Quick Tips – Pollen and dogs

Remember that if you open your windows, even briefly, during our clement spring days, it takes 24-36 hours of HVAC circulation to filter the air back to “indoor quality.”

To reduce the tracking in of pollen on dog feet, have them dip their paws in a pan of water and dry them off as they return from their “potty sorties.”

These pits not cute dimples

No, preauricular pits are not the warm-up rooms for gladiators. They are actually the most common congenital abnormality involving the ear, occurring in one out of 200 Americans.

The pits are small openings or dells in the skin just in front of the ear, slightly higher than the interior auditory canal (the normal ear hole).

They tend to occur more on the right side of the head, but not in infrequently are bilateral. They do tend to run in families.

In most people they are of no healthy consequence and serve only as an interesting topic of conversation. There is however some modest potential for them to become infected causing a boil-like swelling in front of the ear.

Very occasionally they are an external clue to a more significant inherited condition. The most common of these is Brachiootorenal Syndrome.

Affected individuals have not only the pits but also hearing loss, blockage of the nasolacrimal ducts (causing eye tearing), and kidney abnormalities.

The next most common syndrome is Brachiootoureteral Syndrome. These pit patients also have hearing loss along with duplication of the ureters of the kidneys (usually each kidney has only one ureter).

Oh, those bloomin’ Florida oak trees . . .easy to love, but so tough to live with

 If you live in Florida you might develop paranoia about oak trees and allergy. Our prodigious oak tree population accounts for the most severe form or our pollen seasons – spring tree season.

They also provide a home for a special type of fire ant that can drop down on people to sting them. Finally, they can also be a source of Pyemotes herfsi, the oak leaf itch mite. This mite belongs to the biological class Arachnida (which includes all spiders), and to the subclass Acarina. All of the members of this class have 8 legs. Unlike spiders, however, these mites are extremely small – 0.2 millimeters – and are difficult to see with the naked eye.

They fall off the oak leaves on to unsuspecting people and cause a bite that is extremely itchy. The resultant rash is a red, raised area about the size of a mosquito bite, but with a tiny central pustule or blister.

Typically, the bites occur on exposed skin of the face, neck, arms and legs. Luckily, the mite does not burrow into the skin or lay eggs, so, it is one bite per mite and then it’s gone. Unfortunately, since the mites are so small they can be blown by the wind, and have even been documented to travel through screened windows.

Here in Florida the Pin Oak is the most common of the oak species to be invaded by the mites.

Prevention includes protective clothing and the use of insect repellant containing DEET. Treatment is symptomatic with the use of cool compresses, oral antihistamines and topical steroid creams.

Phytochemicals a turn-on for gut-protective tissue growth

 A recent article in the journal Science discussed research on immunity based on gut function.

The researchers focused on a gut protein receptor called AhR (aryl hydrocarbon receptor), which when activated, leads to the healthy development of lymphoid tissue in the GI tract. This receptor is turned on my phytochemicals found primarily in fruits and vegetables. The vegetables richest in these phytochemicals are cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts.

On the other hand, processed foods and foods rich in saturated fats turn off AhR.

When AhR switching leads to lymphoid development it provides a healthy environment in the GI tract. It prevents the gut from being populated by unhealthy bacteria.

Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis occur when there is gut inflammation and AhR is turned off.

Research is being done to find medicines that turn on AhR, but probably the best medicine is a diet rich in vegetables and fruit.

Dear Doc: Please review ‘computer rash’

Dear Dr. K: In one of your old newsletters you wrote about a computer rash. I think I have developed it but I can’t remember the details.

The condition is called Erythema Ab Igne. The rash is a lacy reticular redness that has a mild itch or burning sensation. It can also be mildly tender to the touch. It is caused by chronic exposure to an external heat source. In the article you mentioned I discussed how chronic laptop computer, actually sitting on the lap, can cause the rash to appear on the thighs.

This has been described in a wide variety of situations including use of hot water bottles, heating pads, electric blankets, space heaters, car heaters, hot bricks, infrared lamps, wood and coal stoves.

The rash is not a burn and can only occur with repeated exposure to the heat source. Similarly, the rash doesn’t immediately go away with cessation of the exposure. It can take months for it to resolve.

Cow milk allergy research: Mixed results, but vaccine testing provides some hope

 Cow milk allergy is one of the most common food allergies and can lead to a variety of clinical symptoms affecting the respiratory, GI, GU, and dermatologic systems. It can even occur in infants who are exclusively nursed if their mothers are ingesting cow milk.

Because of the frequency and potential severity of the allergy there has been great effort to find a vaccine for cow milk allergy. Recently, researches at Johns Hopkins University publicized the results of their work on a milk vaccine for children. They studied sublingual (under the tongue), and oral (swallowed) vaccines.

Just as is the case with allergy shots, the procedure uses a regimen of gradually increasing doses of the allergic item (allergen). The maintenance dose was different for the two methods; 7 mg. for the sublingual vaccine and 2,000 mg. for the oral vaccine.

The oral vaccine was more effective, with 50 percent of the children being desensitized; compared to only 10 percent in the sublingual group.

However, there were more allergic side effects during the build-up of the oral vaccine than with the sublingual vaccine.

The children that were successfully desensitized were able to safely consume cow milk without their original allergy response. Unfortunately, if the vaccine was stopped, the allergic condition quickly returned, which was a source for mild pessimism by the Johns Hopkins researchers.