers tips to combat seasonal allergies and points out differences between allergies and COVID-19

Dr.-David-Erstein-Specialist-In-Allergy-and-Immunology

Coping with spring and summer allergies. With the COVID-19 pandemic sickening many thousands of people, it’s also wise to be aware of key differences in symptoms between seasonal allergies and the coronavirus.

More than 160 years ago, British physician Dr. Charles Harrison Blackley – who suffered from so-called ‘summer colds’ that included sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose – was the first to figure out that plant pollen was the trigger for his symptoms. The many millions of Americans who deal with what’s now known as spring or seasonal allergies (or hayfever) have been searching ever since for the best combination of treatments and tactics to ease these difficult symptoms, says allergist and immunologist David Erstein, MD, of Advanced Dermatology PC.

According to the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology, allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the United States, costing more than $18 billion each year. Clearly, it’s not a small problem. But why do spring allergies occur? Billions of tiny pollen grains – produced by flowers, trees, weeds and grasses as they grow and bloom – blow in the breeze. Some people’s immune systems identify the pollen as a foreign substance – an ‘invader’ to be fought off by unleashing chemicals into the bloodstream called histamines.

This cascade of events can also lead to stuffy nose, red, itchy and swollen eyes, and an itchy roof of the mouth. Spring allergies begin as early as February in many parts of the United States and can last through the summer, depending on where you’re located. That means it’s already time to kick allergy coping strategies into high gear as the thermometer rises and chilly days give way to spring weather.

Dr. David Erstein

With the COVID-19 pandemic sickening ten-thousands of people, it’s also wise to be aware of key differences in symptoms between seasonal allergies and the coronavirus. The two conditions may share several overlapping symptoms, but only COVID-19 can potentially produce body aches, sore throat, severe headache and diarrhea, Dr. Erstein says. “Spring allergies won’t lead to those effects, so if you’re experiencing them, signs point more toward possible COVID-19”, he says. “To be safe, call your doctor”.

 

Getting relief

Perhaps the best way to tackle spring allergy symptoms is to visit a board-certified allergist, a doctor whose training centers on precisely this area, Dr. Erstein advises. This recommendation is even stronger for those who aren’t sure what they’re allergic to, since allergists can identify your particular allergen(s) and optimize treatment choices. Typically, tests that may include a simple blood test or skin prick can screen for dozens of common offenders.

If you suffer from spring allergies, what are the best ways to cope? He suggests trying these tactics:

  •  Take allergy medications: Several types of over-the-counter drugs can prove extremely effective, including antihistamines, which ease congestion as well as itchy, watery eyes; decongestants, which relieve stuffy nose; eye drops, which help itchy, red, watery eyes; and nasal sprays, which make it easier to breathe. For severe allergies, it may take several days for some medications to make a dent in your symptoms. Also, keep in mind that some drugs have side effects such as drowsiness.
  •  Limit outdoor time: It just makes sense that pollen exposure is reduced when you spend less time outside, especially on windy days and during early morning hours, when pollen levels are highest. When you are outdoors, don glasses, sports goggles or sunglasses to keep pollen from blowing into your eyes. Some with allergies also wear filter masks around their nose and mouth while gardening or mowing the grass. Check with your allergist which mask might be most effective for you.
  •  Protect yourself indoors: A few easy measures around your house can cut your exposure to pollen indoors. First, take off your shoes at the door and ask others to do the same, which keeps allergens from dispersing onto your carpets and flooring. Take a shower and wash your hair at night to remove pollen. Close all windows and screens, and use an air conditioner rather than a fan. Vacuum cleaners with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters work much better than others to trap pollens inside, and use clothes dryers rather than line-drying clothing outdoors to minimize pollen collection on your garments.
  •  Stop smoking: Smoking is never a good idea for your health, but smokers typically also suffer worse allergy symptoms than non-smokers.
  •  Get allergy shots: If over-the-counter allergy remedies don’t do the trick, consider allergy shots. Also known as immunotherapy, these shots contain tiny amounts of the allergen you’re allergic to, exposing your immune system to larger amounts over time. The goal is to desensitize your system to the allergen, reducing your symptoms.

“Being proactive on many levels often pays off. Some with seasonal allergies find their symptoms don’t become as severe if they start taking medications at least a week before their typical allergy season begins or by ‘March 1’, whichever is earlier”, Dr. Erstein says. “This way, an accumulation of medication already in your system can buffer your immune system’s response when pollen levels spike”.

 

About Dr. David Erstein

David Erstein, M.D., is board certified and fellowship-trained in allergy and immunology. He has successfully managed & treated thousands of allergy sufferers in the New York area over the past decade

Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey), with 13 locations, is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies. Come into the world of Advanced Dermatology P.C.

 

 

Tattoos May be Cool, but Could Prove Hazardous to Skin and General Health

Dr.-David-Erstein-Specialist-In-Allergy-and-Immunology

Tattoos may seem cool but turning skin into a canvas for artwork, messages and permanent cosmetic designs poses health risks, some of which can prove serious. That’s the word of caution from David Erstein MD, of New York- and New Jersey-based Advanced Dermatology P.C.. He says the tattooing process penetrates the outer and inner layers of skin, paving the way for possible allergic skin reactions, local and systemic infections, rashes, inflammation, scarring, and even a potentially heightened risk for some cancers.

The skin is the largest organ in the body, serving as a barrier to the toxins and bacteria surrounding us in our environment. The tattoo artist breaks down part of this barrier by using a machine that creates literally hundreds of needle pricks in order to inject tiny particles of ink into the dermis – the skin’s inner layer.

Dr. David Erstein, specialist in allergy and immunology

A new tattoo is literally a traumatic injury to the skin, Dr. Erstein says, and, as such, activates the body’s immune system, with white blood cells identifying and attacking the ink particles as foreign invaders. This response can lead to temporary pain and heightened sensitivity in the tattooed area, skin inflammation and itching.

“Even with proper ‘aftercare’ of the tattoo, keloids – scar tissue – may develop at the tattoo site or granulomas, nodules that form around the ink particles, might appear”, Dr. Erstein says. Other possible health complications associated with tattoos include:

  •  Engorgement of lymph nodes with ink particles.
  •  Infections that can prove aggressive or dangerous if not promptly treated
  •  Allergic reactions, such as swelling and rashes
  •  Sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease affecting primarily the lymph glands and lungs, and
  •  Lichen planus, a chronic, inflammatory skin disorder.

Individuals with pre-existing skin conditions like psoriasis need to be particularly careful before proceeding with a tattoo, Dr. Erstein indicates. In about 25 percent of psoriasis cases, a tattoo may prompt growth of psoriasis-like lesions on or around the tattoo site.

Meanwhile, tattooing has gone from ‘exceptional’ to mainstream, with four in 10 adults between the ages of 18 and 69 in the United States now sporting some type of picture, design or message on their skin, according to a 2017 Statista Survey.

The widespread acceptance of tattoos – even in the workplace – leaves scientists feeling increasingly uneasy about tattoos’ potential long-term effects, especially health complications that may be related to contaminants – like titanium dioxide – common to tattoo pigments. Some of these pigments are also used in print toner and car paints, and the toxins in them have proven carcinogenic to animals, but not humans – yet, Dr. Erstein says.

Choosing a reputable, licensed tattoo artist and ensuring that inking needles are correctly sterilized are obvious, first-step recommendations. Equal in importance, however, is the follow-up attention a patient should give a new tattoo to minimize complications.

Dr. David Erstein

Authors of a study published in a September 2017 issue of Scientific Reports express concern about how nanoparticles of pigment toxins found in the lymph nodes of tattooed individuals might behave in the body. These particles were less than 1 percent the width of a human hair. Earlier research, described in the British Journal of Dermatology, indicates that pigment nanoparticles travel beyond the immediate tattoo site and may be toxic to nerves and brain.

“Tattoo inks are unregulated by any government agency,” Dr. Erstein says. Does that mean tattoos should be avoided? “Not necessarily,” Dr. Erstein says, “but people must first carefully weigh the pros and cons of a tattoo and then, perhaps, talk to their physician before proceeding, especially if they have an underlying skin condition or immune system disorder”.

Choosing a reputable, licensed tattoo artist and ensuring that inking needles are correctly sterilized are obvious, first-step recommendations. Equal in importance, however, is the follow-up attention a patient should give a new tattoo to minimize complications. Dr. Erstein offers these care tips:

  •  Keep a new tattoo covered with a sterile gauze or bandage for at least the first day.
  •  Gently clean the tattoo area daily with plain soap and water; moisturize it several times a day for a couple weeks following application.
  •  Don’t expose a new tattoo to the sun until it is completely healed.
  •  Avoid swimming or immersion in pools, hot tubs or bodies of water to minimize chances of infecting the wound.
  •  Don’t scratch an itchy tattoo and let any scabs that form to heal on their own.
  •  Contact a physician if the tattoo site remains red, swelled, itchy or painful after more than a week or 10 days of recovery time.

Bio: Dr. David Erstein, is board-certified in allergy and immunology and internal medicine, at Advanced Dermatology P.C.. Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies. Come into the world of Advanced Dermatology P.C.