Are you Ready for an Allergic Asthma Attack?

Do you know exactly how to use you inhaler? Practicing its use can help keep you calm in the event of an unexpected allergy or asthma attack.

Do you know exactly how to use you inhaler? Practicing its use can help keep you calm in the event of an unexpected allergy or asthma attack.

The best course of action for an allergy sufferer is to know and avoid allergy triggers. But that’s not always possible. One can easily avoid cats, but knowing when a pet left a hair on the sweater your coworker wears to work is impossible, for instance. And for those whose allergies are triggered by pollen, dodging a sudden summer storm takes all but moving to the desert.

Luckily, there are ways to prepare for the inevitable and respond quickly when an allergic reaction or asthma attack hits unexpectedly:

  • Always have your medications close at hand and make sure you know exactly how to use them. This is particularly important if you use an inhaler or an epinephrine injector, as your stress level may be high during an allergy or asthma attack. You also may need to take a higher dosage of a medication depending upon the severity of your attack.
  • Get protected early on. Many allergy and asthma specialists will recommend you get a flu shot each fall. That’s because respiratory infections like the flu can significantly effect your lung function, making you more susceptible to an attack.
  • Rise, shine and check the forecast. Weather and air quality reports for your geographical area are easily found online and typically are broadcast on morning radio and TV news shows. Also, check your local office of the American Lung Association to sign up for local air quality text alerts. If possible, plan to stay inside on days whe air quality is poor and prone to triggering an allergic or non-allergic asthma spell.
  • Stay calm and breathe. Anxiety can make your allergic reactions worse. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, rapid and shallow breathing techniques aimed at stopping hyperventilation can help you quickly reduce or even avoid certain symptoms of an asthma attack. Many patients say yoga breathing techniques help them thwart asthma attacks as well.
  • Be wary of changes. If you notice an increase in the rate at which you need to use your quick-relief medications, it may be time to boost your dosage or change your medications altogether. Talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Know when to seek medical help. Most asthma attacks can be quickly and effectively manged with prescribed medications and techniques. But a severe attack may require more intense and immediate medical treatment. Store phone numbers for your doctor’s office and other emergency contacts in your cell phone or keep them in a pocket, wallet or purse and make sure anyone you’re traveling with knows how to find them.

If you suffer from allergies or asthma, medical treatment by an experienced specialist is a must. Call 904-461-6060 to schedule a consultation today.

Get Ready for the Onslaught of Fall Allergens, Allergy Specialists in St. Augustine Say

Late summer rains mean autumn allergies may be tougher this year.

Late summer rains mean autumn allergies may be tougher this year.

The fall season is upon us. For most, that means hay rides, bonfires and, before you know it, Christmas tree decorating. But if you’re among the estimated 40 million Americans suffering fall allergies, the holiday season isn’t quite so happy, say allergy specialists with St. Augustine’s St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

June begins Jacksonville’s rainiest season, peaking in September with an average eight inches of rainfall. While the rain does help wash away the pollen, there’s a catch that allergy sufferers know all too well. Before washing the pollen away, raindrops will burst pollen particles, releasing tiny specks of it into the air at much higher concentrations. When patients inhale this fragmented pollen, it can trigger an allergic reaction.

This year, the ordeal may be worse than normal for allergy patients in Northeast Florida, thanks to record rainfall in parts of the South. All that rain has ragweed and grass pollen flourishing. And where there’s rain, there often soon is mold. Heavy rainfall mixed with the seasonal dying off of trees and plants means damp, decaying plant matter – a breeding ground for mold. Though you don’t see it, microscopic mold spores can fill the air around you.

As the holiday season progresses, so too does the risk of allergic reactions. Seasonal greenery, wood-burning fires, and mold that settles into damp evergreens like wreaths, boughs and Christmas trees are common seasonal allergens that can wreak havoc on your holidays.

To help keep your allergies at bay during the holiday season, call 904-461-6060 and schedule a consultation with an allergy specialist at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

When Snoring Gets Serious – How to Know if You Have Sleep Apnea

Feel like nodding off at work? You may have sleep apnea.

Feel like nodding off at work? You may have sleep apnea.

Snoring elicits plenty of jokes, not to mention bruises from elbow jabs by sleeping partners. But when it’s more than a simple snore, it’s no laughing matter. In fact, loud habitual snoring can be a telltale sign that you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a potentially life threatening disorder.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing pauses or significantly slows while you’re sleeping because the airway has become narrowed, blocked or floppy. Affecting one in five adults, OSA can involve a variety of obstruction types including excess tissue, large tonsils or tongue or a problem with the airway muscles, nasal passages or jaw position. Such obstructions cause momentary cessations of breathing or “apneas” and your impulses respond by waking you.

Mild sleep apnea sufferers generally have more than 30 apneas during a seven-hour sleep. In severe cases, one may be unable to breathe for periods of 60 to 90 seconds, and this may recur up to 500 times a night. Depending upon the severity of your case, OSA symptoms can affect multiple areas of your life, work, relationships and health:

  • Excessive daytime drowsiness
  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • Problem with mental function
  • Poor judgment or inability to focus
  • Memory loss
  • Quick temper
  • High blood pressure
  • Nighttime chest pain
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Excess weight gain
  • Sore throat
  • Enlargement of the neck
  • Airway crowding
  • Morning headaches
  • Reduced libido
  • Frequent nighttime bathroom trips

Left untreated, OSA can pose serious health risks including heart attacks, strokes, irregular heart beat or hear t disease. Though sleep apnea is a chronic condition typically requiring lifelong treatment, there are multiple options for managing your case and significantly reducing related life-threatening issues. If you suffer sleep apnea and are ready for a good night’s sleep, contact St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat at 904-461-6060 or via our online appointment scheduling form.

Hearing Aids for Ringing in the Ears?

Ringing in the ears or tinnitus is the perception of a sound (i.e. – ringing, high-pitched whining, buzzing, whistling or hissing) that does not have a corresponding external source. Although tinnitus can be a symptom of a more serious medical problem, neurological injury, earwax buildup, withdrawal from certain drugs or ear infections, the most common cause is noise-induced hearing loss. A doctor, ENT specialist or audiologist is needed to rule out potential medical or physical sources that may be causing the sounds a patient perceives.

Xino Tinnitus Hearing Aid - A new solution for ringing in the ears.

Xino Tinnitus Hearing Aid – A new solution for ringing in the ears.

Since it is a subjective irregularity, tinnitus can be difficult to measure using an objective hearing assessment. For some people, the ringing in their ears is infrequent or only produces a faint background noise. For others the condition causes a constant noise that can be so intense that the sensation can still be heard over a very loud external sound. However, many patients who suffer from the annoying condition understand all too well how debilitating tinnitus can be.

The pressing need for relief of benign conditions has led medical researchers to look for better ways to manage the otologic condition rather than cure it. As there is a high correlation between tinnitus and hearing loss, major manufacturers of assistive listening devices, such as Starkey®, have developed a tinnitus solution (Xino Tinnitus) that also functions as a high-end hearing aid, or can be configured for use as either. The state-of-the-art device features 16 adjustable frequency bands that allow the hearing specialist to create a preferred sound therapy stimulus for each patient. Additionally, the Xino Tinnitus hearing aids feature both binaural and monaural controls.

Patients use a BTE (behind the ear) hearing aid with a mini receiver-in-canal (RIC) to personalize their sound therapy stimulus independently of the amplification needed for volume control. Within a selected frequency, a hearing specialist can adjust the spectrum of noise from broadband to narrowband to tailor the results for each patient. If you sufferer from ringing in the ears, contact St. Augustine ENT to determine if you are a good candidate for a tinnitus hearing aid.

Dr. Kalpana DePasquale Featured on TLC’s "My Strange Addiction"

Everyone has a bad habit they’d like to break, but what if you were addicted to something seriously harmful, like digging in your ear with giant scissors?

You call in the experts, of course. The “Ear Digger” episode of TLC’s popular freaky-habit show, “My Strange Addiction”, featured a young woman who couldn’t stop digging in her ears with sharp, pointy objects. Our own Dr. Kalpana DeDasquale of St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat was called in to give her some much-needed help! The air date for the episode was February 17th, 2012.

When 32-year-old Jamie, a resident of Jacksonville, FL, was a young girl, a flower became lodged in her ear canal. The flower was removed, but Jamie was convinced that there was still something foreign deep inside her ear.

Over the next 23 years, her ear-digging habit became a full-blown addiction that alienated her friends, forced her fiancé to postpone the wedding, and left her at risk of going completely deaf.

Jamie used a plethora of scary-looking tools to accomplish her gruesome task, from bobby pins to different-sized scissors to a tiny scalpel. Her ears have repeatedly swollen themselves shut, she’s punctured her ear drum, and she’s had multiple ear infections and regular bleeding.

How Dr. DePasquale was able to help Jamie

Jamie knew she had to stop this dangerous compulsion, but it wasn’t until her fiancé postponed their wedding that she decided to seek medical help at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.

St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat featured on My Strange Addiction

At SAENT, Dr. Kalpana listened to Jamie describe her addiction, then used a otoscope to check out the damage done to Jamie’s ear canals. She showed Jamie the results of her digging, a location in the inner ear that had “clearly been picked at” and various areas of swelling, though Dr. Kalpana was surprised to find that the ear drums were intact.

At the end of the examination, Dr. Kalpana sat Jamie down and gave her a sobering warning. “I am worried that you will have progressive hearing loss, perforate your ear drums, perhaps even require surgery,” she told a concerned-looking Jamie. “I do suggest that you see a psychologist so that they can help the emotional side of this.”

Thankfully, Jamie took Dr. Kaplana’s warning to heart and went to a therapist, who diagnosed her with “impulse control disorder,” a condition characterized by impulsive actions that achieve a small, short term gain (such as an adrenaline rush) but at the expense of a huge, long-term loss.

The therapy sessions and her visit to St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat helped Jamie to finally stop her ear digging, and the episode left her alive and well, working on her relationship with her fiancé and freed from her dangerous addiction.

This strange addiction seems extreme to most, but inner-ear disorders and discomfort is not uncommon. If you feel pain or discomfort in your ears or sinuses, make sure you give us a call to schedule a visit with Dr. DePasquale by calling (904) 461-6060 today.

Dizzy? Falling Down? Check Out Your Balance with VNG Testing

If you have a tendency to fall down, or experience regular dizziness, unsteadiness, or a sense of spinning, moving, or floating, the culprit may be your inner ear.

Your sense of balance is primarily controlled by the vestibular system, an intricate structure deep inside your ear. Vestibular dysfunctions, or inner ear disorders, lead to symptoms like dizziness and falling, and they affect over 60 million men and women in the U.S.

Have you ever experienced vertigo—the sense that the room is spinning around you, or that you’re whirling around in space? An inner ear disorder might be to blame.

Thankfully, there’s a way to get your inner ear and sense of balance checked out at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat, and while it’s a very long name, the process for treatment is actually quite simple. It’s called Videonystagmography Testing.

The “VNG test” for short accurately diagnoses inner ear disorders so that we may determine the source of the issues you’re experiencing, determine the best possible treatment, and get you standing back up on your own two feet.

How VNG Testing Works

This may sound counterintuitive, but the balance mechanisms in your inner ear are connected to the muscles in your eye via neural circuits. So don’t be surprised that the VNG test includes an examination of your eye movement—it’s all linked.

At St. Augustine, you’ll put on a pair of goggles with a camera attached, and the camera will record the quick jerks of your eye during a series of varied activities. The VNG test will also detect small eye jerks that are the result of inner ear disorders.

Next, the Technician will check your balance mechanism with a series of activities that include shaking your head, glancing between two points, following moving lights with your eyes, lying in specific positions, and quickly sitting up, among other physical movements.

The test concludes by examining the way your inner ear’s balance mechanisms respond to stimulation. Warm and cool air will be gently put into your ear canal, and the response frin your ear muscles will be monitored.

Why the VNT Test is Unique

VNG (let’s say it again: Videonystagmography!) is the only test that can tell the difference between a problem in one ear vs. a problem in both ears.

How Should I Prepare for the VNG Test?

To ensure you have the best possible VNG testing experience at SAENT, make sure you do the following:

  • Dress comfortably.
  • No eye makeup (no eyeliner, no eye shadow, no mascara!).
  • Don’t drink any form of alcohol for 48 hours before the test.
  • Don’t eat or drink anything (except water) for 3 hours before the test, unless you’re diabetic.
  • Don’t smoke for 3 hours before the test.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages—coffee, tea, soda—for 12 hours before the test.
  • Certain medications must be avoided before the test, such as sleeping pills, anti-vertigo medications, tranquilizers, diuretics, sedatives, barbiturates, anti-depressants, anti-nausea medications, antihistamines, narcotics, anti-anxiety medications, and pain medication.

Please discuss time frame, specific medications, etc. with your physician. Don’t discontinue prescription medications before consulting with the doctor who prescribed them to you!

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There’s a New Sheriff in Town: Introducing Visi-Pitch IV

Something really powerful has arrived in the Voice Lab at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat. We’ve expanded our space to include the new, state-of-the-art Visi-Pitch IV—a speech therapy tool that collects, graphs, and summarizes data so that our in-house speech language pathologists can better treat you and your voice problems.

What Exactly Is Visi-Pitch IV?

The Visi-Pitch technology is known for its highly-effective visual displays that present information such as vocal pitch, amplitude, and other speech and voice-related measurements graphically and auditorially.

The visual element means that we can measure and analyze your voice and speech parameters and disabilities for future comparison and analysis following treatment at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat. Tracking your clinical progress is easier, faster, and now, more accurate.

An important part of the Visi-Pitch that differentiates the new model from previous releases and competitors is the ability to extract objective quantitative values from vocal functions.

Looking for some plain English? The tool helps us profile your voice (for example, before and after surgery), compare it to other data, and continually track your improvement in the weeks and months during or following recovery.

The software that is used to extract these objective measurements is often praised in professional medical journals for its robustness and accuracy, superior interpretation of data, and sophistication.

Because the device allows Dr. DePasquale to compare and correlate both the visual and auditory data-mining and playback features that come with the Visi-Pitch IV, your therapy goals will become drastically easier to reach.

More Product Highlights and Features

Visi-Pitch comes with a built-in Voice Games feature that uses catchy and engaging animation to capture the attention of children who undergo speech therapy or recovery following major surgery.

The software is a fantastic tool for motivating and rewarding our children for improvements made during our sessions together, which leads to accelerated results in almost all cases.

Another important element is the high-fidelity audio playback, which enables you and the speech pathologist and Dr. DePasquale at SAENT to listen back on the work we’ve done together, helping you as patient better understand the value of the treatment.

You’ll immediately recognize obvious improvements and progress with the playback, which can help to instill a greater sense of confidence and accomplishment in your treatment processes.

A Real-Time Spectrogram is also included with the Visi-Pitch, which is a tool that gives us a three-dimensional display (e.g., a spectrogram) of speech signals.

It’s yet another way that our clinicians can analyze and assess your vocal profile. Because vocal profiles vary tremendously from patient to patient in terms of what treatment is needed, when, and how, these highly-specialized tools allow us to work much more efficiently.

The Real-Time spectrogram can also be used for articulation training and identifying causes and treatments for dysphonic voices (a voice impairment that feel or sounds breathy, hoarse, or rough).

Should You Consider Trying Visi-Pitch?

 The Visi-Pitch tool is designed for use on the following disorders and impairments, all of which we offers treatment and therapy for at SAENT:

  • Voice Disorders
  • Professional Voice
  • Accent Reduction

If you’re interested in learning more about the services we perform with the Visi-Pitch, or to schedule an appointment with our board-certified otolaryngologist, Dr. Kalpana DePasquale, please click here.

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