Month: September 2015

Can Allergies Cause Flushing?

Flushing occurs when the blood vessels dilate and increase the blood supply to the skin. It is manifested as rapid reddening of the skin usually associated with a feeling of warmth. The episodes usually last for a few minutes at a time, but can last longer. If the blood vessels are dilated due to the activity of the nerves on them, flushing is also accompanied by sweating. Irritant chemicals and allergens may also directly act on the vessels producing “dry” flushing. Common triggers of flushing:

Eating:

  • Hot beverages and/or spicy food may cause flushing in normal people.
  • “Gustatory” flushing usually involves the face and can be associated with increased tear production, salivation, and nasal secretions, commonly seen after eating a hot pepper.
  • Injury to a parotid gland (a salivary gland) can cause flushing, warmth and sweating on one side of the face. This is called “Frey’s Syndrome” or “Auriculotemporal Nerve Syndrome.”
  • “Dumping syndrome”: Flushing of the face, sweating, diarrhea, increased heart rate, and fatigue may occur after eating a meal in people who have had certain types of surgeries on their stomachs.

Alcohol:

  • Certain fermented alcoholic beverages like beer and wine contain tyramine or histamine, which can cause flushing reactions.
  • Some Asians have a defective enzyme which leads to a build-up of acetaldehyde which causes flushing after consumption of alcohol. It is referred to as the “Asian Flush Syndrome.”
  • A few drugs like Antabuse (disulfiram), Flagyl (metronidazole) and cephalosporin antibiotics can also contribute to alcohol-induced flushing when used with alcohol.

Food additives:

  • “Chinese restaurant syndrome” refers to generalized flushing caused by MSG (monosodium glutamate) which is used a lot in Chinese restaurants in the U.S.
  • Sulfites, especially potassium metabisulfite, used as a preservative in beers, dried fruits, ciders, dairy products, wines, shrimp, and canned fruit and vegetable products, can induce flushing and wheezing. Asthmatics and people with aspirin sensitivity are more likely to react to sulfites.
  • Nitrites and nitrates in cured meats may cause flushing and headache in susceptible individuals.

Drugs:

  • Niacin (nicotinic acid) present in many multi-vitamin preparations in large doses can result in recurrent flushing. These episodes can be effectively blocked by aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Medications used to lower blood pressure like vasodilators and calcium channel blockers, thyroid hormones and certain oral steroids can also produce flushing.

Neurologic causes:

  • Anxiety
  • Migraines
  • Spinal cord lesions above T6 level
  • Brain tumors
  • Parkinson’s disease

Menopause:

  • About 80% of postmenopausal woman have flushing associated with sweating.

Rosacea:

  • Chronic flushing from any cause can develop into rosacea. Individuals with rosacea typically have flushing of the cheeks and nose and occasionally on other areas of the face.

Scombroid fish poisoning:

  • Bacteria acting on inadequately refrigerated fish like mackerel, tuna, etc. convert the naturally occurring amino acid, histidine, in the fish to histamine which causes abdominal cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, hives, and flushing on consumption. The histamine can survive cooking so cooked and even canned tuna may also cause facial flushing.

Mastocytosis:

  • High levels of circulating histamine released from excessive numbers of mast cells in one’s body causes flushing, fainting, and shortness of breath.

Tumors:

  • Carcinoid tumors, (mostly of the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, ovaries, testis, and lung) can cause flushing in addition to wheezing, sweating, diarrhea, shortness of breath, palpitations of the heart, and abdominal cramping. If the primary tumor metastasizes to the liver, serotonin production is increased which causes severe flushing reactions.
  • Adrenal tumors like pheochromocytoma secrete catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) which induce flushing episodes.
  • Brain tumors

As the treatment depends on the cause, an attempt should be made to establish the precise underlying cause in all cases of recurrent flushing reactions with help of a detailed history, physical examination, and relevant blood and urine tests. The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy have had many decades of experience diagnosing patients who suffer from flushing. Once the cause is identified, the patient is told to avoid the offending trigger or they are referred to the appropriate specialist to treat the underlying condition. If you suffer from flushing, please do not hesitate to call us at Black & Kletz Allergy for an appointment. We have offices in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA, all with on-site parking. Our Washington, DC and McLean, VA locations are also Metro accessible. Alternatively, you can Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours of the next business day.

Mosquito Bite Allergy

Signs and Symptoms

Although mosquito bites are quite common among the general population, allergies to mosquito bites are luckily rather rare. Most individuals experience localized itching, swelling, and/or redness of the skin at the site of the bite. However, if someone is allergic to the mosquito, they may have more severe skin reactions which can include extremely large areas of swelling and redness, blistering, and/or bruising. In rare cases, some individuals may experience anaphylaxis (a severe life-threatening systemic reaction) after a mosquito bite. Such individuals experience symptoms which may include some or all of the following:

1. Throat closing sensation
2. Hives (Urticaria)
3. Generalized itching of the skin
4. Drop in blood pressure
5. Shortness of breath and/or wheezing
6. Dizziness, lightheadedness, and/or fainting
7. Abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
8. Rapid and weak pulse
9. Feeling of warmth

Mosquito Facts

Mosquitoes are flying insects that tend to be more prevalent where there is standing water. They are more active early in the morning and early in the evening. Female mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant water. Only the female mosquito bites and feeds on human blood, as they need this blood in order to produce their eggs. Male mosquitoes feed on water and nectar. When a person is bitten, the mosquito injects its saliva into the skin which contains proteins that prevent the human blood from clotting. This allows the blood to be transferred to the mosquito’s mouth. The typical localized itching, swelling, and/or redness of the skin that results from the bite is not directly due to the bite itself, but rather caused by the body’s immune response to the proteins in the mosquito’s saliva. An “allergic reaction” to a mosquito bite is defined when there is a severe immune reaction against the salivary proteins of the mosquito, thus causing the more severe symptoms mentioned above.

Diseases Transmitted by Mosquitoes

In addition to causing allergies in selected individuals, mosquitoes are well known for transmitting many infectious diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, West Nile virus, filariasis (elephantiasis), yellow fever, chikungunya, Eastern equine encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Japanese encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis, Rift Valley fever, Ross River fever, and Zika fever.

Risk Factors

Mosquitoes are attracted to certain people more than others for a variety of reasons. They are more attracted to individuals with the following characteristics: Type O blood, males, obese or overweight people due to increased carbon dioxide (CO 2) levels, specific body odors that are present because of large numbers of certain bacteria, people wearing dark clothing, individuals that are exercising, and increased body heat.

Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment

The diagnosis of mosquito allergy can be done via a blood or skin test and is only done in individuals that have had severe reactions that can be ascertained after a thorough history from the patient. Prevention, however, is the key to treatment. One should avoid areas with standing water such as swamps or fresh water reservoirs. Wear light colored long sleeved clothing and hats. Consider wearing permethrin-treated clothing. Use citronella-scented candles when at outdoor events. Use a bed net if sleeping outdoors. Stay in screened in or air conditioned rooms. Apply insect repellent that preferably contains a 10-25% concentration of DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methyl-benzamide or N,N- diethyl-meta-toluamide). One can alternatively use insect repellents containing either picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Besides prevention, the treatment of mosquito bites is aimed at treating the symptoms of the bite. Since most mosquito bites cause only a local reaction, various topical medications can be used which can include calamine lotion, corticosteroid creams, anti-itch creams, and/or topical antihistamines. It may also be advantageous to apply ice or a cold pack to the site of the local reaction. Oral antihistamines may offer more relief in certain individuals. In the cases where anaphylaxis occurs, the individual should use a self-injectable epinephrine device (i.e., EpiPen, Auvi-Q, Adrenaclick), call 911, and go immediately to the closest emergency room. Fortunately, anaphylaxis is quite rare when it comes to mosquito bite allergies, however, it is a possibility and anyone who has symptoms of mosquito bite allergy should see a board certified allergist.

The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy have been serving the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area for over 5 decades and have office locations in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA with on-site parking. The Washington, DC and McLean, VA office locations are also Metro accessible. Please call us for an appointment or alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will get back in touch with you within 24 hours of the next business day. Black & Kletz Allergy prides itself in providing quality allergy care to both adults and children in a friendly professional environment.