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Highland Park Allergy and Asthma Specialists

  • Writer's pictureHP Allergy and Asthma Specialists

What is Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

Vocal cord dysfunction (VCD) occurs when the vocal cords close when they should be open. Your vocal cords open to allow you to breathe in air. If the vocal cords close during inspiration this creates airflow obstruction. VCD can also be referred to as Paradoxical Vocal Fold Movement (PVFM). The most common symptoms of VCD are shortness of breath, hoarseness, voice changes, throat tightness, coughing, wheezing, and even chest tightness. Many of these symptoms are common in asthma. In fact, nearly 80% of VCD episodes are wrongly diagnosed as asthma. While asthma and VCD are 2 completely distinct conditions with different treatment methods, one can have both asthma and VCD and even have attacks of both at the same time. Difficult to control asthma that is not responding to typical asthma therapies can often be from coexisting VCD that is untreated.

What are the triggers for Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

While some people can have VCD with no identifiable trigger, many people can identify certain factors which seem to make an attack more likely. Some of the most common triggers include:

· Exercise

· Irritants such as perfumes, strong smells, fumes, cigarette smoke, chemical, and pollutants

· Stress and Anxiety

· Gastroesophageal reflux disease

· Infections such as colds, viral infections, and sinusitis

· Certain medications (mainly neuroleptic drugs such as phenothiazines)

How do you diagnose Vocal Cord Dysfunction?

VCD can sometimes be hard to diagnose, especially because symptoms are so similar to asthma. Thus, often it can take time between the onset of symptoms and the diagnosis of VCD. History and physical exam are always important in diagnosis. Then usually pulmonary function testing or spirometry will be performed. This is a breathing test that shows airflow in your lungs. It can screen for asthma but also can have some abnormalities in VCD. In some cases, a laryngoscopy will be recommended. This is a test using a camera to visualize your vocal cords while breathing.

How is Vocal Cord Dysfunction treated?

The main treatment for VCD involved speech therapy. Speech language pathologists who specialize in VCD can teach one breathing techniques. While the vocal cords move involuntarily, there are breathing exercises that can stop the paradoxical motion and spasms seen in VCD. Approximately 90% of patients with VCD improve with speech therapy. Some patients with VCD have known triggers. Trying to decrease exposure to or control certain triggers can also aid in treatment of VCD.

  • Writer's pictureHP Allergy and Asthma Specialists

It’s deja vu all over again as you turn on the evening news and hear, “It’s the worst pollen season ever!” You think, “Haven’t I heard this before?” But what you really want to know is how the pollen season will affect your allergy symptoms, and what you can do to ease your suffering.

Unfortunately, it’s true that in the past few years, the amount of pollen in the air during spring allergy season seems to have gotten worse. One of the reasons is the effects of climate change. Increased carbon dioxide from longer growing seasons as a result o warmer weather has a positive effect on pollen production. That means a negative effect on those suffering from pollen allergens.

Must another “worst pollen season ever” leave you helpless in the face of increased allergy

triggers? No. Following are 4 tips from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on coping with pollen and other allergens that arrive with warmer weather.

Don’t self-medicate – You may think “I got this covered” when it comes to treating symptoms. There are many over the counter medications for treating allergies now. However, any people do not know which ones are right for them or how to take them correctly. Also, some people might need prescription medications. Most people don’t seek the help of an allergist who is trained to identify exactly what they are allergic to and recommend the most appropriate medication to treat their symptoms.

Get ahead of symptoms – A fact many allergy sufferers may not be aware of is that if you start taking your allergy medications before the worst symptoms hit, your suffering will be greatly alleviated. Although people think spring starts in April or May, spring allergy symptoms begin earlier, so start taking your prescription allergy medications two to three weeks before your symptoms normally appear.

Most effective – and natural – treatment for allergies – Many people in search of “natural” allergy treatments don’t realize that immunotherapy – allergy shots – are actually the most natural treatment of all. Immunotherapy involves giving gradually increasing doses of the substances you’re allergic to. The incremental increases of the allergens cause the immune system to become less sensitive, which reduces allergy symptoms in the future. Immunotherapy is also effective in treating allergic asthma. Allergy shots help relieve the allergic reactions that trigger asthma episodes and decrease the need for asthma medications.

Easy is good – While you’re battling those terrible allergens, keep in mind that you can affect change at home.

  • Monitor pollen and mold counts. Weather reports often include this information.

  • Keep windows and doors shut at home and in your car during allergy season.

  • Stay inside midday and during the afternoon when pollen counts are highest.

  • Take a shower, wash your hair, and change your clothes after you’ve been working or playing outdoors.

  • Wear a NIOSH-rated 95 filter mask when mowing the lawn or doing other chores outdoors, and take appropriate medication beforehand.

Credit: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Got Valentine’s Day covered this year? Remember to steer clear of anything that might cause your sweetheart to break out in hives, or worse yet, have a severe allergic reaction. Here are some tips from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology to consider as you plan your romance.

Yum! Wait. – Most people know that those with peanut allergies can have severe allergic

reactions to anything that nuts touch. But the most common food allergens also include eggs, milk, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. If you’re baking or cooking for February 14th, make sure your sweetheart is okay with the ingredients. If you’ll be dining out at a special restaurant – one you’ve never been to before – call ahead to make sure food allergies can be accommodated by the kitchen. You’ll be a romantic hero for the night.

Ooh, ooh that smell – Some people have a response to strong fragrances – think perfume and cologne. It is generally a reaction to odors created by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause headaches, sneezing, watery eyes, and runny noses. If your loved one doesn’t wear perfume, it’s probably for a reason, and maybe that’s a gift you should avoid this year.

A Wed Wose. How Womantic. - Nothing says Valentine’s Day like red roses. And for those

allergic to plant pollen, it turns out that roses and some other plants produce very little or no pollen. Other “allergy-friendly” plants include begonia, cactus, clematis, columbine, crocus, daffodil, and geraniums.

You shouldn’t have! Really. – If you’re ready to pull out the big guns – jewelry – make sure your sweetheart isn’t allergic to the metals contained in some jewelry, particularly nickel. Nickel is found in many metal products, such as jewelry, zippers, and buttons. Even chrome-plated objects and 14K and 18K gold contain nickel that can irritate the skin if the gold gets moist.

Pucker up – with care – Believe it or not, there’s something called a “kissing allergy” – it most commonly occurs in people who have food or medication allergies after they have kissed someone who has ingested that allergen. Symptoms include swelling of the lips or throat, rash, hives, itching, and wheezing. So what’s a lovebird to do? Allergists recommend that the non-allergic partner brush his or her teeth, rinse his or her mouth, and avoid the offending food for 16 to 24 hours before smooching.

Whatever your choices for wooing your loved one this Valentine’s Day, make sure it’s a gift that’s safe and allergy-free.

Credit: American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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