Congratulations to our own Dr. Marc Cromie! He has won the North Georgia Times Free Press Best of the Best for the 3rd year in a row!
Chattanooga has a richly deserved reputation as one of the country’s best spots for spending time outdoors. Our lush landscape beckons Chattanoogans to go outside and play, often in the woods. Unfortunately, this area is also home to several species of ticks. One of these ticks, the Lone Star tick, found mostly in the Southeast, has contributed to a new problem. When these ticks bite people, a chain reaction occurs that can lead to an unusual meat allergy. Some of the proteins from the tick’s saliva can trigger the development of allergic antibodies against galactose alpha 1,3 galactose (Gal Alpha Gal).
Dr. Todd Levin, a double board certified Allergy-Immunologist at Chattanooga Allergy Clinic, says that these allergic antibodies are found in mammalian meats such as beef, pork, lamb, goat, buffalo and venison. The reaction is not like typical allergic reactions to foods such as peanut, where the reaction occurs immediately after exposure. In Mammalian Meat Allergy Syndrome (otherwise known as Gal Alpha Gal allergy), the reactions are delayed, occurring anywhere from 3 to 6 hours after ingestion. “Since attending a conference by the people that discovered this new allergy 2 years ago, Chattanooga Allergy Clinic has seen nearly twenty patients with Gal Alpha Gal allergy,” says Levin. “Our experience with this type of allergy has allowed us to make this often difficult diagnosis, by asking the right questions about diet and tick exposure.” Mammalian Meat Allergy can develop within a few weeks of a tick bite, but the diagnosis may take longer to sort out. In fact, there may be other potential causes yet to be discovered. To speed up the diagnostic process, the physicians at Chattanooga Allergy Clinic take a detailed history of the allergic reaction, focusing on the timeline of when each food was ingested. Once Gal Alpha Gal allergy is suspected, Levin says that cutting edge lab tests developed by researchers at the University of Virginia can confirm the diagnosis.
These patients can experience typical symptoms of food allergies including hives, itching, and swelling. Some patients may even have anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that includes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath, drops in blood pressure, and rarely, passing out.
Gal Alpha Gal can be found in nearly all routinely eaten mammalian meats, but it is not present in fish or poultry. People and primates do not have Gal Alpha Gal. It can be found in small amounts in cow’s milk and gelatin, which is made from animal products. Gelatin is found in some pill capsules, marshmallows, candies, and of course, Jello. “Even though there have been some reports of people reacting to milk or whey containing protein powders,” Levin says, “most patients that have Gal Alpha Gal can tolerate dairy products.” Interestingly, many patients will initially only react to one type of meat, most commonly beef, but later on, may become sensitive to other red meat.
As far as treatment goes, Dr. Levin says that the best advice is avoidance of red meat since there is currently no cure. Patients should always carry an epinephrine auto-injector such as EpiPen in case of accidental exposure. Research looking at the course of this syndrome is ongoing, but it looks like some patients can “outgrow” this allergy if they avoid the trigger foods strictly and don’t get any more tick bites.
Chattanooga Allergy Clinic is now accepting new patients. Please call (423)899-0431 for an appointment.
The beginning of fall means cooler temperatures, football games, and children going back to school. Unfortunately, this time of year is also particularly difficult for those suffering with allergies and asthma. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), allergies and asthma account for more than 14 million school day absences annually. The back-to-school season is also associated with a 46 percent increase in asthma-related emergency department visits by grade school children. School children with asthma and allergies face challenges not experienced by their classmates, and parents are charged with helping these children identify potential triggers for these conditions.
According to Dr. Lee Perry, a board certified adult/pediatric allergist at the Chattanooga Allergy Clinic, Chattanooga was recently ranked the 5th worst city in America for asthma sufferers. These rankings, performed by the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, were based on several factors including pollen counts, medication utilization, air pollution and ozone levels. “Children returning to school are at increased risk of infections and cold viruses, which are the most common trigger for asthma attacks, ” says Dr. Perry. “Other potential exacerbants include ragweed allergy (hay fever) and exercise.” Dr. Perry says that avoiding germs at school is nearly impossible, but parents should make sure their children get a seasonal flu shot. “It is also important to teach your child how to properly wash his or her hands with soap and hand sanitizers, which can prevent the spread of infection,” says Dr. Perry.
Dr. Perry states that over 80% of asthmatics experience exercise-induced symptoms. “If your child has difficulty breathing during or after exercise, see a board-certified allergist who can help you develop a treatment plan,” says Dr. Perry. “Also, be sure to make sure teachers are aware of your child’s condition so that medications can be available at school.”
In addition to being a challenging city for asthmatics, Dr. Perry says Chattanooga has annually been among the worst cities in the country for people with fall allergies. Ragweed is the most common fall-specific seasonal allergen, as well as other weed pollens. Other common allergy-related triggers include perennial allergens such as dust mites and pet dander. “These allergens can lead to asthma symptoms as well as allergy symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneeze, itchy and watery eyes, and sinus infections,” says Dr. Perry. “If you or your children experience these symptoms during the fall, I would recommend allergy skin testing to help determine which allergens are the culprit(s).” Treatment for such allergies include over the counter antihistamines, prescription nasal sprays, and allergy shots. “The medicines we use are somewhat effective in controlling allergy symptoms—however, allergy shots are the only available cure,” says Dr. Perry. According to Dr. Perry, the goal of allergy shots is to eliminate allergies and decrease the need for medications.
Food allergies are another common concern for both parents and students at the beginning of the school year. The most common food allergies are associated with peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy and seafood. “School officials should be made aware of your child’s food allergies, and proper avoidance measures should be taken,” says Dr. Perry. “For most food allergies, it is wise to have emergency medications available at the school as well.” According to Dr. Perry, these medications might include antihistamines (such as Benadryl) and injectable epinephrine (EpiPen).
Dr. Todd Levin of the Chattanooga Allergy Clinic was recently published in the November issue of the prestigious Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. His article, “Cross-reactivity between cockroach and ladybug using the radioallergosorbent test,” studied the incidence of ladybug allergy in the general population and found it to be approximately ten percent.
Cockroaches and ladybugs, both common indoor allergens, were determined to be partially cross-reactive, meaning that the proteins that cause allergy in each insect are similar in structure. Additionally, people with infestations of either may suffer from similar symptoms, including increased asthma symptoms, congestion, runny nose, and itching involving both the eyes and nose. Locally, ladybugs may cause seasonal symptoms between September and March when they are typically searching for warm areas in which to nest.
As with any type of allergy, degrees of symptoms can be variable. Some people may develop symptoms without actually being allergic to ladybugs; their odor alone can act as a powerful irritant.
While people with cockroach allergies have historically received immunotherapy, or allergy shots, to help lessen their sensitivity, a similar ladybug therapy is not currently available. Theoretically, however, cockroach immunotherapy could help ladybug allergy.
Dr. Levin is optimistic that this study will not only increase awareness of ladybug allergy, but also lead to the development of better testing modalities, and ultimately effective treatment for those patients who suffer seasonal symptoms.
For more information, please contact Dr. Todd Levin at Chattanooga Allergy Clinic, 423-899-0431.
Quietly, six distinguished Chattanooga professionals will slip away again this week, like they did last week and the week before, mostly unnoticed by family, friends and co-workers. Their disappearances are for a greater calling—ballroom dance lessons. The six are, in fact, competitors who each want to win Chattanooga’s Dancing with the Stars contest next month, benefitting the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
“I’ve never ballroom danced before,” says Alexis Bogo, one of the local celebrity contestants participating in the competition at Tivoli Theatre in downtown Chattanooga. “I’ve never done any formal dancing at all, but the Partnership is such a wonderful organization, I wanted to give it a try.”
Bogo, who heads Hamico Foundation, the charitable arm of Chattem, Inc., will complete 15 hours of ballroom dance lessons before she competes against other well-known Chattanoogans including Dr. Marc Cromie, a popular allergist with practices around the region on June 26. All six novice dancers will be paired with experienced dance instructors during practices, as well as the actual show.
“Performing in front of crowds is not a big deal,” says Cromie, who as a University of Georgia cheerleader performed in front of 80,000 to 100,000 each game day. “My wife is trained in ballet, so she is the dancer in our family. I have never danced, so I could make a real fool of myself.”
In the end, judges and audience members will get a say in who dances best, but residents can vote online and in person for their favorites. One vote costs $1, and participants can vote as often as they’d like.
While the television version of Dancing with the Stars may be full of tabloid-style drama, performance-related injuries and nail -bit-ing vote-off s, contestants are competing simply for bragging rights and a trophy. Th e Chattanooga version, on the other hand, boasts similar style and intensity, with less focus on Hollywood antics and more emphasis on an important cause, the Partnership.
Last year, television host Alison Lebovitz won the popular vote, and publisher Jason Taylor won the dance competition. Lebovitz and Taylor are back this year as co-chairs of the event. They say the concept is outstanding, exhilarating for both participants and attendees.
“The changes we’ve made really take Dancing with the Stars Chattanooga to the next level,” says Taylor, president of Chattanooga Publishing Company which owns Chatter magazine and Chattanooga Times Free Press. “The venue change, the local cast and keeping the interactive voting really allows the contest to be fun for everyone and make a big difference in the lives of thousands of individuals.”
“It’s one thing to say, ‘Sponsor me for a run or jump-rope contest,’” adds Lebovitz, who hosts “The A-List,” a local talk show on WTCI-TV. “But in this contest, every contribution is a vote, and it all goes to an incredibly worthy cause.”
With this in mind, Bogo this year is bringing a new strategy to the competition. It might make her a tough act to follow. “I like to match donations,” explains Bogo. “I will match the first $500 in votes dollar for dollar. And I am sure Chattem will match the next $2,000. That way, every $5 donation actually equals $10, for example.”
Dr. Cromie comes with a huge patient base. Nearly 15,000 patients are seen at his practice each year. He is posting flyers in his offices asking for support. He will also use the Internet to attract supporters.
Voting is easy, Lebovitz says. Donors are allowed to cast their votes online until June 25, or in person the night of the competition. The goal is make the voting as interactive as possible so the public can monitor standings, and see who is in first place up until the actual winner is announced.
This is the third year of the increasingly popular competition, the signature fundraiser for the Partnership. Last year, the event raised more than $35,000, and the goal this year is to raise more than $50,000. The venue last year was too small, notes Lebovitz, so the competition was sold out early. The 2010 version will be held at the larger Tivoli Theatre, and Lebovitz thinks it will be another will sellout.
Article published in Chatter Chattanooga, May 2010
Writer: Adam Crisp Photography: Mark Gilliland
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