Healthy Mama: Answers about Allergies

If you’re one of the millions of people battling fall allergies right now, this Q&A with Dr. Jenny Campbell of Hedberg Allergy & Asthma Center is just what the doctor ordered. Be sure to e-mail the link to this page to friends and family with allergy issues.

What is your busiest time of year and why?

The spring and fall tend to be the busiest times of year. In the spring trees and grasses are pollinating, and in the fall ragweed (shown right) is a big trigger for allergy symptoms.

How do you know when it’s time for you (or your child) to see an allergist?

If you are having allergy symptoms that are not well controlled, you should consider seeing an allergist to identify your allergen triggers. Avoidance of the allergens that make you sick is the first step in preventing allergy symptoms.

What is more common – food or seasonal allergies?

Seasonal allergies are much more common.

What is the most unusual allergy trigger you’ve ever come across?

Gummy Bears—it was actually the gelatin that caused the reaction.

If you only suffer from seasonal allergies once or twice a year, should you see an allergist or try to get by with over-the-counter remedies?

You can definitely try over-the-counter medications first. There are good antihistamines that are now available over-the-counter, and many people with mild, intermittent allergy symptoms are well controlled with antihistamines alone. If over-the-counter medications are not relieving the symptoms, it’s time to talk to your doctor about allergy testing and/or other medications that may be helpful. Some over-the-counter medications can actually make symptoms worse if used too often or for too many days in a row.

For those with seasonal allergies, what is your best day-to-day advice for getting through the season as comfortably as possible?

Keeping windows and doors closed in the home and in the car is very important. Also if you are outside during a high pollen time, rinsing off and changing clothes when coming inside may be beneficial to reduce your exposure to the pollen. Some people may benefit from wearing a mask when mowing the lawn or doing other yard work. Using an over-the-counter sinus rinse can also make you more comfortable and help decrease levels of mucus that may lead to sinus infections.

In children, what are the signs that would tell a parent that the problem could be an allergy versus a virus or an infection?

Itching is a key component of allergies. If the child is rubbing their nose/eyes (or complaining that the roof of their mouth itches) that’s a sign that the child likely has allergies.

What is the most common food allergy?

In children the most common food allergies are milk, soy, wheat, egg, and peanut/tree nuts. In adults the most common food allergies are peanut/tree nut, fish, and seafood.

Some moms have told horror stories about allergy testing on kids. What is it really like and what can be done to make it easier on children?

The testing device is an 8 pronged plastic device that’s placed on the back. It is uncomfortable but does not cause significant pain. I usually tell children that it feels like a hairbrush on their backs. We let our younger kids sit in the parent’s lap facing the parent while the tests are being applied. That seems to make the children feel much better and decreases their anxiety levels. We also have cartoons for them to watch which often helps distract them from the testing.

What is the biggest misconception about allergies?

A lot of people think they are allergic to things such as cigarette smoke, perfumes, and strong candles. These substances are not actual allergens but are irritants. These irritants can produce many of the same symptoms that actual allergens do (nasal congestion, sneezing, etc), but people do not make allergic antibodies to these things so are not actually “allergic” to these substances. The same thing also occurs with food allergies—people can be intolerant to certain foods without actually having an allergic response. An example of this is lactose intolerance which is different than a milk allergy.

Can you have an allergic reaction to a food the first time you eat it?

No. This is another misconception about allergies. You have to be exposed to a substance before you can develop an allergy to it. Sometimes adults who have eaten a certain food throughout their life can suddenly develop a serious allergy to it.

What are the latest medical advancements in treating allergy problems?

There are newer medications that are very exciting for patients with moderate to severe asthma. Also there is a lot of research being conducted on food allergies and possible treatment options with desensitization to certain foods. Investigations are underway for treating seasonal allergies with drops under the tongue rather than shots. This is an exciting field with many new advancements being evaluated.

Why did you choose this specialty? What about this field interests you the most?

I really enjoy taking care of patients with allergies, asthma, and food allergies. It’s very satisfying to help patients identify things they are allergic to and realize that, with avoidance measures and medications, their quality of life can drastically improve.

What is the hardest part about your job?

The most challenging part of my job is keeping up with the latest allergy/asthma treatments so that I can provide the best care for my patients. This requires reading lots of medical literature and a devotion to lifelong education.

What would your ideal day at the office be like?

All of my patients would tell me that they have been taking their medications…and really mean it.

jennycampbell.JPGWhere did you grow up?

I lived in Helena, AR until I was 5 then moved to Fayetteville, AR.

Any family you’d like to brag about?

My mom! She has been so supportive throughout my entire life. She always encouraged me to choose a career that I really enjoy. I don’t have children yet, but hope to in the future.

Favorite food?

Chocolate, definitely!

Name three songs on your ipod.

See You Again—Miley Cyrus; Free Bird—Lynyrd Skynyrd; Picture to Burn—Taylor Swift (Dr. Hedberg has Allergies by the Bare Naked Ladies!!)

If you had 5 hours of free time and couldn’t work or do chores or errands, what would you do?

I would go for a run, get a massage, and watch a movie.

Dr. Jenny Campbell practices at the Hedberg Allergy and Asthma Center in Rogers, located at 700 S. 52nd Street next to Signed Sealed Delivered in Metro Park. There is also a location at 406 W. Emma Avenue in Springdale. For more information about the center, click here to visit their website or call 479-464-8887.