Spring Fever: PollenNation

Spring time brings beautiful flowers, lush green grass, and gentle warm breezes. In Mississippi, it can also bring snow, floods, and mosquitoes all in the same week. Jackson, Mississippi is one of the nation’s worst places for allergy sufferers. It routinely ranks in the top 3, often times at the #1 spot. I have asked a friend and colleague, Dr. Chelle Pope Wilhelm, to discuss surviving allergy season in Jackson.


Many people attribute their sinus congestion, cough, runny nose, and sore throat to the rapidly changing weather. While that may play into it somewhat, it has more to do with allergens than the barometer.

What is an allergy?

An allergy is an inappropriate immune response to normal exposures that we encounter every day.  Essentially, allergies occur when a person’s immune system mistakenly identifies common exposures, such as pollen and animals, as harmful.  This immune reaction causes allergic inflammation in susceptible people, and this inflammation causes the allergy symptoms.

What causes us to have allergies?

Essentially, there is no one answer to this question.  Many people encounter the same exposures every day and never develop any allergy response.  One theory (the hygiene hypothesis) is that children are not exposed to the same degree of infectious agents, such as bacteria, in today’s world, and this is affecting how the immune system develops.  Some scientists are studying how the bacteria in our guts affect the development of allergic disease.  While no one really knows why some people develop allergies and others do not, the biggest factor in determining this is genetic history.  Atopy (allergy) tends to run in families.  When a parent or a sibling is affected by allergies, a person’s risk is increased that they too will develop allergies.  

What are the symptoms of seasonal allergies?

The most common symptoms of seasonal allergies are typical hay fever symptoms, including runny nose, nasal congestion or stuffiness, nasal itching, and drainage down the throat.  People also tend to have eye symptoms (allergic conjunctivitis), including burning, itching, and watering of the eyes.  Many people will also develop a common allergic rash called eczema.  Of course, the most concerning symptoms are those associated with asthma, including shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, and chest tightness.  Not all patients with allergies develop asthma, but they do have a higher risk compared to those without allergies.

What are the most common causes of allergies?

The most common causes of allergies are pollens, including tree pollen, grass pollen, and weed pollens.  Outdoor allergens like these have particular seasons when they are more prevalent.  For instance, tree pollen typically is prevalent in the spring season, while grass starts to become a problem in summer.  Weed pollens are typically found in the fall season.  Other common allergens are dust mites and animal dander (typically cats and dogs).  These allergens are present year-round and are typically indoor sensitivities.

At what point should I seek help from a physician?

There are numerous over the counter options to help treat the symptoms of allergies.  Typically, over the counter antihistamines are first line treatments.  However, if these medications are not effective at eliminating your symptoms, you should see your physician.  Your physician can help guide other treatments to hopefully get you some relief. There are some prescription medications that may help.  Allergies can cause a lot of problems outside of just a stuffy nose.  Allergies can affect your sleep and, in turn, affect your day to day activities.  It is always best to seek care from your physician sooner rather than later if typical over the counter antihistamines are not effective.  Most importantly, if you are having any symptoms of asthma, including chest tightness, cough, shortness of breath, or wheezing, you need to be seen by your physician.

At what point should I consider asking for a referral to an allergist?

If your physician has trouble controlling your daily symptoms with standard therapy, typically 1-2 allergy medications, he or she will typically suggest that you see an allergist to discuss other treatment options.  One benefit of seeing an allergist early is that you can identify your triggers and learn tips and tricks on how to adjust and minimize your daily exposures.  Anytime you have asthma symptoms that are not controlled with standard treatments provided by your primary care physician, you should consider seeing an allergist.  An allergist can help determine common triggers of asthma and work with your primary care physician to help manage your asthma with other types of therapy when needed.  

How do you get tested for allergies?

You first need to be seen by an allergist to have a thorough history taken that can guide the next steps.  Typically, people will be tested for allergies by skin prick testing.  This is where the allergist will use a small plastic device to scratch the skin with the different environmental allergies in your local area.  This test is done in the allergist’s office and the results are available to discuss with the doctor during that visit.  The other option for allergy testing is to obtain lab work to look for allergies.  This is typically done if there is another health reason that prevents skin testing from being done safely.  These results are usually available a few days later.

What happens if you do have allergies?

If you are found to be allergic on testing, certain avoidance measures can be recommended depending on your triggers.  A treatment plan that is tailored to you and your seasonal symptoms can be discussed and planned.  Allergen immunotherapy is also available and very effective.  Allergen immunotherapy is what most people know as “allergy shots,” and these are tailored to each person’s individual triggers.  We also have sublingual immunotherapy available for some select allergies.  Sublingual immunotherapy is a tablet that is placed under the tongue daily for treatment of allergies.  

I used to never have allergies when I was little, now I seem to be allergic to everything. What happened to me?

It is a common misconception that allergies and asthma are childhood illnesses only.  Allergies and asthma are not simply childhood illnesses.  These illnesses can affect any age group.  Yes, many people develop the issues in childhood and carry these through life.  Others have trouble in their childhood years and then get a break from symptoms for a few years, only to go on to have recurrence of symptoms later in life in their 30s or 40s.  However, many people have never had any issues with allergies or asthma at all until the symptoms hit in adulthood.  It is common to see people of all ages develop symptoms without any childhood history.  We even see it develop in the retirement years.  Unfortunately, this misconception may delay some people from seeking care because they do not believe having these issues at their age is possible.  Allergies are possible at any age.

Dr. Wilhelm received her bachelor of science degree in Microbiology from Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi, in 2003.  She received her medical degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson in 2007.  She completed her residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson in 2010, where she was chief resident in the Department of Internal Medicine from 2010-2011.  She completed a fellowship in Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2013, followed by a fellowship in Asthma and Allergy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2015.  She was an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center from 2015 until joining Mississippi Asthma and Allergy Clinic in July 2017. 

Dr. Wilhelm is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, the sub-board of Pulmonary Medicine, and the American Board of Allergy and Immunology. 

A native Mississippian, Dr. Wilhelm is active with the American Lung Association.  She is married with one daughter.

On Being Healthy: Setting Goals

It is a new year and with new years come resolutions. For many years, the most common NY resolution has been to change to a healthy lifestyle, either by losing weight, improving diet, or exercising. Goals without plans of execution are destined to fail. So no matter what your goal is, whether it is to lose weight, exercise, read more, make new friends, do a daily devotional, or find a new hobby, you must have a plan.

1.) Setting Realistic Goals

Goals must be attainable and realistic. When I counsel patients on obesity, they usually have some unrealistic expectation for weight loss. Women especially! (Women, just face the fact that you will not lose weight as fast as your male counterparts. God designed us to hold on to calories in order to continue the human race in the event of famine. So… if you get marooned on an island, you will out live your husband.)

  • So what is a realistic goal? For weight loss centered on lifestyle change, 2-4 pounds a month averaged over several months, for there will be plateaus and dips. For those wanting to read more, start with 1 book if you read 0 last year. If you read 10 last year, increase it to 12. For those wanting to improve diet, pick one thing you will REMOVE and one thing to ADD to your diet.
  • Start small. Accomplish the small goals. Count the victories. THEN improve upon those results. Did you lose 5 pounds in a month? Great! Lets do it again next month. Did you go 1 month without a soda? Great! Now see if you can go 1 month without soda and dessert. Did you get to your book goal by June? Awesome! Double it by December. No one was ever discouraged by meeting goals early, but I have seen many people set too lofty of goals and get discouraged and quit. You must know yourself. Do you have the will power to push yourself to lofty goals or do you need tiny victories to help encourage you along the way?

2.) Be specific.

Do not be vague with your goals. Don’t say “Lose Weight”, instead say “Lose 15 pounds by June”. Don’t say “Read more”, say “Read 5 books this year.” Don’t say “Exercise more”, say “Walk/run/swim/bike 3 times a week for 30 minutes.” Know exactly what you are striving for so that you can celebrate when you achieve that milestone.

3.) Making a Plan

So you set your goal… Now what? You need to come up with a way to get from point A to point B.

  • So you decided to lose weight. Are you going to do that by exercising? Dieting? Both? See below for further specifics.
  • You want to try to eat healthier. What are you going to do? Weight watchers? A fad diet? Paleo? Keto? Whole 30? South Beach? Does heart disease run in your family? Do you need to think about low fat/cholesterol diet plans? What about osteoporosis? Do you need to increase your dietary calcium?
  • You decided to exercise. What type of exercise do you think you will enjoy? When are you going to exercise? Where are you going to exercise? If it is outside, what is your indoor contingency plan?
  • You want to do a daily devotional or quiet time. Are you going to do a guided devotion plan on the Bible app? Are you going to use a Bible reading plan? Will you journal your findings and prayers? Will you do this in the morning or evening? How are you going to adjust your schedule to make time for this?
  • You want to find a new hobby. What are you going to try first? Do your friends have any hobbies you find appealing? What hobbies fit into your lifestyle- budget and time?

4.) Accomplishing the Goal

Celebrate! Do not be ashamed to tell your friends or family. Be proud of what you accomplished. That 5 pounds is great! That one book is a milestone! Walking 30 minutes 2 times a week is an improvement for you!
Do not compare yourself to others because that will rob you of joy or plant a seed of envy.

5.) In the Event of Failure

If you do not meet your goals, take time to reflect to see why you failed. Then alter your plan and try again!

  • You didn’t meet your weight loss goal… So did you cheat on your diet? Fail to stick to your exercise schedule? Did you have some health problems that hindered your ability to exercise? Did your metabolism come to a screeching halt because of menopause? Are you getting empty calories somewhere that you don’t realize? Are your portion sizes too big? Is your lifestyle to sedentary?
  • You didn’t reach your book goal… Did one book bog you down because it wasn’t enjoyable? Did you have a hard time finding time to sit down and read a physical book? Would it benefit you to start reading on a kindle book since you will always have it with you? (Waiting rooms and car pool lines are great for reading instead of browsing Facebook) or listening to audio books on your commute (mine is only 12 minutes and I listened to 60 audio books last year)?
  • You didn’t find a hobby… Did you make time to try several activities? Did you go with a friend? Did you give each activity more than one try? Sit back and reflect on what you truly enjoy. Do you like to be active, still, creative, indoors, outdoors, interactive, reflective? Have you considered things that are not traditionally considered hobbies? Vacation planning, tutoring, volunteering, meditation, yoga, trivia night, board games, wine/craft beer tasting, cooking, yard work/gardening.

Winter is Coming: Sepsis

What is sepsis?

It is not a specific illness with one specific cause, but is a syndrome (a constellation of symptoms that occur together). It is caused by an infection that results in a chaotic inflammatory response.

What causes sepsis?

Sepsis is caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Often times, bacteria in the blood, called bacteremia, is the cause of sepsis.

What are the symptoms of sepsis?

  • Temperature >100.4 F or <96.8 F
  • Heart rate greater than 90 beats per minute
  • Respiratory rate greater than 22 breaths per minute
  • On labs, white blood count is usually very high or very low

In severe sepsis, there is evidence of organ failure that needs to be quickly corrected. Someone with severe sepsis may be confused or lethargic, have trouble breathing, have decreased urine output, be very flushed or cool and clammy.

How do you know if you have sepsis? What tests would need to be run if there is concern for sepsis?

Sepsis is usually diagnosed in the hospital or clinical setting. There are many tests that may be run if a physician is concerned for sepsis since it can’t be so deadly.

  • Lab work: blood counts, liver function, kidney function
  • Cultures: urine cultures and blood cultures
  • Imaging: X-rays, ultrasounds, or CT scans may be necessary to isolate the source of infection.
  • Echocardiogram may be necessary if there is confirmed bacteria in the blood. This test will ensure that no bacteria has infected the heart valves.

How do you treat sepsis?

  • Antibiotics: Initially the physician will start “broad spectrum” antibiotics that target many types of bacteria and can reach most areas of the body. As the infection is isolated and identified, then antibiotics are narrowed down to only those that are necessary.
  • Surgery or procedures may be necessary to rid the body of infection. Abscesses must be drained.
  • Supportive care: IV fluids are always given to ensure that the patient’s blood pressure stays high enough to prevent organ damage. If this proves ineffective, physicians must start medications which artificially keep the blood pressure up. These must be infused through a special IV that goes in through the neck or chest and blood pressure must be monitored through an arterial like, which is usually inserted in the wrist.
  • Sometimes patients will need a ventilator to breathe for them or dialysis if their kidneys temporarily stop working.

Who is at risk?

  • Age >65
  • Those on immunosuppressive drugs (chemotherapy, long term steroids)
  • Patients with cancer
  • Patients who have diseases that cause immunocompromise (HIV, renal failure, liver failure)
  • Diabetic patients
  • Obesity

Can it be prevented?

Seek attention immediately if you think you may have an infection.

Prevent infection by washing your hands frequently and getting your vaccinations. Immunizations are key in preventing infection!

If you are a patient who is at risk for sepsis, ensure that the people closest to you do not come around when they are sick. Ask them to get their vaccinations in order to protect you.

Winter is Coming: Pneumonia

What is pneumonia?

It is an infection within the lungs. Typically, the small air sacs within the lungs fill with fluid or pus.

Is it serious or life threatening?

It can be. It can be mild or so severe that it requires hospitalization. Sometimes it is so severe that it causes sepsis and the patient to be dependent on a ventilator.

What are the symptoms?

  • chest pain with breathing or coughing (pleurisy)
  • cough, with or without phlegm
  • fatigue
  • fever and chills
  • shortness of breath
  • lethargy

In adults older than 65, infections can cause confusion or bizarre behavior. It can also cause lower than normal body temperature as opposed to high fever.

What is the cause of pneumonia?

Bacteria and viruses are the most common cause. We classify pneumonia based on what is causing it and where you got it. We will focus on the “community-acquired” pneumonias.

  • Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in the United States. It can occur on its own, but it often times happens after one has a cold virus or the flu.
  • Walking pneumonia is caused by mycoplasma bacteria. It is typically less mild than other types of pneumonia. (It is usually not bad enough to cause someone to take to their bed, hence the term “walking pneumonia”.)
  • Viruses are the most common cause of pneumonia in kiddos below the age of 5. It is usually mild, but can become serious.

There are also hospital-acquired, health care-associated, and aspiration pneumonias, but these will not be addressed in this article.

Who is at risk?

Children less than 2 and adults over 65 are the individuals at greatest risk. Naturally, diseases that affect your lungs will leave you more prone to infections. Therefore, COPD, asthma, and heart disease put you at increased risk. Smoking also greatly increases your risk since smoking damages the cilia that help “clean” your bronchi.

Does going outside with wet hair and bare feet cause pneumonia?

No, but your grandma was right. You don’t need to go outside with we hair and bare feet.

How does the doctor know if I have pneumonia?

We will listen to your history and do a physical exam. Listening to you explain your symptoms and listening to your lungs can tell us a lot about what is going on. Usually we will get a chest x-ray to confirm our suspicions.

How do you treat it?

Antibiotics are generally required to treat pneumonia. We also use cough medications to treat the cough and tylenol (acetaminophen) or motrin (ibuprofen) to treat the pain and fever.

Do I need an X-ray to see if it “cleared up”?

No, because it can take months before your x-ray looks normal again, even when the infection is gone. If you continue to exhibit symptoms after your antibiotics are complete, we will usually order a CT scan for a more detailed image and see if anything else is going on.

How do I prevent it?

  • Vaccines: If you have lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, or you are over the age of 65, you need to get your pneumonia vaccines. Also, getting a flu shot will help protect you.
  • Quit smoking!
  • Wash your hands!
  • Get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly to keep your immune system strong!

Winter is Coming: Bronchitis

Bronchitis is one of the most common conditions treated in my office during the fall and winter.

Chronic bronchitis is a different topic. It is a sub-type of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD. This post will describe the more common occurring acute bronchitis. This post also does not necessarily apply patients who may have compromised immune systems.

What exactly is “bronchitis”?

Bronchitis means inflammation of the bronchus, or the large airways of the lower respiratory tract. This inflammation causes a cough that lasts five days or more. It typically resolves on its own within 1-3 weeks.

How do you get bronchitis?

Bronchitis is mostly caused by respiratory viruses. These are spread by contact with other infected individuals or with surfaces that have been contaminated by sick individuals.

What are the most common causes of bronchitis?

Flu and the common cold are the most common causes of bronchitis. RSV, which can be very troublesome in little ones, is also a frequent cause of bronchitis.

How does a doctor diagnose bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a clinical diagnosis. A doctor must examine the patient and listen to the lungs to ensure that there is nothing more serious going on as well. Often times, the patient will have a upper respiratory infection that precedes the symptoms of bronchitis. My patients most often say, “It moved into my chest.”

How do you treat bronchitis?

We cannot cure bronchitis directly, but we treat the symptoms until it resolves on its own. There is no medication we can give to cure a virus. Tamiflu will shorten the duration of the flu virus, but it still wreaks havoc on your bronchi and causes bronchitis. The bronchitis can last up to 6 weeks after the flu.

At what point would a physician be concerned that it is more than just bronchitis?

Pertussis is one thing that concerns physicians as more and more parents refuse to vaccinate their children. Pertussis is especially dangerous for infants, small children, those with respiratory disease, and adults over 65. Pertussis is characterized by fits of coughing, “whooping” on inhalation, and vomiting after a particularly violent coughing fit. This usually lasts more than two weeks.

Walking pneumonia is also a concern when there is a lingering cough. This will be further addressed in the next post on Pneumonias.

If a patient develops fever, fast respiratory rate, becomes lethargic, or wheezing, further examination and x-rays may be warranted.

What can mimic bronchitis?

Post nasal drip syndrome, reflux, asthma, heart failure, and lung cancer can all cause a chronic nagging cough that can mimic bronchitis. If a cough lasts longer than 3 weeks, you should be evaluated by your physician.

Full Circle Fitness: Freestyle Fitness with Antonio Knight

This past week I sat down and talked with Antonio Knight, owner of Freestyle Fitness. He specializes in individualized fitness and nutritional plans for people and also more specialized coaching. I know he produces good results, because I’ve seen it in some of my patients! His clients experience weight loss, increased energy, decreased sugar levels, decreased blood pressure, and better cholesterol.

Antonio Knight got his start in fitness through his love for sports, particularly football. Knight was a versatile athlete who played three positions at Tuskegee University — strong safety, punter, and back up Quarterback.
After finishing his football playing career, Knight transitioned into coaching at Tuskegee University (TU) Tigers. He coached there for 5 seasons and then found himself in Jackson at Jackson State University (JSU). He coached with the Tigers football program for 10 seasons.  During that his coaching years, he served as the secondary defensive coach, special teams coach, and linebackers coach. He was also the recruitment coordinator for JSU while he was there. During Knight’s last three seasons at JSU, his linebackers were among the team’s leading tacklers. With more than 15 years of collegiate coaching experience, and eight years of nutrition and fitness training under his belt, Knight rears winners. He has used his experience in the sports arena to train and help his clients achieve their goals.

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Antonio, how did you get into training and nutrition?

I started training over 15 yrs ago while coaching and being in a town without a fitness gym. At the end of each season I would train my senior defensive backs, getting them ready for the NFL combine or Pro Day. I’ve always been conscious about what I eat and drink, but I really started studying nutrition after my mother’s 2nd stroke, finding out my family’s history with diabetes and hypertension.

What do you love most about your job?

I love seeing the transformation of my clients physically, but most of all mentally, becoming more concerned with their way of eating and living. This is what I love most about my profession.

Explain to us what your clients usually come to you to accomplish?

My clients usually come to me to accomplish weight loss, fit test preparation, and a positive mindset change.

What services do you provide?

As owner of Freestyle Fitness 29, I offer Fitness training, Sport specific skills and agility training, Nutritional guidance, Meal prep, and Life coach.

Do you do personalized fitness programs and nutrition plans that people can take with them (for example- would my out of town patients be able to come to you and get a plan to take and do in their hometown where your type services are not available)?

Yes, I most definitely do personalized fitness programs and nutritional plans because no two people are the same (body types, surroundings, training availability, food preferences, and way of life).

You’re a pretty athletic dude and your site talks a little bit about your time at Tuskegee, but what were your greatest learning moments there?

My hear greatest learning moments at Tuskegee are learning to use what I had to reach unforeseeable goals whether on or off the field. Learning to adapt to my environment coming from fast pace Louisiana to small town Tuskegee.

As a former football coach, do you also help young athletes prepare for the next level?

Of course I do, that’s one of the ways I started my training passion. I’ve also trained professional basketball players.

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What are your words of wisdom to someone who MUST lose weight for their health but are intimidated by the gym scene?

My words of wisdom would be, Freestyle Fitness 29 meets you where you are. You only get 1 time to live so why not invest in the one thing you’ll have the rest of your life which is your body! So I go to some of my clients until I build them up mentally.

 

You can get in touch with Antonio Knight. Simply choose your method of communication below!
www.freestylefitness29.com
IG: @Freestylefitness29
Facebook: Freestyle Fitness 29
Phone: 601.862.4787

An Apple A Day: Wellness Exams

Preventative medicine is one of the most undervalued parts of medicine. How can one measure the value of not having a disease? The bible tells us that our days are numbered yet we don’t know how many of them we have. The Bible, science, and history all have warned us of the things that can rob days from us: tobacco use, alcoholism, uncontrolled cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, slothfulness, gluttony, pneumonia, and cancer.

This post is about what you should have done depending on your age and stage of life. Keep in mind that insurance plans vary and all that is recommended may not be covered by your plan. Also, different specialty societies (such as the American College of Gynecology or American College of Physicians or American Urologic Association) may have different recommendations than the US Preventative Task Force. I have compiled the recommendations that I feel are most useful, and even these can vary depending on patient’s medical and family history. It is important that you consult with your primary care physician to discuss the screenings and vaccines that are appropriate for you.

General Wellness:

Each year:

  • Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Depression
  • Tobacco use
  • Flu shot
  • Lung cancer screening  (low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) in adults aged 55 to 80 years who have a 30 pack-year smoking history and currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. Screening should be discontinued once a person has not smoked for 15 years)

Every other year:

  • Vision (starting at age 40)

Every 10 years:

  • Colonoscopy (at age 50 or earlier if indicated by family history)
  • Tetanus vaccination (Tdap once in adulthood- also given to women during pregnancy and immediate family of infants)
  • Hepatitis C (1-time screening for HCV infection to adults born between 1945 and 1965)
  • Shingles vaccine (recommended to those 50 or older who have not had singles in past 6 months)
  • Pneumonia vaccines (2 different vaccinations needed after age 65 or earlier if patient is at risk due to conditions such as asthma, COPD, diabetes)

Women’s Wellness:

Each year:

  • Mammogram starting at age  40 (earlier if indicated by family history)

Every other year:

  •  Bone density starting at 65 years old (starting at age 60 if risk factors present)

Every 3 years:

  • Pap smears starting at age 21; after age 30, women can opt for every 5 years if done with HPV co-testing; discuss with your OB/GYN what is the best for you

Men’s Wellness:

Each year:

  • Prostate specific antigen, also known as  PSA starting at age 55
    • *Prostate cancer screening is highly debated topic right now. The US Preventative Task force state that men between 55-69 should discuss the benefits of this test with their physician before having it done. Often times men have to pay out of pocket because some insurance plans no longer cover it.

Once:

  •  Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening (between the age of 65-75 if smoked >100 cigarettes during lifetime)

Trick or Treat: Peanut Allergies

Halloween is such a fun time. Costumes, pumpkin carving, cooler temperatures, and sugar highs for days on end. While it is a time of celebration for most, for some parents, it is a time of significant anxiety. The incidence of food allergies has increased in recent decades, and the parents of kids who have food allergies live in fear of their kid accidentally getting some piece of candy that unknown to them, may have an allergen in it with devastating consequences. While there are many allergies, peanut allergies are the ones I am focusing on today.

I have a guest blogger today, Dr. Lindsay McMullan, who is an allergist at the Asthma and Allergy Clinic of Hattiesburg. She is a board certified allergist and immunologist and she is also board certified in internal medicine. She did her residency and fellowship at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She is married and has 3 beautiful children.

What is the teal pumpkin project?

The Teal Pumpkin Project raises awareness for food allergy and encourages non-food treats for Halloween marked by a teal colored pumpkin in front of the venue where treats are being distributed. Participants can mark their location on the project map and also visit the site for treat ideas.

The point is to help ease the stress and increase the fun of Halloween for food allergy families. One of their biggest resources: FARE  (Food Allergy Resource & Education), has instituted the Teal Pumpkin Project. Resources are available for a variety of Halloween celebrations. What a great way to show support for friends and family with food allergies!

To learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project visit: https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project

What happens to a kid when they eat peanuts and have a peanut allergy?

Peanut allergy can cause symptoms such as hives or whelps, swelling including: lips, tongue, and throat, asthma attacks, and stomach symptoms. They can also be so severe that they threaten someone’s life. We call severe reactions anaphylaxis.

How can you be sure that candy or foods do not have peanuts in it?

Peanuts are required to be listed as a possible allergen on the ingredient label if the food contains peanuts.  We talk to our allergy patients about reading every label.  If foods are not labeled, you can ask the person who prepared the food if it contains peanuts or has been contaminated by peanuts (such as cooked on the same surface).

Why are food allergies becoming more common?

There is not one answer to this question. It involves many factors. Some problems with food are different from an actual allergy but can still make you feel bad. So it is important to be sure your diagnosis is correct because instructions and risks can be different.  A test by itself does not diagnose a food allergy.  There are also tests available that are advertised as allergy tests but do not actually check for any allergy.  Your primary care physician can refer you to a board certified allergy specialist if a food allergy is suspected.

When is the appropriate age to introduce peanuts? Also milk, eggs, etc?

Food introduction should not be delayed out of concern for allergy. In fact, earlier introduction for peanuts helps to decrease the likelihood of allergy in many patients. (link to information about this).  During infancy, when other foods are introduced, is ok to introduce peanuts and eggs. Milk is not introduced until after the age of 1 due to other concerns, though milk containing products such as cheese may be introduced before then.  Some children such as those with severe eczema or a known egg allergy may need additional caution before introducing peanuts. Board certified pediatricians and family medicine physicians can help parents navigate food introduction for infants and also help refer to board certified allergists when assistance is needed.

Is peanut allergy the same as tree nut allergy?

No. Peanuts are actually legumes and grow in the ground.  Many peanut allergic people are not allergic to tree nuts, just as many tree nut allergic people can eat peanuts. There are people who are allergic to both. An allergist can help a person figure out if they are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, or both.

How can I be more considerate of those with food allergies?

This is a GREAT question.  At Halloween, offering non-food treats such as stickers or other items is helpful. You can use a Teal Pumpkin (link that was in first paragraph for the project) to notify trick-or-treaters that you have non-food treats.  Educating your children, grandchildren, and friends to be kind and not bully those with food allergies is also important. Finally, if you are hosting an event, or preparing food for an event, checking for possible food allergies is great. If this is not possible, labeling your food with ingredients goes a LONG way towards helping those with food allergies know what is safe.

Trick or Treat: Strep Throat

Another common reason for visit to the doctor’s office in the fall is concern for strep throat. This is not necessarily due to the fall season, but there tends to be a spike as school starts back.

Everyone is at risk. Strep throat is not isolated to pediatric patients. So… How do you know the difference between strep, allergies, or a run of the mill viral infection?

Here are a few things to look for whenever you start to feel your throat getting scratchy:

  1. Do you have fever?
  2. Do you have a cough?
  3. Do you have white patches or “pus pockets” on your tonsils?
  4. Do you have swollen lymph nodes in your neck?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, it would be worth going to get tested for strep by your primary care physician. Strep throat generally requires an antibiotics, while viral infection and allergy symptoms are relieved by over the counter medications. Your physician can determine what is causing your symptoms and prescribe the right treatment for you and get you on the road to recovery.

Things that you can do for a sore throat:

  1. Stay hydrated! Drink cold water or suck on ice chips.
  2. Warm liquids also help to soothe. Try honey in tea. Honey helps especially if you have a cough or a lot of post nasal drainage.
  3. Chloraseptic spray or cough drops can help lessen the pain in your throat temporarily.
  4. Tylenol and ibuprofen can also help relieve the pain of a sore throat.
  5. If you are having a lot of congestion and drainage, take guaifenesin plus sudafed. Sudafed is a controlled substance in Mississippi, so a prescription is required. This may not be so in other states.

Trick or Treat: The Dreaded Stomach Virus

October… Bring on the pumpkins, crisp air, and the state fair. You know what else seems to come to town along with the state fair? Gastroenteritis. I’m not sure if it can be blamed on the food, the large concentration of youths who are preoccupied with things other than sanitation, the amount of animal feces at the petting zoo, or the onset of the fall season. At any rate, it doesn’t matter why it shows up; it only matters that you survive.

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What causes the “stomach virus”?

It is more accurately termed gastroenteritis, which is inflammation or infection of the gastrointestinal tract. There are many viruses that can cause it and they can be contracted from contaminated food, contaminated water, or contact with someone who is sick. Symptoms can appear anywhere from 1-3 days after exposure.

What are the symptoms of the stomach virus?

Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, fever, chills, and fatigue. Symptoms can last 6 hours to 2 days, while diarrhea can last up to 10 days.

Is it the same as the stomach flu?

Yes, the stomach virus and the stomach flu are common terms for gastroenteritis.

How do I treat the stomach virus?

The only thing available is supportive care. We do not have any cures. There is a vaccine for rotovirus, which is one virus that causes gastroenteritis.

Drink plenty of fluids. Make sure that you don’t get dehydrated. Try do drink some fluids that have electrolytes in them, such as gatorade or powerade. If you do feel like eating, stick to a bland diet (toast, rice, bananas. apple sauce). Avoid dairy and greasy or spicy foods.

If your nausea and vomiting are severe, you can call your physician for a medication for nausea.

How do you know it is a virus or food poisoning?

Food poisoning can occur very quickly after after eating contaminated food, usually between 2-6 hours. It can be caused by viruses, parasites, or bacteria. Symptoms and signs that would lead you to believe food poisoning over stomach virus are: generalized fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, high fever, sweating. also others that ate the same food will likely become ill. In severe cases of food poisoning, there can be blood in the vomit or stool, dehydration, or even shock.

While food poisoning tends to be more severe, it usually does not last as long as the stomach virus.

How long is someone contagious after recovering from the stomach virus?

That is a tricky question. Each virus is different, but you can be contagious up to two weeks after your symptoms resolve. To reduce the risk of passing it to others, please wait until you are fever and symptoms free for 24 hours before returning to work or school.

What can I do if I came into contact with someone who developed the stomach virus?

Wash your hands. Wipe down any surfaces they came into contact with. Pray fervently.

How can I protect myself if I am caring for someone with the stomach virus?

Again, wash your hands with soap and water! Lysol the heck out of their bathroom. Wash their sheets. Stay away if possible.

At what point would I need to go to the hospital?

If you become very weak and dehydrated, it might be in your best interest to go to the hospital to receive IV fluids. Symptoms of dehydration: low blood pressure, decreased urine output, dizziness when standing, “passing out” or “blacking out”, excessive thirst, dry mouth.