Posted in allergies, Health, news

Allergy Season Getting Worse and Longer Each Year

Experts report allergy season will worsen each year due to environmental changes.

Allergy season usually begins in March with the start of Spring and can extend to the Fall even leading to new Fall allergies.

Each year we find allergy season starting a few weeks earlier as temperature changes prompt early blooms.

Tree pollens start first in January and then taper off in April.  Grass pollen starts to rise in February and March.   Finally weed pollens join the party by the Spring and extends through the Summer and Fall.

Dr. Jeffrey Demain, Board Certified Allergist and Immunologist reported at the March meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology the following, “We have higher temperatures and expanding levels of carbon dioxide.

“When you look at a pollen grain, there are certain proteins that cause the allergy, they are the allergenic peptides,” he said. “It’s been shown that in rising carbon dioxide, the allergenic peptide of each pollen grain goes up.”

Plants utilize carbon dioxide for respiration as humans use oxygen.  The higher carbon dioxide levels, the higher the pollen counts and proteins in pollens that contribute to allergies.

The increase in storms may contribute to allergy season as well as moisture in the air causes pollen to swell and “explode” into multiple little pollen particles, smaller and easier to breathe in.

Moreover stagnant flood water may cause fungi, mold and spores to grow, also leading to allergies.

The Allergy Capitals Spring 2018 report found many cities are worse off this year than they were in previous seasons. McAllen, TX , Louisville, KY, Jackson, MS, Memphis, TN  and San Antonio, TX ranked in the top 5 in “Most Challenging Places to Live With Spring Allergies.” The copy of the report is below:


Let’s review allergies…..

What are allergies?

Allergies are the result of the immune response to a foreign particulate that our body senses.  One could be allergic to pollen, dust, dander, food, insects, mold, metals, transfused blood, grafts, medicine and anything the body senses as a foreign intruder.  Even though these may be individually harmless, a hypersensitivity reaction occurs as a result of their intrusion into the body.  IgE antibodies find the allergen (intruder) and activate mast cells in the tissue and basophils in the blood.  When these cells get activated, they release substances to help protect the body, including histamines, leukotrienes, and cytokines. These help the body attempt to sneeze and cough the allergen out, wall off the antigen, signal more antibodies, or produce tears and nasal secretions to flush it out.

What are symptoms of seasonal allergies?

Symptoms of allergies could include any or a combination of the following:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Eye watering
  • Red Eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Rash
  • Itchy throat
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion….. to name a few.

How do they differ from a cold?

Colds may have very similar symptoms to allergies.  However they are different.

The common cold is caused by a virus.  When one gets infected by the virus they may feel malaise, fever, and achy.  This does not occur with allergies.

Moreover, nasal secretions from allergies are usually clear.  In a cold, the mucous could be thicker and with color.

The same holds true with sputum.  During an allergy the cough may have little to no mucous and if so, be light colored.  Thick mucous could be a sign of an infection.

An allergic sore throat will seem more dry and scratchy.  A sore throat from a cold is more uncomfortable and less easy to soothe.

Allergies may persist or be cyclical.  Cold symptoms will usually subside after a few days and rarely persist longer than 10 days.

Can allergies lead to a cold?

Yes and no.  Allergies should not in and of themselves cause an infection. However they may make one more vulnerable for a virus or bacteria to take over.    Hence a bronchitis, sinus infection, or pneumonia could uncommonly follow an asthma attack.

Are seasonal allergies dangerous?

As stated previously, if one is susceptible to colds, an allergic attack could make them vulnerable. Moreover if one suffers from asthma, an allergy attack could incite an asthma attack.  Very rarely would we see a life threatening anaphylaxis to an allergen such as pollen.

How can we prevent and treat allergies?

Avoiding, or decreasing exposure to the allergen is key.   We suggest the following:

  1.  Be aware of your local weather and pollen counts.  If the weather begins to warm and regional vegetation is blooming, allergy season may be upon you sooner than you know.
  2. Avoid outside pollen from coming into your house.  Avoid the urge to open all the windows during Springtime as wind will bring the pollen in.
  3. Clean your air filters.  Replace air filters frequently and consider using HEPA Filters
  4. Wash off pollen from your hair and clothes before you sit on the couch or jump into bed.
  5. Close your car windows when you park.
  6. “Recirculate” the air in your car
  7. Discuss with your medical provider if you are a candidate for medications such as antihistamines, nasal corticosteroids or leukotriene antagonists.  
  8. If you suffer from respiratory illnesses or a chronic medical condition, discuss with your medical provider if you need to start your allergy medication before allergy season hits. Some of these medications may take a couple of weeks to reach therapeutic levels.

How can I find my local pollen counts?

Local tree, ragweed and grass pollen counts can be obtained here.



Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician

Posted in Health, news

Did the Utah man who was refused a lung transplant die from an infection that came from weed?

The tragic case of a 20 year old Utah man who was denied a life saving lung transplant due to marijuana in his system might have become ill from the marijuana he was smoking.

Riley Hancey, 20, had smoked marijuana with his friends on Thanksgiving and the next day fell ill with pneumonia.  Three weeks later he was in the Intensive Care Unit on life support unsuccessfully battling a “rare lung infection”. A physician at the hospital, the University of Utah, allegedly refused to give Hancey the lung transplant due to his drug test showing positive for THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

The family found “angels” at the University of Pennsylvania who offered to help their son and Hancey received a double lung transplant March 29th.  Unfortunately, he died earlier this week from complications from the transplant.

The family stated their son rarely smoked pot and had been drug free for up to year before then.

This tragic case reignited the controversy of hopeful transplant recipients being denied organs due to recreational marijuana use.  Marijuana has been found to many times contain contaminants including mold.  One reason for organ denial is the risk of fungal infection that could occur in an a immunosuppressed patient who is being treated to prevent organ rejection.

However, did Riley come down with the “rare lung infection” because of the marijuana he smoked the day before?

This month an investigation of marijuana dispensaries in California found 90 percent of marijuana samples to contain traces of bacteria and/or fungus that shouldn’t be harmful to those with healthy immune systems, but could be dangerous to those who are immunocompromised.  As a result the state’s Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation is working to finalize rules and regulations regarding the newly legalized marijuana industry.  Other states are following suit.


Image from Green CulturED

The investigation occurred after a man in northern California died from a rare fungal infection related to his medicinal marijuana.  Dr. Joseph Tuscano of the University of California, Davis Cancer Center observed with two of his young cancer patients, fungal superinfections that occurred after the men used medicinal marijuana for their chemotherapy-induced nausea.  After combining forces with Steep Hill Laboratories in Berkeley, he found “The cannabis was contaminated with many bacteria and fungi, some of which was compatible with the infections that I saw in my patients.”

His colleague, Dr. George Thompson, a fungal expert at UC Davis, said, “Klebsiella, E.coli, Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, these are all very serious infections for anybody in the hospital. But particularly in that population, the cancer population. ”

Now, Hancey was in good health prior to his devastating lung infection, playing sports, travelling and working at a ski resort.  So it raises the question of whether his lungs were exposed to a contaminant his body couldn’t fight.   The type of infection that caused his “rare pneumonia” has not been disclosed but the above pathogens listed by Dr. Thompson can all cause “rare pneumonia” unlike streptococcal bacteria and those that commonly cause community acquired pneumonia.

Some researchers suggest users should ingest the marijuana rather than smoking it, as the heat from baking marijuana treats could potentially kill off the microorganisms, that otherwise could have direct contact with the lungs during inhalation.

This is a developing story.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Medical Spanish made easy

Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, iHeart Radio and Board Certified Family Physician