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Month: October 2016

Molds and Your Health

As we enter into the leaf-falling season, according to allergy specialists Gainesville, VA residents trust, some of us may experience a flare-up of mold-related health issues.  Molds are tiny fungi and grow well in damp environments.  Wet leaves form a substrate on which various types of molds can flourish. The microscopic spores released from growing molds float in the air and we breathe in these mold spores.

Exposure to certain molds can cause adverse human health effects through three specific mechanisms:

  1. Generation of a harmful immune response (e.g., allergic or hypersensitivity pneumonitis)
  2. Direct infection by the organism
  3. Toxic/irritant effects from mold byproducts


It is estimated that approximately 10% of the population have IgE antibodies to common inhalant molds.  About half of these individuals (5% of the population) are predicted to have, at some time, allergic symptoms as a consequence of exposure to fungal allergens.  The best allergy specialists Gainesville, VA residents rely on, have stated that sensitization to molds, particularly Alternaria alternata, has been linked to the presence, persistence, and severity of asthma.  Alternaria alternata is also referred to as “leaf fungi.”

Allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABPA) and allergic fungal sinusitis are two conditions which result from the hypersensitivity to certain molds in the Aspergillus family which causes excessive tissue inflammation in the lungs and sinuses respectively.  Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an uncommon but important disease that can occur as a result of mold exposure, particularly in occupational settings with high levels of exposure.


Common superficial fungal infections like thrush, jock itch (i.e., tinea cruris), and toenail fungus are determined by local changes in the skin barrier and can occur in healthy individuals.

Host features (such as a compromised immune system) rather than environmental exposure, are the major determining factors of more severe opportunistic fungal infections.


The occurrence of mold-related toxicity from exposure to inhaled mycotoxins (i.e., toxins produced from molds) in non-occupational settings is not supported by the current data and its occurrence is improbable, according to allergy specialists in Gainesville, VA.


An irritant is a material causing ‘‘a reversible inflammatory effect on living tissue by a chemical action at the site of contact.’’ The eyes and the upper and lower respiratory tracts are usually affected by exposure to molds.  Irritant effects are dose related and their effects are transient, disappearing when the exposure has diminished or ended.


In individuals with chronic inflammatory conditions affecting the respiratory tract, (e.g., allergic rhinitisallergic conjunctivitis, asthma), the measurement of IgE antibodies to mold proteins by skin testing and/or blood testing is very helpful in the identification of the specific agents that trigger and aggravate allergic symptoms.

Allergy specialists Gainesville, VA residents trust, state that the measurement of specific IgE and IgG antibodies to certain mold proteins via blood testing can aid in the diagnosis of ABPA and/or hypersensitivity pneumonitis in people presenting with clinical manifestations suggestive of these conditions.

The board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy have had many years of experience in diagnosing and treating mold-related health issues and offer services through our 3 convenient locations in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area.  We diagnose and treat both adults and children who suffer from allergies, asthma, sinus problems, eczema, food allergies, insect sting allergies, medication allergies, hives, swelling episodes, generalized itching, and immunological conditions.  Our offices are located in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  We have on-site parking at each office and the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible.  The McLean, VA office offers a free shuttle that runs between the McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.  Please call our office to schedule an appointment, if you suffer from mold allergies or any other type of allergy, sinus condition, or asthma.  You can also click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day.  The best allergy specialists Gainesville, VA has to offer have been committed to providing high quality allergy care to the greater Washington, DC community for more than 50 years.

Alcohol Allergy and Intolerance

As allergy specialists Centreville, VA patients trust may attest, while it is possible to be allergic to alcoholic beverages, an alcohol allergy is relatively rare.  Most of the time, it is an intolerance and not an allergy to the alcohol that is bothersome to an individual.  An intolerance is basically an unwanted side effect of the alcohol.

True alcohol allergies can occur and generally are not an allergic reaction to the alcohol itself, but more likely an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the alcoholic beverage.  Some of the ingredients that may cause a true food allergy include barley, rye, wheat, corn, hops, grapes, egg, and yeast.  Symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening and can be the same symptoms that one experiences with alcohol intolerance (discussed below), which is why contacting an allergy specialist Centreville, VA has to offer may be crucial.

Most individuals that have reactions from drinking alcohol, however, have alcohol intolerance.  Some of the symptoms commonly associated with alcohol intolerance may include facial flushing, increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, headaches, nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath, generalized itching (pruritus)hives (urticaria)swelling (angioedema), decreased blood pressure, and/or anaphylaxis.

If you speak to an allergy specialist in Centreville, VA, they might mention some of the following causes of alcohol intolerance which include:

  1. Sulfites:  Sulfites are put into most bottles of wine to act as a preservative. Note that one can buy sulfite-free wine, but the supply is much more limited than wines that contain sulfites.  Sulfites are found in many other foods, medications, and vaccines.  Many individuals are sensitive to sulfites and this preservative can cause hives, swelling, and even anaphylaxis in very sensitive individuals.  An estimated 5-10% of asthmatics have the propensity for sulfites to exacerbate their asthma.  Sulfites may be labeled as sodium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium sulfite, potassium metabisulfite, potassium bisulfite, or sulfur dioxide (which technically is not a sulfite, but is a close relative).
  2. Inactivated Aldehyde Dehydrogenase:  Aldehyde dehydrogenase is an enzyme that breaks down alcohol to acetic acid (i.e., vinegar).  Some individuals have a genetic mutation that inactivates this enzyme which results in a flushed face and body during the consumption of alcohol.  They may also experience rapid heart rate, nausea, and/or headache.  In these people, alcohol is not broken down into acetic acid, and as a consequence, there is a build-up of acetaldehyde which is the cause of the flushing.  This mutation is more common in individuals of Asian descent as approximately 35% of East Asians have this condition and thus is sometimes referred to as “Asian flush syndrome.”  The gene change responsible for this mutation is thought to be linked with the domestication of rice, several hundreds of years ago in southern China.  The flushing syndrome is associated with a lower rate of alcoholism, probably due to the adverse effects when drinking alcohol, as well as an increase risk to esophageal cancer in those individuals who drink.
  3. Histamine:  Top allergy specialists Centreville, VA residents turn to should know that alcoholic drinks contain the chemical histamine, which is generated by the fermenting of yeast.  Histamine is released into the bloodstream in a normal allergic reaction and is attributable for many of the symptoms found in hay fever (allergic rhinitis).  Histamine found in alcoholic beverages are primarily responsible for the nasal congestion that one notices while drinking alcohol.
  4. An Underlying Medical Condition:  Hives and/or swelling can be exacerbated in patients with chronic hives (chronic urticaria) and/or swelling (angioedema).  Likewise, patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers are more likely to have alcohol-induced pain.  Individuals using medications such as Antabuse (i.e., disulfiram), Flagyl (i.e., metronidazole), and tinidazole (i.e., Tindamax, Fasigyn, Simplotan). Antabuse inhibits the enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase, thus causing the same flushing, increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting, and/or headaches found in the flushing syndrome mentioned above. Flagyl and Tindamax both are anti-parasitic medications and Flagyl is also used as an antibiotic.  Both of these medications interfere with the breakdown of alcohol and cause symptoms such as flushing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headaches, sweating, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and liver damage.  Keep in mind that small amounts of alcohol (e.g., 1 tablespoon) are all that is needed to cause reactions when mixed with these medications.  Many over the counter oral and topical products contain alcohol such as colognes, aftershaves, cough syrups, mouthwashes, etc. and should be avoided while taking Flagyl and/or Tindamax.  There may also be other medications that should not be taken together with alcohol. As experienced allergy specialists Centreville, VA patients recommend highly, it is important to read the warnings on all prescription bottles from the pharmacy to ensure one’s safety.

Contact a Top Centreville, VA Allergy Specialist Today
If you have had an untoward reaction or side effect from consuming alcohol, please call the board certified allergists at Black & Kletz Allergy to schedule an appointment.  Food testing can be done to rule out an actual food allergy that is present in all alcoholic drinks.  Black & Kletz Allergy has 3 offices in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland metropolitan area located in Washington, DC, McLean, VA (Tysons Corner, VA), and Manassas, VA.  All 3 locations offer on-site parking.  In  addition, the Washington, DC and McLean, VA offices are Metro accessible with a free shuttle available that runs between the McLean, VA office and the Spring Hill metro station on the silver line.  To make an appointment, please call us or alternatively, you can click Request an Appointment and we will respond within 24 hours by the next business day.  Black & Kletz Allergy has been providing high quality allergy and asthma care to the DC metro community for more than a half century. If you have experienced alcohol allergies or intolerance, turn to allergy specialists Centreville, VA is proud to have in its community.