News & Events

Is your echinacea really echinacea? Adulteration of Your Herbal Supplements

A November 2013 journal article in BioMedCentral Medicine and highlighted in the New York Times throws doubt on the quality of your herbal supplements.  This is of special concern to me as an allergist, since there are many fillers which were included in these supplements which were unidentified allergens, including wheat, soy and nut. 

Read more: Is your echinacea really echinacea? Adulteration of Your Herbal Supplements

Allergen-Free Halloween Candy

Allergen-Free Halloween Candy Quick List 2013

This is a list of allergen-free Halloween candy for 2013.This list includes candies that do not contain gluten or the top 8 allergens (wheat, milk, soy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish or shellfish) as an ingredient.  If the candy is manufactured in a facility that also produces other products with the above ingredients in them that is noted.

Note: Please, as always, double check ingredients. This list is meant as a guide only.

Read more: Allergen-Free Halloween Candy

Avoid Halloween Scares for Children with Allergies and Asthma

Sarasota, FL — Halloween scares are not limited to vampires and witches. While parents of children with food allergies need to be aware of dangers lurking in Halloween treats, parents of asthmatic children also need to be vigilant by avoiding triggers while participating in festivities.

 “Candy frequently includes some of the most common food allergens in children, like peanuts, tree nuts, milk and egg,” says allergist/immunologist Dr. Michele Henson of Hawthorne Clinic and Research Center. “This can be especially tricky with Halloween candy, which may not have ingredients listed on its label.”  Adds Dr. Henson, small candy bars passed out to trick-or-treaters may have different ingredients than their regular-size counterparts. Even if a certain candy is safe for your child, the ‘fun size’ version might not be.

 But possible food allergens in Halloween treats are not the only allergy issue encountered on Halloween.  Halloween costumes and masks potentially containing mold, dust and latex products may trigger asthma.  Dr. Eva Berkes, an allergist-immunologist also at Hawthorne Clinic and Research Center, recommends washing new and old costumes before use to reduce dust, animal dander, chemicals and other allergy triggers.  Keeping trick-or-treaters mask-free is also a good idea, as Halloween masks can trap dust and mold and may contain latex.  Halloween-party fog or smoke-machines are also best avoided, as they can also trigger asthma in asthma-prone children, or the adults who take them trick-or-treating, says Dr. Berkes.

 Additional allergy and asthma tips from Dr. Henson and Dr. Berkes  to help children safely enjoy Halloween include:

  •  Don’t enter homes. Keep your child on the door step of homes while trick-or-treating. Asthma triggers in the houses of others may include cigarette smoke or pet dander.
  •  Watch for weather changes. Cool air and humidity can make breathing difficult for children with asthma. Make certain your child is dressed appropriately for the conditions.
  •  Under the weather. If you child is feeling poorly, hold off on trick-or-treating. Cold and flu symptoms can severely aggravate asthma conditions.
  •  Lurking food allergies. Read food labels so you know what the ingredients are before your child touches or eats the product. This means avoiding homemade treats.
  •  Be prepared. When trick-or-treating, be prepared for an emergency. For food allergies, carry self-injectible epinephrine. For asthma, keep a rescue inhaler close at hand.

 Contact information for Dr. Berkes and Dr. Henson:  (941) 953-5050; Hawthorne Clinic and Research Center, Sarasota, FL;


Avoid Sneeze and Wheeze This Ragweed Season

Sarasota, FL — Another battle against sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and congestion is going on right now for the estimated 36 million Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies. August 15 marked the unofficial beginning of ragweed season.  Ragweed is the number one cause of fall allergies and has many Sarasota residents sniffling and sneezing right now, according to Dr Eva Berkes and Dr. Michele Henson, allergists at the Hawthorne Clinic and Research Center in Sarasota, Florida.

 “In addition to having a negative effect on your quality of life, uncontrolled symptoms can lead to more serious medical conditions,” says allergist/immunologist Dr. Berkes. “Without proper management, your sniffle or sneeze can develop into asthma or sinusitis.”

 Ragweed is common in most regions of the United States from mid-August to November.  Each plant produces 1 billion pollen grains in an average season, and because the grains can travel up to 400 miles with the help of the wind, the pollen is very difficult to avoid.

 Many individuals with ragweed allergy also have symptoms while eating certain fresh fruits and vegetables. Known as oral allergy syndrome (OAS), it can also cause itchiness and mild swelling around the mouth. Common foods that cause OAS in ragweed-allergic people include bananas, cucumbers, zucchinis and melons.  According to Dr. Henson, an expert in food allergy, recent research shows patients who receive pollen-based allergy shots, known as immunotherapy, may have significant improvement in oral allergy symptoms. 

Treatment for ragweed allergy includes allergy shots, which are effective in up to 90 percent of patients. Some easy steps individuals can take to limit exposure and reduce symptoms are:

  • Keep your windows closed at night and use air conditioning instead.
  • Try to stay indoors when the pollen or mold counts are reported to be high.
  • Avoid mowing the lawn or raking leaves because it stirs up pollen and molds.
  • Avoid hanging sheets, towels or clothes outside to dry.
  • Check your area’s pollen and mold levels from the National Allergy Bureau at
  • Take a shower before bed to wash pollen from your hair and face to prevent it from ending up on your pillow.

If allergies are having a negative affect on your day to day activities, visit Dr. Berkes or Dr. Henson for help managing your symptoms.

 Contact information for Dr. Berkes and Dr. Henson:  (941) 953-5050; Hawthorne Clinic and Research Center, Sarasota, FL;


Lab studying new ways to fight infection

At first glance, the gleaming white building on a quiet Sarasota side street looks like any doctor's office. But inside, scientists in a ground-floor laboratory conduct research that could one day transform the human race’s long-running battle against infection — from annoying sinus irritations to deadly flesh-eating bacteria.

Their work may seem straight out of a science-fiction movie: manipulating the human microbiome — the trillions of microbacterial cells on and in the body.

Read more: Lab studying new ways to fight infection


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